Woman dies from toxic drug despite mom’s desperate bid to save her
After 10 years of desperate attempts to help her drug-addicted daughter, a distraught mother – who made a heartfelt, but futile plea to a Port Elizabeth magistrate last year to put her daughter in jail to keep her safe – has had to watch her die.
A tragic victim of the deadly krokodil drug which is being sold increasingly on the street, Bonita Dean, 25, was only able to communicate by moving her hand in the days leading up to her death at Livingstone Hospital.
Covered in sores and critically ill, she finally succumbed to her addiction on Wednesday last week.
“It was like watching someone drown over several years,” her mother, Martha, 64, said.
Shortly before Dean died of complications from her addiction, she told a friend who tried to help her: “I never thought that dying would be this terrible.”
The highly toxic substance known on the streets as krokodil is a cheap substitute for heroin – the base is crushed codeine tablets which are mixed with anything from petrol to hydrochloric acid and lighter fluid.
International estimates are that addicts seldom survive more than two years of continuous use.
They often develop gangrenous sores on their arms and legs and die of sepsis.
Martha said Dean had been addicted to a variety of drugs for the past 10 years and had eventually become addicted to heroin.
She was then given krokodil by drug dealers.
“They would just give her enough that she would do anything for more,” Martha said.
In July last year, Dean was admitted to Life St George’s Hospital, where a well-meaning businessman paid her medical bills.
Martha made headlines at the time when she begged the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court to rather put her daughter – who had been charged with possession of drugs – in prison than to let her out on the streets again.
The court instead ordered that Dean be sent to the Noupoort Rehabilitation Centre, but she escaped in June this year and made her way back to Port Elizabeth.
Martha said her daughter had been admitted to hospital a month later when her arms and hands became septic from her continuous krokodil use.
Social workers, however, discharged her without Martha – who lives in Bloemhof in the Free State knowing, and Dean went back to living on the streets and in drugriddled flats.
“I came looking for her several times, but could not find her,” the distressed mom said.
“People would phone me to say they had seen her, that she was still alive, but was covered in sores.”
Earlier this month, Martha was told by friends of Dean’s that she was very ill.
“I came back to look for her. I was even willing to pay someone to kidnap her,” she said.
By the time police found Dean on September 10, she was already critically ill.
“They found her with one broken shoe, a pair of black pants I had to burn, and a shirt. She had nothing else left in this world,” Martha said.
“When the police brought her to me, they were wearing masks. The stench was terrible. “I knew it was the end for her. Bonita had no fight left in her.”
“When she died, I saw her smile for the first time in a very long while. She looked at peace.”
She said while Dean was healthy, a drug lord “took her as his wife”.
“She was making thousands of rands a week as a prostitute. “When she got ill, when the krokodil started eating her from the inside, he discarded her.”
“They said she smelled too bad to stay in the flat. “When we found her, she was like a leper. “My daughter went through hell. Her body was covered in sores and lice. She battled to breathe. ”
“In the end, I had four days with her. “Gone was the rebellion, the know-it-all [attitude]. And while in agonising pain, not complaining, just accepting what was happening.”
A Port Elizabeth businessman who had been assisting Dean and did not want to be named, said he had always thought drug addicts could be helped until he met her.
“She just used me for the money and the drugs. But I never gave up on her. “I would look for her time and again. It was sad to see her go.”
He said he hoped what had happened to Dean would highlight the “modern-day slavery” taking place in Port Elizabeth.
“People are given free accommodation by the drug lords and free drugs, but they have to prostitute themselves or steal to make money for them.”
Maggie Beagaree, of the Helping Hands NGO, said they had given Martha a place to stay when she came looking for her daughter.
“When they eventually found her, she [Bonita] was crying. Her body was full of holes. She was screaming in pain.”
“I am just glad she had a few final hours with her mom,” Beagaree said.
“We are seeing more and more cases of people needing help because of krokodil. “They sell krokodil around here for R20 a packet. When Bonita died, she had been using 13 packs a day.”
A recovering heroin addict, who would only be identified as Wendy, said Martha had asked her to talk to Bonita in a last-ditch effort to help her.
“I have seen this drug on the street. It is unlike anything you have seen before,”Wendy said.
“You become rotten from the inside. “By the time doctors can see the sores, it is too late for you. “[When] the dealers start giving you krokodil, you are so desperate.”
“You know that they mix it with any damn thing, but you will take the risk,” she said.
Doctors at Livingstone Hospital said they were seeing more cases of sepsis, ostensibly caused by the use of krokodil.
Zarina Ghulam of Sanca said they were also concerned after seeing an increase in the use of the drug.