Dr Ambrotius Swartbooi was involved in a motor vehicle accident in December 2006, at the start of his second year of medical internship. The accident rendered him a quadriplegic and one on his friends was killed.
It was a tough time that followed. I spent almost six months in acute and sub-acute hospital facilities and regained some function of my arms. After discharge Ispent time rehabilitating at home, working especially on my endurance for getting through the day seated in a wheelchair. In September 2007 I married Susan Morgan.
Support from my wife, our families, friends and colleagues was of critical importance during this phase. I was off work for roughly 13 months on incapacity leave, after which I returned in a medical administrative position. For a year I worked in the office of the Head of Clinical Services (HCS) at Universitas Hospital, Bloemfontein. The HCS, assisted by HR and Faculty of Health Sciences,tirelessly assisted me in applying to the HPCSA to be granted permission to specialise. I am now in a training post in the Dept. of Radiology and will be sitting my finals in 2013/2014.
Going back to work meant getting up early and eight-hour work days. My wife drove me to work and back everyday and occasionally we made use of the transport service offered by Free State APD. When I started specialising I had totravel from either of two other hospitals, depending on rotations, to Universitas for discussions. My dear wife, who was formally employed as aprofessional nurse, had to perform all these tasks on top of being my full time caregiver.
This prompted us to investigate converted vehicles for me to drive. We researched on the Internet, but most vehicles were from overseas. We subscribed to Rolling Inspiration and came across the advert of Easy Drive WC, a conversion specialist. We contacted Johan Cillic, the owner, who flew up from Cape Town to evaluate me and we started looking at buying a car and converting it or importing one that's been converted, a Renault Kangoo or Volkswagen Caddy.
Johan contacted Sirus Automotive in England who, by some miracle, had a converted Caddy that was nearing the end of its demo time. We gave the go ahead and Johan started the process. This meant a lot of paperwork, some of which he also did for us, and Leoni Taaljaard, from APD Northern Cape, evaluated me to confirm my disability.
Once everything was in order and payments made it took just two weeks to ship the vehicle to Cape Town. Johan fitted the hand controls and docking station and drove it up to Bloemfontein. It was an amazing feeling when we saw the car for the first time. I could not wait to take the car for a test drive, but my wheelchair had to have the docking component fitted!
The day finally came - August 29, 2011. I got behind the wheel. It was a lot tougher than I anticipated. I was exhausted after going around theblock only once! With the unfamiliar movement it was back to physio to strengthen specific muscles! Now I drive on my own with no major hassles.
By getting the car I have regained the independence to move around freely. As a couple it means fewer transfers and Susan has more time for herself. Previously we had about eight transfers a day, this has been cut to just two: out of bed in the morning and back to bed at night.
Driving in town, it frustrates me now more than ever, when people do not stick to the speed limit. Two weeks ago we drove up to Kimberley to visit my in-laws. My indicator is mounted on my accelerator / break lever and does not disengage automatically. Accelerating after turning, and when changing lanes is therefore often quite a process - especially in rush hour traffic! This was the first trip out on the open road and tested my endurance. If I could wish for anything it would definitely be cruise control, other than that the ride was perfect!"