The first thing fire survivor Lance Minnies heard when he woke up from a week-long coma was: “Did you know that you died?”
The 16-year-old suffered 99 percent burns to his body, and his mom Rita Minnies says it’s a miracle that he is alive.
Lance survived the blaze that claimed the lives of eight people in Mitchell’s Plain on June 11.
Rita says her son was so badly burnt that paramedics feared he wouldn’t make it to the nearest hospital a few kilometers away.
The mom says machines kept her son alive as everyone prayed for his recovery.
He woke up by himself a week later, and a doctor asked him if he knew he’d been dead.
Doctors believe the teen is out of danger for now.
Rita says: “The doctors were going to take him to Tygerberg [Hospital] first but chose Victoria on the day of the fire because traffic was bad, they didn’t know if he could survive the distance.”
Lance, a Grade 11 pupil at AZ Berman High School, was visiting his friend in Macbeth Street, Eastridge, when the fatal fire broke out.
Alfonso Swartz, 35, his daughter Tamia Swartz, 22 months, Tamia’s siblings Cameron Fredericks, six, Elmarie Fredericks, five, their cousins, siblings Nikita Abrahams, three, Joshua Abrahams, 13, Kyle Abrahams, 18, as well as their cousin Arafaat Madatt, 14, all died in the inferno.
Four other people - homeowner Patrick Abrahams, 54, who lost three children and three grandchildren, his ex-wife Verona Abrahams, 52, their daughters Gloria Abrahams, 31, and Shanice Abrahams, 22, and a friend Nawaal Erasmus, 23, also survived.
Alfonso was the last to be laid to rest on Saturday.
Rita says Lance underwent his first treatment of skin grafting last week, but got an infection, and he was placed in intensive care again.
Skin was removed from his stomach and placed on one of his badly injured legs.
A heartbroken Rita says she’s only been able to visit her son a handful of times, because she can’t afford the trips to hospital.
“Lance had his first skin graft on Thursday and I last saw him on Wednesday, I do not have money for petrol or taxi to see him because when you ask a person to take you, you need to provide petrol money,” the mom says.
The poverty-stricken family of nine all live in a single room in a house in Eastridge, which they also share with fourteen other people.
Rita says her husband Henry, a construction worker, has been unable to go back to work after he was shot last year.
Henry and her sons Yornick, 4, and Edwin, 18, were caught in gang crossfire outside their home last August.
Edwin was hit in the leg, and recovered, while Henry has been left disabled after being shot in the foot.
The family survives on odd jobs while Rita does char work.
Rita says it’s a battle to see Lance, who “needs our motivation and support”.
“When they brought him into hospital, he was so bad, I couldn’t even touch him, I had to look at him through a window,” she adds.
“He only learnt last week that his friends and others died in the fire. When he woke from the coma, he was very disorientated, he thought he was still in the fire.”
“But Lance is a fighter, he knows it wasn’t his time to go, he has dreams which need to be fulfilled.”
If you can assist the family please contact them on 063 560 8272.