On the 8th October 2017, my whole life changed in a flash when I had a car accident. I was 22 years old and my independence had just begun, only to be cruelly snatched so abruptly. I was left with a thoracic spinal cord injury with T4 badly damaged. I underwent 2 operations on my spine to fuse the vertebrae and spent 4 months in hospital and rehabilitation centres. I am now a T3 paraplegic, doing my best to adapt to life in a wheelchair. Little did I know that was just the beginning of the very many challenges that I would have to face in my new circumstance.

Coming home to live with my parents again and having to rely on them for help with my daily routines was overwhelming – for all of us. I realised how much I needed to mourn my pervious life, so I could get on living with accepting and adjusting to a new way of living. Part of this journey included various physical therapies, where I had the opportunity to try out aqua training in a heated a heated pool. From these swimming sessions I realised how much freedom being in the water allowed me, as I feel weightless for a change.

In October 2018, a year after my accident and 8 months out of hospital, I set my first fitness goal of completing a swimming challenge. This was to be the Capital K event (not a disabled event) at Midmar Dam. I had 11 weeks to train for a 500m dash. I underestimated how much energy and strength would be required to be adequately prepared for such a distance. With the help of my swim coach/physiotherapist Tarryn Filday, we set weekly manageable goals that built up my speed, strength and endurance abilities gradually, until I could 500m in one go. During this time, we also assessed many swimming styles to see what best suited me. We came up with sculling – where I swim on my back, propelling myself with my arms. This was also good for dam itself, with it sometimes rough water conditions.

Finally, Sunday the 2nd of December 2018 arrived! I had a fantastic support team with Tarryn (who took part for safety reasons) as well as family and good friends. They all cheered me on from the shoreline and I could hear them once I was about 100m from the finish line, which spurred me on. I wasn’t even one of the last to finish the race! Once I was out of the water and back in my wheelchair with my medal, I recalled how different this year December was from the previous one. Then I was sad and uncertain in hospital, not seeing much of a future with my disability and now, here I was, achieving my small but important goals and feeling much loved and applauded! Although I’ve had slow progress in my everyday independence, there has not been much change in my initial diagnosis – presenting no move movement, I feel today that I can say, I am not allowing the wheelchair to define me. Through my story and my journey, I hope to show others in similar situations as mine, that there is much to look forward to after a spinal cord injury.

Grant Oosthuyzen – Get inspired

Grant Oosthuyzen – Get inspired

Durban resident, Grant Oosthuyzen, had a vision to teach people with disabilities to work and offer hope, purpose and empowerment to the community. One year ago Get Inspired was born with the vision to get people out of their centers and homes so they can live life...

Rose Wessels Story

Rose Wessels Story

Rose Wessels Story Lovely Pietermaritzburg resident, Rose Wessels, has turned a craft into a heartwarming cause. She buys her wool, crochets blankets and then gives them to her daughter to distribute to charities. Rose has passed on well over 100 of her creations over...

Made 4 More 2020

Made 4 More 2020

  Made for More article  The Made for More foundation was established in 2016, their aim is providing  sports and mental health programmes at schools and homes for people with disabilities. Running exercise therapy sessions and coaching 3 sporting codes on a...

Cycling4Mobility donates wheelchair to Open Air teen

Cycling4Mobility donates wheelchair to Open Air teen

     Cycling4Mobility donates wheelchair to Open Air teen An Open Air School learner received a wheelchair donated by Cycling4Mobility from proceeds of the Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race. OPEN Air School teenager Sabelo Xulu was all smiles as he took delivery of...

Skydiving – Free Fly For Ferdi

Skydiving – Free Fly For Ferdi

My “Freefly for Ferdi” – skydiving experience It was mentioned in passing “why don’t you try skydiving?” I looked at my friend Wesley and took a minute to process this idea – “Is it even a possibility if you use a wheelchair? How will it work? What about landing?”...

Adaptive Yoga: Holism Health

Adaptive Yoga: Holism Health

“Yoga does not discriminate, yoga poses do” - Matthew Sanford When I think about my disability due to a spinal cord injury, I tend to split my body in two; the working and the not working. There was so much I thought I couldn’t do because of the physical limitations...

Para Surfing: SA Para Surf Champs 2021

Para Surfing: SA Para Surf Champs 2021

South Africa’s best Para Surfers flocked to Durban’s New Pier for the Tyre Life Solutions SA Para Surfing Championships where the national competition was hosted by Made for More, a local NPO that equips and empowers people with disabilities through sport. A total of...

Para Surfing: KZN Para Surf Champs 2021

Para Surfing: KZN Para Surf Champs 2021

ISA World Para Surfing silver medallist Tracy McKay will headline the KZN Para Surf Championships, which are set to commence on the 27th March 2021 at Addington Beach in Durban, with women making up 37% of the entrants. Up and coming surfers Nelisiwe Sibiya and...

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