A soldier has won the first leg of her battle for compensation after her facial nerve was severed and the left side of her face paralysed during a botched surgery at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria six years ago.
The defence minister conceded full liability for the damages suffered by 48-year-old Andorinha Mareke Mokhothu because of complications during surgery to remove an enlarged parotid gland, which had caused her severe pain.
Mokhothu instituted a damages claim of R2.4 million against the minister, claiming the doctor who operated on her had been negligent by severing the nerve on the left side of her face during the operation.
She alleged her full consent had not been obtained and that she had not been warned of the risk that her facial nerve could be damaged.
She was referred to a plastic surgeon, who attempted a transplant using a nerve from her leg, but the operation was not a success.
She was left with permanent paralysis on the left side of her face, suffered a loss of hearing in her left ear and still experienced pain in her leg.
According to expert reports, Mokhothu, who worked as a chef, could not close her left eye properly; constantly had to use artificial tears; and had to tape the eye shut when sleeping.
The paralysis and loss of feeling on the left side of her face made it difficult to eat and drink; her speech had become slurred; and she had difficulty keeping her saliva in her mouth. She battled with constant headaches and pain in her leg, felt self-conscious, became socially withdrawn and developed major depression due to the shock and trauma she experienced.
A psychologist in a report said Mokhothu had complained that her superiors were not supportive and were trying to get her medically boarded. The amount of damages Mokhothu must receive will be determined at a later stage.