Life might never be the same for a 27-year-old Hout Bay woman who survived emergency brain surgery last year only to be hit in the head with a brick during the recent taxi violence.
Graphic designer Saffron Shaw and her videographer boyfriend, Andile Madomela, were returning to Hout Bay from a trip to an animal shelter when masked men threw bricks at their car. One of the bricks hit Ms Shaw on the very part of her skull that was replaced with a 3D-printed prosthesis after she suffered a massive stroke in October last year.
Ms Shaw had needed emergency brain surgery to clear a large clot in her brain, according to her physiotherapist Jennifer Adams.
“A large portion of her skull on the left side of her head had to be removed in order to clear the clot. This left her with severe paralysis of her right side and unable to use her arm or leg,” said Ms Adams.
Ms Shaw’s mother, Michelle van Reenen, said her daughter had been placed in coma for two days to allow the swelling to reduce. She then spent three weeks in the intensive-care unit.
Following in-patient rehabilitation, Ms Shaw could walk a few steps, but still had no use of her right arm. In January, she was able to leave the hospital, and four months later, she had another brain surgery to replace the missing piece of her skull with the 3D-printed section.
Ms Shaw moved back in with her mother, a lecturer at Stellenbosch Business School who works from home.
On Saturday August 5, to celebrate Ms Shaw’s progress, Mr Madomela surprised her by taking her to the Cat Heaven Rescue Cat Café in Somerset West to adopt a cat.
Mr Madomela, who moved from Pretoria to Cape Town in 2019, said Ms Van Reenen had warned them of trouble with the taxi strike, but, not knowing Hout Bay very well, he had missed the turn-off into Disa River Road.
Approaching the Hout Bay Main Road traffic circle they had noticed police vehicles and an officer carrying a shotgun. Then a car in front had started making a U-turn and two women on the side of the road had started running, but by then it had been too late to turn back, he said, adding that two men in balaclavas had run into the road, throwing bricks.
“One hit the windscreen in front of me; the next hit Saffron, in the same place as her previous surgery. She was out cold, blood pouring out of her head, vomiting blood. The police were telling me to move off the road and put pressure on her head,” he said.
Mr Madomela called Ms Van Reenen asking where the nearest hospital was. Then, hooting to warn others, he drove to Constantiaberg Mediclinic.
Ms Shaw had been rushed into surgery for an operation on “exactly the same place as her new skull implant”, he said.
Not wanting to return to Hout Bay, he opened a case at Sea Point police station. He said officers there had told him it would take five business days to transfer the case to Hout Bay.
Speaking to the Sentinel on Saturday, Ms Shaw said her speech, memory and movement were significantly affected.
Ms Adams said the attack had set back her recovery by six months and her end prognosis remained uncertain.
“This never should have happened. Saffron has had to accept another huge setback but now needs our community’s help. Her medical aid/ insurance has basically run out, and they are even refusing to pay for additional in-patient brain scans. They are no longer willing to pay for her outpatient therapies and may not even cover the new skull replacement, which Saffron will need to have implanted in a few months’ time,” said Ms Adams who has started a BackaBuddy campaign.
“If Saffron is not able to get the medical care she needs, it will limit her recovery and especially the use of her right hand and arm. As her physiotherapist, I have been very honoured to have worked with Saffron during the past six months. There is no-one more deserving of our support to assist her to overcome this setback.”
Ms Adams said all donations to help “this gutsy young lady” would be used strictly for medical costs.
Hout Bay police station commander Lieutenant Colonel Jerome Syster heard about the case from Sentinel News. He received the docket on Tuesday August 15 and said they would follow up on Ms Shaw’s case. He asked anyone with information about the crime to contact Lieutenant Colonel Syster at 082 778 6622, Captain Herman van der Merwe at 082 469 2921, Captain Mbongo Gatyana at 082 469 2576 or Captain Tanya Lesch at 082 469 2293.