Caitlin Douman was born on 18 June 1998 at Coronation Hospital. When Caitlin was 4 weeks old she developed gastro, I rushed her off to Coronation hospital and in the emergency room, the Dr on call, said that she was suffering from colic and that I needed to learn how to break a baby's winds. As I was leaving the Emergency Room, a nurse stopped me and asked if the doctor had prescribed any medication, I answered no and the nurse asked to see Caitlin. She immediately noticed that something was wrong and requested that I should go up to the pediatrics ward and she will ensure that a Pediatrician meets us there. Upon arrival in the ward, I was met by Dr. Kung, who told me that if I had gone home, I would have arrived at home with a corpse. Dr. Kung, examined Caitlin and did her best to ensure that Caitlin was stable. 24 hours later, Caitlin had a heart attack and it took the Dr's 15 minutes to resuscitate her, at this stage, the head of the pediatric department said that Caitlin wouldn't survive and if she did, there would be complications. She was admitted into ICU where she was being observed and treated with the strongest medication a baby her age to get. 2 weeks later, Caitlin now 6 weeks old, suffered from a stroke which affected the right side of her brain and the left side of her body. All tests showed that there was severe brain damage and due to her age the extent of the damage could not be determined.
Upon discharge 2 weeks later, Caitlin now 8 weeks old still had gastroenteritis. I then went to Garden City hospital where I found a pediatrician, who was able to treat and stop the gastro within 3 days. For months thereafter she was in and out of the hospital with all sorts of illnesses including epileptics fits and chest infections.
Caitlin suffered from bronchitis on a regular basis, and her lungs were very weak. She was very restless and irritable, and her sleeping patterns became very irregular.
At 3 months she started physiotherapy with Cilla Jones, who continued to treat her until she was 6 years old. At this stage I heard about Hyperbaric Oxygen (HBOT) therapy which was not acknowledged by the South African Medical fraternity. I researched HBOT and was willing to take the chance. It was agreed upon by both Dr Bartlett and Cilla Jones that the HBOT was be done in conjunction with Physiotherapy. I saw immediate results with the HBOT because prior to starting the HBOT, Caitlin was like a rag doll, no neck or back control. After 20 sessions of HBOT, Caitlin was able to sit on her own.
Throughout Caitlin's 1st 6 years, she received all sorts of different therapy to improve her lifestyle (hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Acutouch therapy and green light learning therapy (this was only available in the United States) combined with all the regular physiotherapy. She was enrolled into united cerebral palsy association (UCPA), Caitlin spent 3 years at this school, there she received speech and occupational therapy, This school cost 12 thousand rand a year and therapist advised that I find a crèche that would accommodate her needs so that she could have stimulation from interaction with other normal children. I did that, and at age 3 Caitlin attended Busy Bees Creche in Riverlea with Mrs Barlow and her team, here is where she was taught and pushed to her full potential. She was taught to feed herself, she was potty trained and was now more expressive in her own way… She basically was in charge of this Creche..Caitlin started walking at the age of 6. At this point I no longer had to carry her around wherever we went, she went about doing her own thing…
Once Caitlin had gotten to this stage, the next phase was to find a suitable school that would accommodate her needs, as she was previously turned away from these schools because she wasn't independent enough, this was the most difficult thing to do as all the schools I ever had an assessment at, refused her entry on the basis that she was on an intellectual level suited for the schools.
Schools included, Pathways, Francis Voerweg, Sunshine Center, Doug Whitehead, Lusito, Casa de Sol, Forest Town, Gateway and Little Eden. A few of these schools were approached twice giving a few years gap after allowing more progress.
In 2010 the company I was working for, wanted to sponsor Caitlin's schooling, Myra and Andre Kotze, fell in love with Caitlin and They found Footprints in Randburg. This school which accommodates all children with various disabilities and customizes the curriculum according to each child's needs, and each class only has a maximum of 8 children. Each child then would been given individual attention from the teacher. This was the best school ever for Caitlin, she started developing into a young lady, willing to take part in all sorts of household activities including drying and washing the dishes. Her and I also learned sign language at the school. At the end of September of 2011, Caitlin's sponsorship came to an end because I changed jobs. The fees at this school was 5 thousand rand per month which excluded transport to and from school.
She was home until 2015, where she was accepted at Lusito Land, her journey here was short lived as she was now a young lady with a feisty attitude who no longer wanted to be at school… she wanted to be home. Although Caitlin was home, she still received physiotherapy and a regular massage to assist with keeping her muscles more relaxed. I ensured that all her developmental needs were met and that she was still stimulated and challenged on a day to day basis.
Caitlin lived a life as close to normal as possible as my goal was to always give her, her own sort of normalcy and that she was as close to independence as possible.
With her passing in 2016, I had to find the will and faith within myself to go on.
Life without her seemed impossible but I persevered and constantly searched for ways to pay homage to her life and her ever present spirit.
The establishment of the Caitlin Douman Foundation, is just another way for me to pay tribute to the light of my life!
My gift from God.
My guardian angel in heaven.