CRASH VICTIM NOW HAS MIND OF 2-YEAR-OLD
MARCH 8 2010 is etched in Martha Mlambo's memory. It was the day she thought her first-born son Frank, 17, had died.
Frank and five of his friends were walking home from school in Protea Glen when two cars ploughed into them, leaving four boys dead.
Hip-hop star Molemo "Jub Jub" Maarohanye and his friend Themba Tshabalala stand accused of drag-racing on the busy street. They allegedly lost control of their cars and hit the boys.
Frank and Fumani Mushwana survived, but with life-threatening injuries. They were rushed to Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. For the next two weeks, Mlambo staged a vigil next to her son's hospital bed, praying for divine intervention.
And it came. He was moved to the ICU, where he stayed for the next two months, being fed and breathing through tubes. A series of treatments - including draining blood from his head - were done. Still Mlambo lived in hope.
Frank is home now. He was discharged from hospital on May 19. But his mother is distraught.
"It is unlikely that Frank will go to school any time soon," said the mother of three this week.
Frank was sitting on a chair next to his grandmother when Sowetan visited him.
Unaware of his condition, I shook his hand and asked him how he was doing. He just looked at me.
"He cannot speak," Mlambo said.
I listened and felt her pain. She described her child's condition and how it has affected the family. As the sole breadwinner, they have been struggling since she stopped working. But she tries to remain strong.
"He went into a coma for two weeks and when he woke up he could not walk or talk," she said.
"He did physiotherapy but when he was in hospital he was strapped to his bed or chair. The doctors said they were scared that he would fall and hurt himself even further.
"He did not have balance at all. He was discharged on May 19 and has slowly improved strength and mobility in his legs. He will be going back to physiotherapy on June 15.
"But he still cannot talk. Doctors said his head injuries are so severe that his mental capacity has gone back to that of a two-year-old.
"You can imagine a two-year-old that is this big. I am so tired.
"I do not sleep at night anymore. I look after the little one who cries and seeks attention but now I have to keep checking on Frank," she said.
"Sometimes I find that he has wet or soiled himself. He needs disposable nappies but I cannot afford to keep buying them.
"It is really tough. I cannot work anymore. It is impossible to wake up and go to work when you are physically, emotionally and mentally worn out.
"We have to rely on handouts. We look to anyone who walks in here to show some mercy. I just want my son to get his life back. It really hurts to see him like this. I am shattered," said Mlambo, who worked as a railway security guard.
Frank has two siblings - 14-year-old brother Sipho and one-year-old Amu. Franks turns 18 on June 8.