“Miracle” vs Medical Marvel

The South African media is brimming with excitement over the “miracle” of the 3-year-old girl, Pippie Kruger, who has received a massive graft of her own cloned skin, which appears to have been a success.

Doctors at the Garden City Clinic, in Johannesburg, have been treating this little girl ever since she was burnt over 80% of her body on New Years’ Eve – a liquid fire-lighter her father was using exploded, setting Pippie on fire, and leaving her with terrible burn wounds over most of her body.

Since the accident, Pippie has had 45 operations, kidney failure and five heart attacks. She survived – thanks to the wonderful care she received from Doctor Ridwan Mia and his team at the Clinic.

A few square centimetres of healthy skin from her groin (which was protected from the fire by her nappy) was sent to Genzyme, a biotechnical company in Boston. They cloned her skin, growing it in thin sheets. These were flown to South Africa last week and transplanted onto Pippie’s body in a gruelling operation. The little girl has been heavily sedated and immobilised, and tonight some of the bandages were peeled away. The cloned skin remained in place – much to the relief and joy of Pippie’s parents, the medical team, and all who have been following this story.

Dr Mia appeared on TV news tonight, glowing with happiness and relief, and excited to tell the country the fantastic news – and what did the interviewer say?

“It’s a miracle!”

Well no, it’s not.

It’s the result of medical science. Doctors, clinic, biotechnology company, researchers…. and Pippie’s healthy body (before the accident)… are responsible for the success of this ground breaking surgery. Doctor Mia and his team displayed great strength, skill and determination.

There is no need to assume a god or gods had any hand in it. If a god or the gods, assuming they exist, were in the slightest bit interested, wouldn’t he/they have prevented the fire-lighter from exploding? Wouldn’t he/they have taken steps to ensure the child was not burnt over 80% of her little body?

And, it’s no good saying Pippie’s pain, the suffering she has endured and will surely endure for years to come, is all part of some divine plan. What plan could possibly justify doing such a terrible thing to a totally innocent child and her parents?

All credit should go to the medical team, Doctor Mia, the Garden City Clinic, Pippie’s parents, and to Genzyme – it is an insult to imply that a supernatural “miracle” is responsible for saving this child’s life!


Photography: New Blog

I have decided to start a new blog, exclusively for my photography. I’m sure that not all the photo-enthusiasts who visit this site are interested in my rantings about psychic frauds, astrologers and other crackpots!

My previous photography posts will be moved to the new blog:    http://cathywagnerphotoblog.wordpress.com/

I hope that if you have enjoyed my photography, hints and tips and comments that go with it, you will follow me there 🙂

Photography: Flowers in my Garden


I am fortunate enough to have a really pretty garden. Even though it is now almost mid-winter in Johannesburg, the Aloes, Strelizias, Daisies and even the Clivias are flowering!

It hasn’t been a particularly cold winter so far – none of those bitingly cold evenings, and no frost as yet. I’m sure the bad weather is ON ITS WAY!

I grabbed the opportunity to snap some photos this afternoon. First a gorgeous yellow Thistle:

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Glass Optic 50mm,  f/4, 1/400th sec, ISO 3200

My husband the Landscape Architect tells me this is called a Crocosmia – I believe him, because I don’t know any better…

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Glass Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/50th sec, ISO 200

This shot of a Strelizia is quite abstract – I love the contrasting colours:

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/125th sec, ISO 125

The Clivias are flowering way too early. (The Plastic Optic lens gives them a glowing, ethereal look which I find quite interesting.)

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Plastic Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/500th sec, ISO 100

This beautiful specimen is not growing in my garden. My dear Husband gave me two dozen red roses for our second wedding anniversary (he CAN be romantic when he tries…)

I took these two photos this morning as the sun came up:

Canon60D, 50mm prime lens, f/1.4, 1/60th sec, ISO 640

Canon 60D, 50mm prime lens, f/1.4, 1/60th sec, ISO 500

Some blooms from earlier in the year: first a magnificent Barberton Daisy:

Canon EOS 1000 at 263mm, f/5.6, 1/200th sec, ISO100

And an Agapanthus head, up close. The series of photos had an incredibly 3-dimensional “popping” effect. If you have these flowers in your garden try photographing them from above with a wide-angled lens. Get as close in as you can to achieve the same effect:

Fuji Finepix S9500 at 29mm, f/3.9, 1/150th sec, ISO 200

Photographing flowers can be very rewarding. Here are my tips, based on my experience:

  • Fill the frame with the flowers, edge to edge
  • Use a wide aperture so the background is blurred.
  • You can use either a wide-angled lens, or a macro lens. Both will give great results
  • Don’t photograph in bright sunlight – the best times are early morning, late afternoon, and on cloudy days – avoid strong shadows, unless it’s for effect
  • Bright sunshine on red, yellow or orange flowers totally blows out the detail. It really is best to shoot them in the shade if you’re after sharp details.
  • Use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze movement – flowers move unpredictably even in a slight breeze. If you have to hold the stem to keep the bloom still, make sure your hand is not in the shot!
  • Be aware of the composition. Diagonals will make the picture more interesting
  • Look out for strongly contrasting colours and make the best of them.


If you have any tips for shooting flowers, I would be delighted if you would share them with me 🙂