Accept your disability and move forward

I am Jawaad Coetzee, a T12 complete paraplegic.

I was once a very good pool player and went to the SA championships in George in 2002.

Two days later I was shot in my back. I was rushed to Groote Schuur Hospital and only woke up 2 days later. My life changed dramatically. I was only 19 years old.

That bullet paralysed me from my waist down. I was like a newborn baby. I had to lie in bed for almost a month. I could not sit up straight - it was too painful. I was on morphine every day and wished that I could just die.

I was in Groote Schuur for 6 months and could only go home on weekends. I then had to go to Conradie Rehabilitation Centre, where I was taught how to deal with my disability and the challenges that came with it.

I cried myself to sleep every night, I prayed like never before. My family’s support kept me going. I could see it was breaking my mother’s heart to see me like that.

Conradie Rehabilitation Centre became my home. I got stronger with daily physiotherapy and gym sessions. I got used to being in a wheelchair and learned how to manoeuvre it. After six months I was ready to face the world.

My friends visited me daily and finally convinced me to go outside. It wasn`t easy.

I started playing pool again but from my wheelchair. After a while I got used to it. I never made SA colours in pool, but I made my provincial colours.

After a year I joined “Unexpected”, a singing group. I met my first girlfriend during that time. Those four years made me stronger and I finally accepted my disability.

I then met Fazlin, my second girlfriend and till today the love of my life. We got married five years later, a decision I will never regret and never forget. I finally found happiness.

The only thing missing in my life is a permanent job and my own house. We live with my wife`s mom. Going up or down the stairs is always a problem. I`m working, but it’s always on a contract basis. But I`m grateful.

A lot of people think that being disabled means that your life ends. Well, it is only a new beginning.

I do not have much, but I don`t let that get me down. I believe that one day is one day… It’s my life and I make the decisions.

Keep your head up high and stay positive. One day you will look back and smile and be proud of yourself.