On Saturday (August 25) evening Hugo and Lynette Strydom were drinking coffee with neighbours who had invited them over to watch rugby at their home in Beethoven Street, Walmer Heights, Port Elizabeth. The adults were chatting in the kitchen while their children played with a ball in the garden next to the kitchen.
Then something went wrong: teenage and pre-teen children who had been keeping an eye on toddler Petrus Strydom became distracted when the ball was kicked over the fence and had to be fetched.
After the ball had been retrieved Hugo suddenly discovered that nobody knew where Petrus was. He rushed outside to look for his son. His daughter, Marelise, 12, noticing a shadow under the floating pool cover, lifted the covering: Petrus was floating, face-down, just beneath the surface of the water. Marelise quickly pulled him out. The little boy was blue, there was something strange about his eyes and he was not breathing. Assessing the situation, Hugo resolved to stay calm and began to perform vigorous CPR on his son, applying skills he had learned when his work required him to complete a first aid course at the beginning of the year.
“He began to breath relatively quickly after a lot of water came out of his mouth, and as I pumped his heart the blue colour left his body,” said Hugo.
Right people in place at right time
The owner of the house called Atlas Security and then assisted his friend with administering CPR. Hugo realised he needed to get his son to hospital as quickly as possible and carried him into the house where they were met by the security company personnel who started to administer CPR to the boy. Then the security company control room phoned and said that a Guardmed ambulance happened to be in Beethoven Street and was on its way. Moments later the ambulance paramedics arrived and took over. Reflecting on his own fortuitous first aid training, the speedy arrival and efficient service of the security company, and the presence of the paramedics in his suburban street at just the right time, he said: “It was as if God knew all along that something was going to happen.”
The paramedics were very concerned about water trapped in Petrus’s right lung, an unresponsive eye and his persistent low temperature. All the evidence indicated that the boy had been under water for at least three minutes and possibly longer — enough time to be life threatening or carry a risk of permanent brain damage.
Soon the ambulance, was speeding to Greenacres Hospital, where a doctor, who was a member of the Strydom’s church home group, happened to be on duty in the intensive care unit (ICU). It was his last night on duty there prior to a transfer.
After Petrus was admitted to the ICU his parents had to retire to another room to wait for news. Resisting the sense of fear that threatened to ovewhelm them as they waited uncertainly, Hugo and Lynette began to pray. At the same time they started to receive sms messages and calls from people who assured them that they were also interceding for Petrus. Family members also arrived to support them. Encouraged, the Strydom’s prayers became bolder as they proclaimed in the name of Jesus that their son would recover.
Prayer and laying-on of hands
After about an hour the doctor came and told them that he could not give them good news as the boy’s condition was unchanged. He said he was transferring him to the paediatric ICU at Dora Nginza Hospital which was best equipped to provide the care he needed. Before Petrus was transferred his parents got an opportunity to lay hands on him and pray for his recovery.
Later, when Hugo, accompanied by Christian leaders from his church, reached the vicinity of the ICU at Dora Nginza, he was met by the Guardmed paramedics who were on their way out. They said that for the first time they had noticed an improvement in his condition.
“By then hundreds of people were praying for him,” said Hugo.
The ICU personnel said Petrus would be kept on a ventilator and a drip for several days while he underwent observation in case of brain damage. They said his parents should go home and return at 11am the next day. The Strydoms and their church supporters got permission to pray over the boy again.
Hugo and Lynette left the hospital just before 11pm and went back to their neighbour’s home. Soon they were all praying again: they kept on praying until 1am, when Hugo phoned the ICU. A doctor told him that Petrus had begun to breathe so strongly that they had to remove him from the ventilator. He had also opened his eyes and asked for his mother.
Before 9am on Sunday morning the hospital contacted the Strydoms and said their son was calling for his mom and was very restless. They went to the hospital and that morning Petrus was moved to a regular ward. Several church congregations prayed for his recovery during their Sunday services. Lynette spent the night at his bedside. By Monday morning he was playing with a toy car on his blanket, walking about, and showing no signs of brain damage. After some medical tests he was discharged on Monday. When I interviewed the Strydom’s on Wednesday Petrus looked like any other lively nearly-two-year-old.
Hugo said that before his discharge, at least a thousand people had prayed for his recovery. He praised God for healing his son and said the experience had impressed upon him the awesome power of prayer and the need for Christians to stand together in tough times.
Lynette said that she was sure that God had a big plan for her son’s life. When he was younger he had received a prophecy that wherever he puts his feet he will win ground for God and that he will display a love that will draw people to God.
“We have not lived in PE for very long and look how many people have already prayed for him,” said Lynette.
She said that once before Petrus had survived a health crisis during which he suffered from allergic convulsions. Hugo said they had panicked at the time of the convulsions but he felt the experience had prepared them to cope with the near drowning.
Lynette said that on last Friday — the day before Petrus nearly drowned — they had prayed the prophecy about his Godly destiny over him. She believed that the devil had attacked him but that God had protected him throughout.
Hugo appealed to Christians to learn from his experience and undergo some kind of first aid training, and to take strict measures to fence their pools and cover them with secure nets.