At Cape Town’s Red Cross Hospital burns unit, up to 96% of children admitted are from disadvantaged communities. A study at this hospital in the late 1970s found that up to 70% of severely burned children either attempted or actually committed suicide.
In 2002, health professionals at the hospital set up a three-tiered pilot rehabilitation project for burned children and their families. The first phase of rehabilitation starts as soon as possible during the admission stage. At this point individual physiotherapy, occupational therapy and the management of pain is arranged. A community worker will also become involved, responsible for parental support during this fi rst phase and for long-term follow-up of disfi gured children during the fi nal phase of rehabilitation.
The Red Cross Hospital is unique in including touch therapies – such as reflexology and aromatherapy – in the management of burns, along with more traditional treatments such as music and art therapy. This holistic approach thus attempts to deal with stress and anxiety, as well as with the general emotional well-being of the child. The second phase is on an out-patient basis and continues what was started in the fi rst phase. The previous therapies are again off ered, along with such things as children’s yoga and creative play. The use of the African drum (jembe) has been found to be particularly successful in music therapy.