5th Aug 2020 11:50:38 PM

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A Common Injury
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Calvarial Defects
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Protective Helmets
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Children of Fire Protective Helmets

Children with serious skull or scalp injuries due to burns, need protective helmets.
These children include those who sustain 4th degree burns in infancy, often leading to holes in the skull known as boney deficits or as calvarial defects. Several such children can be seen under their individual profiles on this website, e.g. Sicelo M, Feleng M, Dorah M, Michele Mathenjwa-Conche, Nyakallo N. Others with smaller skull holes like Sizwe H would not need helmets.
Those with severe burns alopecia (baldness) need head protection as well but the scalp breakdown can be worsened by the abrasion of any material on the head, other than the softest silk.
Michele has a large calvarial defect. There was a foolishness among certain surgeons, who thought that she was in no more danger with a big hole in her skull than if she had an undamaged normal skull.
Of course if a heavy book or a bag falls off the shelf on a bus onto her head, she is at risk of catastrophic brain injury. That would ruin her life forever. So when Michele was placed with Children of Fire by the court, we sought both more permanent surgery to protect her and we sought the interim measure of a helmet. South African occupational therapists could not provide what we needed.
We went to leading hospitals like Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland Park and they had no solution.
Even when we showed them a photo of the helmet that Dorah had made for her by occupational therapists in South Wales, UK, when she was little, http://www.firechildren.org/index2.asp?include=recentphotos.htm&catID=3 they had no idea how to source the materials to make it.
That was tailor-made for Dorah in late 1999 or early 2000, from firm washable foam.
Dorah's hat provided good protection.
It could be hand-washed or thrown in an automatic washing machine.
It was soft enough to be comfortable, but well-ventilated enough not to be sweaty.
It was a cheerful child-friendly colour (we'd have liked to have two or three so she could match them with different outfits, but we only had one); The strap was firm and did not pinch her skin.
In short - it worked.

Finally we went with a red plastic foam-lined hat provided by Donald Gordon Institute occupational therapist Modise J Mogotsi for Michele in March 2011 - see http://www.firechildren.org/childrenView2.asp?chID=84&child=children - a bit like a bicycle helmet. Sadly indifferent care from a woman whose home she lived in for a while, meant that the strap was lost by May 2011 and the child was almost back to square one.
The hat does not really protect her without a strap on it.
We were glad to have a hat for her, but still wondered why no one in South Africa could make one like they make in Britain?

After visiting many people and emailing more people, Bulgarian orthotist Gagik Hakopian [ ghortho@netactive.co.za ] based in Rivonia near Johannesburg, rose to the challenge and from June 2011 is importing "Super Air Permeability Head Protectors" as pictured here.

Click here to see the protective helmet.

This material is Copyright The Dorah Mokoena Charitable Trust and/or Children of Fire , 1998-2020.
Distribution or re-transmission of this material, excluding the Schools' Guide, is expressly forbidden without prior permission of the Trust.
For further information, email firechildren@icon.co.za