Cover story - I am a survivor
A Soshanguve woman became paralysed when alleged rapists threw her out of the 6th floor of a building. Not only has she survived the terrible ordeal, but she has since put the tragic event behind her and has even given birth to two miracle daughters.
Veronica Baloyi (34) of Soshanguve, West of Pretoria, never thought she would live to tell her story after that fateful night on April 7, 1996.
A night out with friends turned horribly wrong when they were kidnapped by six men.
The girls had visited a friend in Atteridgeville and the men accosted them and pulled them into a car. On arrival at a flat, the men wanted to rape them. She was only 18 years old when Veronica aggressively refused her attacker and she was thrown out of the flat (on the sixth floor) window.
She was hospitalised for eight months at the Pretoria Academic Hospital with a fractured spinal cord, broken ribs, broken left pelvic bone, and several other broken bones.
Her story made headlines when she miraculously survived after being in a coma for six weeks at the hospital. She had ten surgeries while she was in hospital. When she woke up doctors told her she was lucky to have survived. They also told her she would never walk again and that in her condition, she would never have a baby.
Today Veronica is a mother of two daughters, Letlhogonolo (8) and a 10 month old bouncing baby, Lindokuhle.
She was wheelchair-bound for two years before she started using crutches in 1998. She even went back to school to complete her matric and today Veronica is a production planner at Transnet in Koedoespoort, Pretoria.
Veronica’s health suffered another setback in 2011 when she had to make the tough decision to have her leg amputated. “I lived with pain and infection for years and it took me a long time to get closure and have my left leg amputated. I have had to learn how to adjust, but it is great to be pain free,” she adds.
She says that people still discriminate against the disabled. “I believe that education is the key to success, whether you are disabled or not. It is important to have a good source of income and to work at a company that caters for the disabled.” She agrees that public transport in South Africa is still a major challenge for anyone with a disability. “Sadly, I have also noticed that there is often a real lack of support from family and friends for the disabled person,” she says.
Veronica has had a difficult journey to recovery - both emotionally and physically. “I had to make peace with myself and accept what happened to me. My faith carried me through and I decided and I had to start healing myself before I could look after other people,” says Veronica.
She believes by socialising often and ‘walking tall’ has helped her build her confidence again. Veronica spends a lot of her time educating those around her about disability issues. My message to other people who have suffered a great loss, or who have had to deal with a tragic event is: Life is beautiful! Surround yourself with people who have good values and don't overthink every situation – this only leads to negativity. Remember to smile, laugh, and cry if you feel like it, but keep in mind that everything happens for a reason.
Veronica lives by her motto: ‘Take risks in life: if you win, you can lead! If you lose, you can guide’.