Hi George, I have read your article on Ida's corner. It was a great article and I loved it!I just want to know if you are a caregiver yourself? And is Deon's wife the only caregiver looking after him?

Mothelesi Sefotlhelo, Bloemfontein

No words can do justice to the story of Mothelesi (aka Mangena) and his employer, Hannes de Jager, but their bravery and perseverance; love and commitment; and especiallythe emotional strength and resilience forged by their relationship will become evident.

Hannes broke his neck in a Defence Force rugby match 15 years ago. His OC would not allow him toleave and he still works for the Defence Force in administration. He types with a stick held in his mouth and he drives his wheelchair with his chin. He is doing so well that he was able to have a house built for himself a few years ago.

Mangena was enlisted 13 years ago as support caregiver by Hannes' principal caregiver. He showed Mangena the ropes but, sadly, passed away a few years ago. Mangena continued with Hannes,now as principal caregiver with assistance from Happie who joined the team about five years ago.

Their program is gruelling says Mangena: Start with catheterisation, dress, brush teeth, wash face, put in the chair, make hair right, feed breakfast, go to work, go to shower after work and normally go andlie down. While in the chair - pressure relief every hour. Make food. Must beturned every four hours. 

I asked about the difficult days? When they feel down and depressed or angry or frustrated, how do they deal with it?

Hannes: The best way for me is to be alone by myself because I don't think anybody really knows how I feel - even if I explain in the best way I can. After a day or three I just have to move on from it. I call it a "bus"; Get off the "bus" and get yourself together coz no one is waiting for you and I'm the only one that can make things better for me. Some days it does take longer than others but thanks the way it is. I am close to my younger sister but I don't want to talk to her because I don't want her to worry about me.

What about funny incidents that lift them, that tickle their sense of humour?

Hannes: Because I'm driving my chair with my chin I've had many funny moments. Most people ask if I talk to the chair, one woman asked if I'm breathing through the control and one time I decided to make a joke and said, ˜yes, I'm talking to my chair." It came back atme though because I had to give the man a demonstration!

Mangena (as typed by Hannes): Hannes and Mangena were in the bank. Hannes finished his banking and joined Mangena in the consulting area:

I wanted to relieve the pressure off my bum. Mangena knows that when I throw my hands off the table I want to do pressure relief. So he takes off my table and puts my chest on top of my legs head between my knees, think I've got a pic I'll send it. The people didn't know we were "together" and I can just imagine what they were thinking...

In a second all the people were standing around me wanted to help... Mangena and had to tell them very quickly that he is my helper and that I'm taking pressure of my bums. I think the people thought he was attacking me or something!

To me Mangena and Hannes' story exemplifies an attitude that is so much needed in our society: Ordinary people that take on extraordinary challenges with great courage and perseverance, but also with deep love and empathy. And throughout it all they still retain their sense of fun and joy of life. Way to go Mangena and Hannes!