Reader Profile - A Super Quickie Kat
With unemployment figures for people with disabilities so disastrously high it is refreshing to find private companies such as CE Mobility setting an example to government and other companies by walking the talk.
In January of this year Occupational Therapist, Kat Swanepoel, joined CE Mobility as a seating specialist and mobility advisor. Kat had spent the previous three years working at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria after completing her OT studies at TUKS at the end of 2008.
It had always been her dream to work in rehab and physical OT but, whilst she was busy completing her fourth year of OT studies, she developed a muscle weakness in her legs and was diagnosed with a degenerative disorder, a form of a typical, primary and progressive Multiple Sclerosis which caused her to choose the less strenuous route of psychiatric OT.
Initially using crutches Kat bought her very first wheelchair toward the end of 2010 (from CE Mobility!!) after numerous falls and the threat of a spanking from her physio if she didn't get into a chair.
Sport has always oozed out of Kat. She played provincial squash and hockey before her condition put an end to it and, when she was diagnosed, her yearning for a do-able sport was palpable. With her crutches she managed some very long walks but she believed the joy of competitive was no longer within her reach.
As part of her OT training at TUKS Kat had played wheelchair basketball (in hospital chairs!) so, within six months of getting her wheelchair she attended her first training camp, with the Ricoh Pumas in Pretoria. It was only after she started training with them that she realised that the wheelchair basketball classification system would have allowed her to play all along!
By June 2011 she had been invited to join the women's national training squad and was selected for theWomen's U25 team to play at the World Championships in Canada, where they met tough competition.
Three months later she was again selected, this time for the North Gauteng Men's team, to play at the national championships, where they narrowly beat Eastern Cape to take the cup.
During the off-season Kat, a one pointer, started training with Discovery Eagles at Mandeville with national teammate Masego Mokhine, a four pointer. They play well together and played the Conference League for both the Eagles men's team and the Eagles women's team!
After the Conference League she flew off to Mexico with the national women's team to try and qualify for a place at the London 2012 Paralympics but their dreams were thwarted by the enormous Mexican women. Kat's dampened spirits were lifted when she returned tothe news that she and Masego had both been chosen for the Discovery Eagles Supersport team.
The last weekend of June Kat played vice to Masego's captaincy and together they led the Gauteng ladies team to victory, against a mixed male/female Free State team, and both girls were selectedto the All Star Team.
Thanks to basketball Kat has broken most of her fingers, cracked her femur and patella, broken her hand, broken ribs twice, dislocated her shoulder, broken her nose, had three concussions and landed up unconscious for 45 minutes. None of her injuries have ever taken her out of the game though as Kat has diminished sensation and, evenafter the unconscious episode, as soon as she was discharged she returned to play and win the finals!
In the 2011/2012 off-season, Kat started playing wheelchair rugby which, unlike basketball, is a full contact sport. She can't play as much as she would like because of basketball commitments, recently having to turn down an invitation to the national training camp and two national tournaments. She still trains when she can but, until her degenerating body says otherwise, it belongs to basketball.
Kat is proud of CE Mobility, saying that they have been very supportive of her and are always prepared to accommodate her special needs in the work place, as well as time off to pursue her sporting career. In recognition of Kat's phenomenal performance on the court CE Mobility recently presented her with a Quickie titanium All Court sports chair which enables her to go even faster and catch her opponents on the fast breaks but braking does become a problem when she goes so fast!!