The Accident

In 2009 I was the local traffic girl at OFM in the Free State. I kept listeners updated every day on any traffic news concerning the highways and byways in Central South Africa.

In the OFM studio in 2009

I was on my way to work to go read the latest traffic news on the breakfast show when a truck carrying 25 ton of maize skipped a red traffic light and slammed into my car.

To put that into perspective, the average elephant weighs approximately six ton. 6000 kg. So basically there were four elephants on the back of the truck. How cool is it that I survived the miniature stampede of elephants?

My car was not that lucky, though.

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The wreck of my car

My body took quite a harsh beating that I will go into ever so briefly, not to invoke feelings of sympathy but mainly to serve as the basis to later show you that the human body has a flabbergasting ability to heal and a remarkable way to adapt in order for one to find one’s balance again.

Right, here goes.

My liver and milt tore.

One of my ribs penetrated my right lung.

My right shoulder and collarbone were broken.

My pelvis fractured, as well as my skull.

I was rushed to Medi-Clinic in Bloemfontein with serious brain and chest injuries. There my heart stopped twice.

I know what you are probably wondering and no, my life did not flash before my eyes. I did not see a blinding white light. I was not suddenly filled with this soothing feeling of “knowingness”.

My life is not a Hollywood movie.

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In hospital, barely conscious

I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and my parents were told that I might survive for only 72 hours. But here I am, years later, talking to you.

Due to the extent of the TBI I suffered, I sustained unescapable damage to my brain. Brain damage. After the accident such heavy words became part of my vocabulary and for a long time it would define the way I saw myself.

I use to think that everyone who suffered brain damage was immediately robbed of their IQ and instantly stripped of all logic.

I thought this then unavoidably changed their personality to a large extend and that their behavior became suddenly explosive, impulsive and irrational.

Now I hang my head in shame for harboring such appalling assumptions.

Though this is indeed the most common consequences of a brain injury, the damage to my brain only affected me physically. It left me permanently disabled – as a hemiplegic with a speech impediment.

Hemiplegia occurs when the brain gets severely injured, be it by a traumatic brain injury sustained in a car crash or during a vicious, physical assault; a stroke or aneurysm etc.

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As a hemiplegic I experienced paralyses on the right side of my body immediately after the accident

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.

During the three months I spend in hospital, I had to relearn how to talk, eat and swallow.

When I was out of harm’s way, I was send to Pasteur Rehabilitation Centre (also situated in Bloemfontein), where I started my long journey to independence – to relearn how to walk.

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Some of my personal heroes during my stay in Pasteur

I will elaborate on the other consequences of TBI in Consequences of a brain injury.