I divide my life into two parts. Before and After.
Before the accident I consider my life filled with wandering years in which I was aimlessly searching for something significant to do with my life. And so, by the age of 24 I had already finished a diploma in television and film production; completed a degree in Journalism at the University of Pretoria (Tukkies) and then I also did a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at Tukkies.
In 2009 I was 26 years old and it seemed my life was finally getting direction as I started working as a radio presenter at Central South Africa’s biggest radio station, OFM, in Bloemfontein, a town in the Free State. I was working with Rian van Heerden on the Mambo Jumbo Drive on weekday afternoons and life was beckoning with wonderful possibilities in the entertainment industry.
I felt like I could conquer anything life threw at me.
Life took me up on the challenge.
On the 22nd of October 2009 my life changed abruptly when I was involved in a massive car accident in which I sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and in just three seconds my fight to regain a new sense of normalcy began. (Read more about the accident here.)
Due to the extent of the traumatic brain injury I suffered, I sustained inevitable damage to my brain.
After the accident such heavy words become part of my vocabulary and for a long time, it would define the way I and the greater part of society would see me.
Brain injury and the subsequent damage that follows, are surrounded in a cloud of dark preconceived ideas. I, for one, used to think that everyone who suffered brain damage was immediately robbed of their IQ and instantly stripped of all logic.
I thought this unavoidably changed their personality to a large extent and that their behavior became suddenly explosive, impulsive and irrational.
Now I hang my head in shame for harboring such appalling assumptions.
I am quite embarrassed to admit that before I sustained a traumatic brain injury I was rather oblivious about what it could entail if the brain got severely injured.
Imagine if you suddenly had to relearn how to eat, talk and walk at the age of 26. Quite a reality check that put things quickly into perspective. Makes you grow up fast. Made me realize how much I took for granted. Too much.
As a brain injury survivor, I now give motivational talks (or educational talks, as I like to think of them) and I try to shed some light on the often heavy topic of traumatic brain injury and brain damage in order to diffuse the distasteful stigma that so often clings to it.
I strive to cultivate understanding in each person I meet which will hopefully lead to compassion, respect and much needed consideration to anyone living with a disability.
I experienced harsh, hurtful words and grossly inconsiderate behavior since I have become a person with a disability who is mostly dependent on a wheelchair in order to hopefully improve your understanding of how to behave around and treat any disabled person.
But I have also experienced so much beauty and love that I know how wonderful one human being can make another feel. The world needs more of that.