May 2021 1st edition

Treat burn survivors with respect

Written by Kgaogelo Letsebe

Lebogang Mathabathe (33) from Ga-Rankuwa near Pretoria knows all too well how quickly accidents can happen.

She suffered third-degree burns after a 20-litre urn of boiling water spilled on her in 2019.

“While at church, we were told to steam ourselves. We were using an urn that was plugged into a socket.

“We were standing around the urn with a sack covering our heads, inhaling the steam from the hot water. In a split second, there was a spark and I just remember a sharp pain and passing out.”

Apart from being burnt by the boiling water, Mathabathe received an electric shock and passed out.

What followed was an unimaginable nightmare of pain, with months of hospitalisation, specialist appointments and psychological and physical treatment.

“The journey to healing is hard. The severe pain and trauma is close to unbearable. At times I thought I was going to die and I would ask God to spare my life as I have two children,” she says.

Mathabathe urges the public to be more supportive and sensitive when they meet burn survivors. “Treat us as normal human beings, not some kind of alien.”

Mpotseng Mokhonoana (36) agrees that the healing journey is testing.

"My accident happened in 2001. The road to healing has seen me go through the pits of hell until I became what I am now.”

She says she endured horrific teasing and bullying but says she is stronger as a result.

“I now know that I am a warrior, idol and supermom who wears her scars with pride and confidence. I tell my story repeatedly because I want to help the next person who is walking the same route as me.”

Both ladies are part of a local support group called Burn Survivors SA, which brings much-needed psychological support to its members.

According to the World Health Organisation, burns account for an estimated 180 000 deaths every year.

The National Burn Association of South Africa says being more careful around fire, flames and hot liquids will help reduce the number of accidental burn injuries that occur in the country. 


For more information, contact the National Burn Association at 062 662 4862 or visit the website Contact Burn Survivors SA at  078 140 7336.

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