I had to relearn how to walk, because I was a hemiplegic after the traumatic brain injury I suffered. I have never even heard of the word “hemiplegic” until I became one!

I think the term “hemiplegic” is a little bit like the third wheel on the disability bandwagon. Almost everyone knows what a paraplegic is due to the Paralympics and a quadriplegic is a household name due to famous actors who became quads, like the late Christopher Reeves and South Africa’s Erik Holm. But allow me to briefly give you a short definition.

A paraplegic experiences complete paralyses in the lower half of their body, because of an injury to the spinal cord.

A quadriplegic experiences paralysis of the body from the neck downwards. Quadriplegics have use of their arms in differing degrees depending on where exactly they broke their neck. They cannot use their fingers at all.

A hemiplegic experiences weakness or paralysis that affects only one side of their body. Hemiplegia is sometimes the result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Hemiplegia may also be caused by a stroke; assault; excessive alcohol and drug use or a tumor in the brain.


The right side of my body was completely paralyzed immediately following my TBI. Luckily it turned out not to be permanent.

The right side of my body was completely paralyzed immediately following my TBI. Luckily it turned out not to be permanent.

Hemiplegia is when there is a loss of voluntary movement on one side of a person’s body and the weakness or paralysis occurs on the opposite side of where the injury to the brain took place. If the injury, and the subsequent damage, occurred on the right-side of the brain, the left-side of the body (the left arm, leg and trunk as well as the left side of the face) may experience complete paralysis or some weakness.

They grey areas indicate the part affected by paralysis.

They grey areas indicate the part affected by paralysis.

Because of the specific damage to my cerebellum, I sustained complete paralyzes to the right-side of my body and the left-side of my face. This type of paralyzes is quite rare seeing as hemiplegia usually affects the face; arm; trunk and leg of the same side (hemisphere) of the body.

After initially being completely paralyzed (on the right side of my body and left-side of my face), I regained a lot of movement and strength since 2009. My right arm and leg is now a bit weaker than before and have very little coordination because they are a bit spastic. My left eye is somewhat smaller than my right eye and the left corner of my mouth droops a bit due to the weakened muscles on the left-side of my face.

Since January 2010 to February 2014, I had altogether six physiotherapists – J.P.; Justus; Deon; Heleen; Chrissie and Jurgen.

In May 2010 I left Pasteur and moved to Rustenburg with my parents. There I met Jurgen Voges. He is my hero because thanks to him I was finally walking short distances with a walking frame by January 2013.

By September 2013 I was walking short distances with a cane. It took me three years and eleven months to be walking semi-independently. That is more than two million minutes! Try to count to two million. I dare you. Then you will have an indication of how much patience and dedication I had to invest in my quest to walk again.

Irene Fischer | My long road to recovery


I will elaborate on the other consequences of my traumatic brain injury in “Consequences … if the brain breaks”.

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” Charles Bukowski

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