Kaleidoscope, and freedom

As we move towards the festive season, I find a kaleidoscope of thoughts in my mind; a spectrum of emotions ranging from sombre to ecstatic, and many in-between.

As with many, many South Africans I was ecstatic to welcome our victorious Springboks bringing back the Webb Ellis Trophy held high. What a victory! What a boost for our whole country! What deserved celebrations! Sadly, though, I had to reflect that as the Bokke played their way through the RWC in France, two more young South African school rugby players suffered spinal cord injuries in games here. Surely with our rugby success so high-profile, it is unforgivable that the sport itself is not yet implementing its promised prevention and awareness programme.

Also, I’m ecstatic when I see that Teddy Pendergrass, a globally successful R&B artist will be visiting South Africa from the 4th to the 22nd of February 2008 as part of the African Legacy Project. Teddy is one of the best and performs to sell-out audiences all over the world. Teddy broke his neck in a motor accident in 1982 and became a quad; he is an inspiration to all of us – DON’T miss his concert in the Johannesburg Stadium on 16th February.

Another inspiration was to meet with Dr Claes Hultling while he was holidaying in South Africa from Sweden with his wife and son. Claes is a quadriplegic who heads the Karolinska Hospital spinal unit in Stockholm, and has a wide spread of fame: he is a leading and well-published authority on spinal cord injury rehabilitation, on fertility, and has even published a cookbook. Whilst here he graciously agreed to attend a workshop session at the Aurora Hospital in Port Elizabeth. It was all stimulating stuff.

Mostly, I suppose, I am still coming down from the incredible high of having taken part in that event of events – the Quads 4 Quads epic which this year was run on a dirt-only route from Johannesburg to Durban (which I rode), and then from Durban to Johannesburg. Dust, dust, dust, dust … that just has to be one’s prime recollection of this event. But it is much, much more than that: incredibly this year, this wonderful fraternity of sportsmen and women and children (more than 600 entered the event) gave QASA a cheque for R1,1m at the prize-giving.

It is amazing how much spirit and enthusiasm has been generated, and the warmth and empathy the quad riders as a fraternity show to us always. The event itself has taken on a new dimension in recent years with quads and paras themselves taking part. They are to be congratulated for their spirit, and the massive will and courage it takes to actually last the distance. And every kilometre of the way we are buoyed along by our fellow quad riders; when they see us taking part they are jubilant and welcome is into their hearts and culture; another unique product of this stunning relationship between the quad riders and QASA. I must congratulate our Chairperson Jakkie Pieters for flying through his first attempt, and also Doug Anderson, for doing both ways!!

This was my second Quad 4 Quads ride, and this time I was better-prepared, and enjoyed it even more. It felt throughout I was just flying along; I was freed; I was part of these lusty riders for charity and fun. The hardest moment came at the very end, when I had to relinquish my seat on my quad bike and get back into my wheelchair. Make no mistake, even though my wheelchair remains my instrument for ongoing mobility and liberation, I had exalted in the freedom of the quad ride… life does have many rewards, and this was one of them.

Finally – a sincere and wonderful festive season this year; enjoy and have fun. But – remember, all readers - Buckle Up out there throughout 2008! We don’t want new members!

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