In February this year, two South African boys, 15 year old Rick Fortier and his four year old brother Marcus, were badly burned when a drum in which they were burning rubbish exploded. The boys, together with their parents Frederick and Nerina and their two sisters, were living on a farm in Condamine, about four hours west of Brisbane.
Their quick thinking 12 year old sister put them in cold water until paramedics arrived and the boys were taken to a local hospital before being flown to the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane. Rick, who tried to shield Marcus from the fire, was more seriously affected, suffering from burns to 35 percent of his body. Both boys underwent skin grafts and spent about two months in hospital. They were released earlier than expected and Nerina said that it was really wonderful to be home again as a family. The boys were happy to have more space, and they were able to go to the local Chinchilla hospital for physiotherapy, and the hospital was able to set up a video conference with the Brisbane hospital so that the family did not have to travel to see the doctors in the city. In addition, the hospital invited Rick to attend a camp on the Sunshine Coast for burn patients.
Nerina said that there is still a long road to recovery for the boys. At the time of writing Rick hadn't yet returned to school, but Nerina hoped that he would soon start for at least a few hours a day. The skin that was burned needed moisturiser applied twice a day, and Rick, in particular, still felt uncomfortable. Both boys also had very itchy skin and have to wear garments that cover the areas that were burned. In Rick's case this includes gloves as both his hands were burned.
Nerina and the Fortier children arrived in Australia at the end of November, while Frederick arrived about a year previously. He was employed on a farm in the Condamine area on a 457 sponsored visa. After hearing about the accident, Sabona launched an appeal to assist the Fortier family. The boys were not covered by medical insurance, and Frederick was determined to pay the bills himself rather than rely on his employer, who is legally responsible for the account. Frederick told Sabona that he is so appreciative of the financial contributions they received as he feels it is right for him to pay the bill even if it takes a long time to do so.
Nerina says that the hospital has given her the provisions they need to change dressings and take care of the boys on a day to day basis. “Now it's really just about paying the hospital bill,” said Nerina. As they have money or receive donations personally or in the special account that they opened, they pay the hospital what they can afford. “Fortunately, the hospital has been very understanding of our situation. But we'll pay that account even if it takes us until Christmas,” Nerina said.
The community in the Condamine and Chinchilla area where the Fortier's live has rallied around the Fortier family. Condamine Seeds and Tyres, the company that employed Nerina at the time of the accident, launched an appeal and is due to hold a fundraising auction on June 18.
In a letter sent to the community, the owners of the company wrote: “In an effort to assist the Fortier family, we at Condamine Seeds have decided to step forward and pull together as only Australians can, and have opted to ask each if you will be willing to assist us to help this family in need, with a donation. Whilst we understand that the current times are tough, and we acknowledge that times are especially tough, your generous donation, no matter what, will be graciously accepted.”
As a result of the Sabona appeal the Honey Jewellery team leader on Queensland's Gold Coast donated jewellery for the auction, financial contributions were received from many Sabona readers, Springbok Foods and Sabona donated a hamper of South African foods and an air conditioner was donated. The family was also offered a weekend away by Tweed Billabong Holiday Park on the southern Gold Coast and the African Cottage in Maleny.
A total of 100% of all new subscriptions to Sabona during April2009 went towards the family, as well as the proceeds of all sales to Peter Niemandt's book Things I've Learnt about Immigration and Aussie, Actually by Lois Nicholls. Back on the farm, Nerina said that she missed Brisbane, and particularly all the people she had met while looking after the boys in hospital. However, she expressed her appreciation at the many people who continued to phone and send text messages.