Listen Live

GMA Extra: Sean Smith is recovering well and has a message for the Jacaranda FM listeners

Tragedy struck on Monday 17 October 2016. Sean was helping out with a gardening service, when he tried to help a lady with a car problem. The vehicle was leaking oil. He popped the bonnet and inspected the enjin to find the leak. He used petrol to clean the oil off his hands. At this time, someone nearby lit a cigarette and Sean caught fire. He sustained 3rd and 2nd degree burns to 42% of his body. 

burn victim Sean


BACKGROUND:  Last month, we met Sean Smith’s mom, Me-Lissa, a family friend Amoré and Annerie du Plooy from the Hero Burn Foundation. Me-Lissa was devastated.

Sean is the healthy, helpful 16-year old son of mother of four, Me-Lissa. Tragedy struck on Monday 17 October 2016. Sean was helping out with a gardening service, when he tried to help a lady with a car problem. The vehicle was leaking oil. He popped the bonnet and inspected the engine to find the leak. He used petrol to clean the oil off his hands. At this time, someone nearby lit a cigarette and Sean caught fire. He sustained 3rd and 2nd degree burns to 42% of his body. His right hand, neck and chin were severely burnt, as well as parts of his torso and back. He also sustained internal burn wounds from inhaling the flames. 

As a single mother of four, Me-Lissa struggles to keep up financially and she does not have a medical aid for her family. Sean was admitted to a private hospital for immediate, trauma and life saving intervention. He needed to be placed in a state hospital with a burns unit. The State hospital only had an ICU bed available and due to his extensive wounds and the internal damage to his lungs, he urgently needed treatment in a burns facility. 

To firstly stabilise him after a lung collapsed, while keeping him infection free and treating his burns, Sean needed specialised care. There was no bed available in any state hospital that could offer this and the cost of a care in a private facility was way beyond the family’s financial means.   

Jacaranda FM listeners heeded the plight of this mother and son and within a week contributed over R2, 3 million rand needed for Sean to be transferred to an appropriate private facility. Sean was not conscious for most of his ordeal. A month after the tragedy, he is talking, walking and gaining strength day-by-day.

Dr Reuven Jacks, who heads the trauma burns-team that has been nursing Sean back to life says he had a 42% chance of survival, when he arrived in their facility two weeks after the burn accident happened. Now, says Dr. Jacks, Sean has 99.9% chance of resuming his life within a few months. 

This morning, Sean wants to speak to the people who helped him. Strangers, who heard his mother’s plight and opened their hearts. Strangers who sent messages and prayed for him. Strangers, who gave of their own livelihoods to save his life, the listeners of Jacaranda FM who became his Good Morning Angels.


BANKING DETAIL: Hero Burn Foundation NPO 124-379

                              Nedbank Branch 198 765

                              Account Number 1 047 234 327    

                              Ref:  SEAN

 GoGetFunding account:

 More info:




Dear Dianne and Jacaranda Angels, 

We are in dire need of raising funds to help Hero and Burn Survivor Sean Smith (16) from Theresa Park in Pretoria North, in being transferred to a Private Burn Hospital.

Sean Sustained 3rd and 2nd degree burns to 42% of his body on Monday the 17th of October at approximately 15:00 when his shirt caught fire after a cigarette was lit near him.  Sean wiped his hands with his shirt after he cleaned his oil covered hands with petrol.  He offered to help fix a oil leak on a vehicle of the woman where he helped out that specific afternoon with a gardening service in Eldoraigne.

Amore Sameera Jooste, a very good friend of Sean’s mother Mé-Lissa Smith, was immediately contacted by the woman and a friend and Amore then rushed with Sean to Hospital in Centurion.

Doctors immediately started to treat Sean at Casualties and Amore remembers him screaming until he was anesthetised.  Fear and trauma overwhelmed Amore at that stage as she realised the seriousness of Sean’s condition.  Amore by then already made contact with Annerie Du Plooy from Hero Burn Foundation for support. Mé-Lissa, Sean’s mother was not home, as she was sent abroad for work the day before. Amore contacted her to urgently return home.  Being the single mother of 4 wonderful children, Mé-Lissa cannot afford a medical aid.

Sean sustained severe burns and doctors had to make the decision to sedate and ventilate him immediately.  He needed an Isolated ICU bed in a Provincial State Hospital equipped to look after him given the seriousness of his injuries. Hero Sean sustained third degree burns, with most serious wounds to his hands, chin and neck.  His back, torso and arms also sustained partial 3rd degree burns and internal burns due to the inhalation of the flames.  There were no available beds in a State Hospital equipped to look after him and the financial burden started, as he needed to be admitted to the Trauma ICU at Private Hospital Rate.

The following morning Unitas advised that an deposit of R40,000 needed to be made and generous donators helped here.  Amore and Annerie knew that funds needed to be raised urgently and started with social media and contact campaigns to spread the word. There were still no bed available to accommodate Sean.

Sean was critical but stable by day two, and doctors advised that they urgently needed to find a bed for Sean as he had to go to theater by latest day 3, to clean wounds and start with debridement of these wounds or he could get infection which is life threatening. Amore had the very difficult task in fetching Mé-Lissa from the airport and advising her of Sean’s accident.

By Wednesday there was still no bed available for Sean and the Hospital then advised that the cost for the hospital and theater will be covered by them until a bed is sourced in a State Hospital.  He urgently needed to go to theater - he started to show signs of infection and he became unstable.

On Thursday at 10:30 Hero Sean went for his first theater session in Hospital and after 3 and a half hours the dr advised Mé-Lissa that the most damage was to Sean’s hands, chin and neck.  After the cleaning of his wounds surgical removal of dead tissue in theatre, the hospital advised us that an Isolation bed in ICU in George Mukhari Ga’Rankuwa may be opening up, but that Sean will only be moved when stable enough..

Friday Morning at about 8:30 Shaun’s right lung collapsed and doctors worked on him in the ICU to stabilise him again - We were advised that the bed at George Mukhari was ready for Shaun to be transferred to.  At about 15:00 Friday afternoon Shaun was moved from the private hospital to George Mukhari via ICU Ambulance and was admitted in the ICU ward of the State Hospital.

Blood works and X-Rays were done and Shaun were put on antibiotics for an indicative infection that they picked up.  This past weekend was a rollercoaster of emotions as Shaun’s condition deteriorated with his fever rising and increased pulse rate of 132. George Mukhari Burn Unit is in fact not open yet and Sean is currently in isolation in ICU - his wounds were looked at and done in ICU on Saturday and the doctor advised that if all goes well Shaun will go to theater on Monday for his second debridement. Mom Mé-Lissa was very worried and made with the MEC of Health on Sunday.

An update was done yesterday on a page created for #HeroSean: 

I spoke to the MEC of Health Gauteng Qedani Mahlangu this morning and raised my concerns regarding the level of care, hygiene of the room, temperature of Sean, heater in the room and infection control. When I arrived at the hospital I was met by 2 Matrons who was sent to Sean by the hospitals CEO. I told them that I have spoken to the MEC to get Sean transferred to Baragwanath hospital as they have a burn unit. His condition has improved since yesterday. His heart rate is now at 97 bpm and his temperature is still a bit high at 38.2 degrees. His Blood pressure etc are normal. He is receiving tube feeding as well. X-rays were done yesterday that shows his right lung has an infection. He is receiving anti biotics for that. It might be due to smoke inhalation or hospital acquired due to his immunity being low. 

I will remain in contact with the MEC and see what will be the best for him until we raise enough funds to get him back to a private hospital. I was able to get an indicative quotation from MilparkBurn ICU: Deposit of R800,000 to admit Shaun. With his injuries and care needed as indicated he will need to be in Burns ICU for about 6 weeks which will bring the cost of ICU and theater (this excludes doctors costs, surgeons, x-rays, blood works, Burn Unit ward and Rehab) to over R2,000,000.00.

Total estimated cost will be about R3mil.

We really need a lot of help.

Kind Regards,

Annerie Du Plooy

Show's Stories