After 2 months I needed to know that life would get better.
After 6 months I found I could still live and have fun.
After 2 years I know I can do anything I want!
After two years of being in a wheelchair, if I think back, I can't believe how difficult it was at first. In the early days I just thundered on and wanted to do everything that I used to. Of course the advantage of that was that I had to learn to cope. And now it all seems to have been worth it!
I'm glad now that I didn't adapt my lifestyle. Instead, I learnt as many tricks as possible to help me be independent. I've always loved gadgets and gizmos. I looked for gadgets that could help, "toys." Those toys have made a huge difference in my day-to-day wellbeing. One gadget that I bought online was my "FreeWheel" (see Rolling Inspiration July/Aug 2010 - ed). Now I can watch my kids play rugby and zoom up and down next to the sideline - on grass! Even gravel is possible! I did a 10km race on a gravelroad in the Free State - just my standard wheelchair and my FreeWheel.
I have also realized how important it is to meet with other people in wheelchairs. You never know what clever trick or gadget you aregoing to learn about!
In December, at Mossel Bay, I started "jogging"- mainly to avoid getting in and out of the car all the time. Then did my first race - a 10km in Pretoria. I didn't know what to expect but it was so amazing to be part of the crowd and listen to everyone cheering you on and complaining when you pass them on the downhill sections! It's nice to surprise people with what you can achieve. Passing somebody on a half marathon doing 35km/h! The look on their face when the wheelchair guy passes them - after 15km!
I've made new friends, friends in wheelchairs, and we love a good challenge. One night (over a couple of courage inducing whiskeys) our 10km run turned into a 21km challenge - just men-being-men plus bravado. I did the 21km and it was surprisingly easy! My time was 2 hours and 2 minutes. Now we can't wait for the next run to compete, challenge each other and chase faster times.
We meet Tuesdays at 5pm for training at Moreleta Kloof in Pretoria. There is a steep hill and a nice pub. Training is open to anyone who would like to get fitter and not stay thirsty! You can do just 800m or pushon for 3 ½ kms - depending on your fitness and ability.
Earlier this year I went to Austria and did some skiing. It was an amazing experience to be on top of the Alps and ski down with mykids. And again - all the people who couldn't believe the guy in the chair was faster than them!
My sports have added to my overall feeling of wellness. My balance is better. I don't get as cold in winter as I use to. I sit better. I transfer easier. I feel stronger. But most of all - I'm doing things that I thought I would never be able to do again.
When I look what I have accomplished it didn't just come from nowhere. From the very beginning I wanted to do more and experience life to the max. All the little things. Even the smallest things they taught me in rehab were important to me - to mobilize myself for a better life. It's amazing to be able to do things now that in rehab seemed impossible.
From the beginning, in hospital, the most important thing for me was to be able to carry on with my career. Travel in the first couple of months was really tough, staying at ill equipped guest houses and hotels. I got stuck in the bath once! (My legs got jammed underneath the bath handles so I couldn't lift myself out. I sat there for a while, pondering the idea of screaming or being pruned to death! Eventually I got my legs free.) Or the time I brushed my teeth at a basin that was too high, sitting on the edge of my chair without the brakes on! The chair rolled backwards. I ended up hanging on to the basin, my vibrator toothbrush going wild and I couldn't scream for help because I only had socks on! So yeah, I've learned a couple of things. Fasten your brakes, check bath handles and knees and, most importantly, put clothes on before you get stuck!
I was really lucky that I could carry on my career, but it would not have been possible without the help and support of family,friends, colleagues and fans. One of the most important things - one of the things that kept me going - was knowing that I still belonged.
Looking back at my two-year journey, so many things just seem right. The accident changed my life forever, but I have my life back. The wheelchair is just another gadget and does not define who I am.
Quote from Mathys to pop somewhere: