I have very hardworking guardian angels who’ve come to the rescue several times on our wild-west roads (here and here are some of them). But what happened on the moonless night of 1 August is probably the hardest-working they’ve ever been.
I’d had my granddaughter Jessie, who’s just 3, for the weekend, and when I took her back to her mom in Cape Town on the Sunday, I mentioned that I felt that something wasn’t right. Jessie wasn’t her usual jump-around self, and she had very dark rings under her eyes that concerned me. Other than that, though, all seemed fine: she was eating, sleeping and pooping right on schedule. She had a little cough, but it’s something that’s plagued her and most of her playgroup through the winter, so that wasn’t new.
When the phone rang at 10.30pm on that Monday night, I knew it was about Jessie, and that whatever the news was, it wouldn’t be good. But I didn’t expect to hear that she’d had a seizure.
Adrenaline kicked in, and within five minutes, I’d taken my house keys next door and left them with the neighbour, with rapid-fire instructions to keep an eye on my animals, and I was on the road. The car trip from Riebeek Kasteel to False Bay Hospital, a journey of about 120km, should, according to Googlemap, take about 1 hour and 45 minutes without traffic. Because of the lateness of the hour there was, fortunately, almost no traffic on the road, and the trip took me a little over an hour. I remember absolutely nothing about it, except having the vague feeling, once it was over, that I’d put my foot flat as I left home, and had never once taken it off the accelerator until I reached the hospital.
But here’s the thing: I’m utterly and completely night-blind, and have been since I had lasik surgery 16 years ago, and willingly traded in any night vision whatsoever for 20-20 day vision. Other than for short distances on well-lit and familiar roads, I can’t drive at night.
And this isn’t theoretical night-blindness. I know I can’t see at all at night beyond the limit of the car’s headlights because, one or twice, I’ve driven at night because I haven’t had any choice. They’ve been horrible, horrible experiences, slow, tense and frightening.
On that pitch-black new-moon night, though, my road angels flew as fast as I drove. It felt as if I had superhuman vision as I shot down the N7, onto the N1 , the N2 and then the M3, and from there, unerringly, drove directly to the hospital – despite never having been there before, having no prior knowledge of where it was (or even that it existed), not knowing how to use my phone’s GPS system (and therefore not using it), and having got very scanty and understandably distracted directions from Isabella. My road angels were with me all the way, showing me where to go.
I drew this picture for Jessie afterwards, to illustrate the miracle, but it disturbed rather than comforted her, and she asked if we could rather hang it up in my room than in hers. (Hmph.)
Isabella and Jessie were still waiting to be seen at False Bay government hospital when I arrived there, by then some hours after the seizure had happened. I took them straight to Constantiaberg private clinic, thanking my lucky stars that I’m not a dirt-poor South African with a child with a life-threatening condition and forced to rely on state services. I handed over my credit card at Constantiaberg and allowed them to lighten my bank account by a very significant amount in order to tell us that they really had no idea what had caused the seizure, aside from a high temperature; and that they had no idea what had caused the high temperature.
Jessie recovered slowly but completely and is now absolutely fine.