Marina da Gama woman trapped by load shedding

Dawn Pilatowicz

Sudden load shedding last week trapped a sickly Marina da Gama woman in her motorised bed.

Dawn Pilatowicz, 67, was diagnosed with the degenerative muscle disease, polymyositis, when she was 30. She has spent the past 37 years slowly losing her strength and independence.

Her service dog, Shyann, has been her constant companion for the past decade.

“She became my driving force,” Ms Pilatowicz said. “She made me get out and about, get a motorised scooter, and walk her in my neighbourhood. We got to know everyone in the neighbourhood, and she became a loving mascot for our annual fund-raising drives for SA Guide-Dogs. Now that she’s retired, ageing, gone deaf and not too well, she’s my constant companion at home, and we’re a lot more insular again.”

The solitude was to prove a problem on Thursday August 13 when Ms Pilatowicz woke during unexpected load shedding.

“I was taken by surprise when I reached for my automated
bed remote and pressed the button to lower my legs. Nothing.
Raise the back. Nothing. So now, I’m trapped,” she said. “When I’m on my back, I’m like a bug on it’s back, except I can’t even wave my legs in the air.”

Ms Pilatowicz got an inverter earlier in the year to help cope with the load shedding, because the unannounced outages had trapped her in bed many
times. But the inverter is in for repairs and with Covid-19, she doesn’t know when she will get it back.

“I suspect it didn’t like the constant on/off following me around from bedroom to office, as I also need power to keep my online mentoring business going in spite of load shedding,” she said.

Ms Pilatowicz is a personal-development mentor. “I need to buy an additional inverter now, so that I don’t get trapped again,” she said.

When there is warning, she can at least make a plan, get into a sitting position, or get into her wheelchair before the power goes out.

“It’s the unexpected outages with no warning that get to me.

“Of course that then triggers stress, and my body shuts down completely. It doesn’t handle stress well at all.”

As it happened, Ms Pilatowicz’s live-in carer’s 6-year-old son came to her rescue on the day of the load
shedding. Finding her trapped, he went to Ms Pilatowicz’s tenants for help. They managed to get her out of bed and into her wheelchair.

But this sort of help is dependent on somebody being home. Or even awake, if problems arise.

Ingrid Liberte, Ms Pilatowicz’s friend, launched a BackaBuddy
campaign in January ( that raised money for the first inverter. She said Ms Pilatowicz had been her mentor and friend for years and described her as one of the kindest and most giving people she knew.

Ms Pilatowicz said the unstable power supply caused her a lot of stress as it was the difference between her treasured independence and being trapped.

She would welcome any suggestions and help in making her power supply more reliable.

Contact her at or 083 226 8250.