The Accident

In 2009 I was 26 years old and a radio presenter at OFM in Bloemfontein, a town in the Free State. Life was beckoning with wonderful possibilities in the entertainment industry. I had already finished a diploma in Television and Film Production; I completed a degree in Journalism at the University of Pretoria and then I did a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education. I felt like I could conquer anything life threw at me. Life took me up on the challenge.

Irene before the accident

Irene before the accident

I was on my way to work on a Thursday morning in October 2009 to, ironically enough, go and read the traffic news on the breakfast show at the radio station. I kept OFM’s listeners updated on any traffic news concerning the highways and byways in Central South Africa. Coincidentally that morning I was involved in one of the biggest accidents the Free State has seen in a very long time. A truck carrying 25 ton of maize, skipped a red traffic light and slammed into me. Just to give you an idea: An average elephant weighs six ton. One ton is 1000 kg. That means that basically there were four elephants plus 1000 kilograms of bricks on the truck! My car did not survive.

The wreck of Irene’s car

The wreck of Irene’s car

I cannot remember anything of that particular morning, because I have amnesia. Everything I am telling you now is things that were told to me by medics, doctors and my family. My pelvis was fractured along with my skull. My liver and milt were torn. One of my ribs penetrated my right lung. My right shoulder and right collarbone were broken. I was rushed to the Mediclinic in Bloemfontein with serious brain and chest injuries. There my heart stopped twice. I know what you are probably wondering … No, my life did not flash before my eyes. I did not see a blinding white light. I was not suddenly filled with a soothing feeling of “knowingness”. My life is not a damn movie.

Irene in hospital a couple of weeks after the accident

Irene in hospital a couple of weeks after the accident

At Mediclinic I was diagnosed with “severe brain damage” and my family were told that I might live for only 72 hours. But here I am, years later, talking to you. Nobody puts baby in a corner.

The damage to my brain mainly affected me physically. It left me as a hemiplegic with a speech impediment. Do not assume that I am dumb or a lesser life force just because I walk and talk differently than you do and therefor ignore me. Treat me with patience and kindness, respect and consideration, because I bleed red just like you do. I also have a heart, toenails, a bellybutton, nose hair and a bladder – just like you – because I remain a human being. I am not asking you to become my best friend. All I am asking is a smile. Look me in the eyes and smile. I would appreciate that little bit of acknowledgement. I think any person deserves that common courtesy whether they are disabled or not.

 

My mother, Julie, had to feed me for weeks after the accident.

My mother, Julie, had to feed me for weeks after the accident.

During the nearly three months I spend in hospital, I had to relearn how to talk, eat and swallow. When I was out of harm’s way, I was send to Pasteur rehabilitation center (also situated in Bloemfontein), because I had to relearn how to walk.

“In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmute itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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