Hit-and-run horror

Kayla Gelant as her family knows her best, care-free and with her rotweiller puppies on the beach.

Staff in the Tokai Melomed ICU ward call Kayla Gelant the miracle child.
The 19-year-old from Costa da Gama went out to fetch a bag of firewood from a local garage and never made it back – she was knocked down in a hit and run on Prince George Drive.

Patricia Gelant, Kayla’s mom, told the Echo on Monday about the horror of that fateful Friday night on June 5, and the trauma the family have endured since.

She places her phone on the table and plays a message her daughter’s neurosurgeon left the day after the crash. In an eight minute phone call, he lists the extent of Kayla’s injuries: her
ribs had fractured on both sides and punctured her lungs, which had to be drained; she had multiple liver injuries and a pancreas injury; she would be on insulin for the rest of her life; both
ankles were broken; her left knee was dislocated; and she had a spinal injury and could end up a paraplegic.

If she pulled through, she would be in ICU a long time, the surgeon said, adding: “I am even surprised she is still alive. Keep praying for the best.”

Ms Gelant says the surgeon warned that Kayla could also be exposed to Covid-19 in the ICU.

“That was minutes before her first operation.”

Since then, Kayla has endured nine surgeries – neurosurgery, plastic surgery, intestinal surgery, and orthopaedic surgery. She has screws in her back to relieve the pressure on the nerves of her legs and bowels. There’s the risk of the wound leaking spinal fluid.
Her parents were allowed in once to see her, and they prayed over her. They fasted in solidarity with her during the week she was operated on daily.

Because of Covid-19 hygiene protocols, her dressings cannot be changed in the ward: she must go into theatre every second day for that. She has no skin on her
back.

Ms Gelant says when she saw her daughter she was barely recognisable with all the pipes and tubes keeping her alive, medicated, monitored. It’s something no mother should see, she says.

She visits daily, although she can’t go in, which breaks her heart, but she video calls Kayla, and the nurse in the ward helps Kayla hold the phone.

Kayla cried each time her mom called, but she smiled for the first time when she saw a video of her dogs being fed by her dad. The dogs are her world, her mom says.

“She begged us for a puppy. When we gave her the dogs, she threw herself on the floor to hug them, and lay there with them.

She may be 19, but she has always had a child-like way about her; she is the one who always makes us laugh.”

Kayla matriculated last year from Muizenberg High School with the best marks in maths and planned to follow after her father Kobus Gelant, a Muizenberg law enforcement inspector, and enrol at law enforcement college.

“Her entire future…” Ms Gelant says, her words trailing off, then she adds: “If not for God, she would not be here. Some days my emotions are just a bit up and down.”

Ms Gelant has resigned from her job as a nursing sister at Kingsbury Hospital. She has 20 years of nursing under her belt and will look after her child herself when she returns home.

Ms Gelant kept the door open on the night Kayla went out to buy firewood. She heard the bang. At the time, with supper on the stove, she had no idea how that sound had just impacted her world.

“Her friend came screaming for me, I told her to go get Uncle Andrew from next door. He is a paramedic. He brought his whole kit,” she says.”We ran.”

And so it was her own mother and a neighbour who stabilised Kayla at the scene while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Ms Gelant reaches for her phone again to find a photograph of her daughter, lying in the road.

“As I lifted her leg, her foot fell right off; it was hanging on by a piece of skin,” she says. She shows photos of Kayla in hospital – a small body swamped by machines and tubes.

“We had to defibrillate her; we put her legs in splints. But in the ambulance, I actually collapsed.”

Kayla’s family have to remodel their home for her return. Her bedroom and bathroom need to be wheelchair friendly. She will need a motorised bed. Her mom has already cashed in policies. She says their portion of the medical bills is already well over R250 000. The motorised bed will be another R70 000 at least.

Community Police Forum spokesperson Wayne Turner confirmed that on Monday, June 15, a Capricorn man was arrested in connection with the hit-and-run case.

“We will let the justice system take care of that,” Ms Gelant says. “Our entire focus is on our daughter and her recovery now. Her strength of spirit is showing, and we must meet that.”