I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. More specifically, Camps Bay, an idyllic beach side town, cocooned by the cloud-cloaked plateau of Table Mountain and nestled against the craggy chest of Lions Head. I was fortunate enough to get to travel often as a child so I knew, beyond a doubt, that this was one of the most beautiful places in the world.
I was a quirky kid with a ferocious imagination. My face was often buried in a book, oblivious of my surroundings, or I was visiting the fairies at the bottom of the garden, or building sand castles and trying to catch the impossibly fast, tiny fish that flitted in rocky tide pools, or I was climbing anything that looked remotely scalable or swimming in our pool at any chance I got. I was a water baby.
I took ballet and then jazz dancing for years and I absolutely loved to dance, I played netball (poorly) and basketball (even worse), I swam with the school team and I ran sprints, but since my family were all artists and musicians, I most loved to play piano and clarinet.
When I was 16, I got my first real job at the Pizzeria on the beach front, a few blocks from my house. It wasn’t ideal (I had sort of been hoping to get a job at a funky art gallery downtown) but since we could only drive at 18 in South Africa, it would have been hard to get there, so I was proud of myself for securing a position that I could get myself to with ease. I felt capable, responsible, and grown up.
Then someone pipe bombed the restaurant and I woke up a month later.
I opened my eyes to an enclosed unit inside ICU. To the strained faces of my family. To my body completely bandaged and in traction. I learnt that I was the closest person to the bomb when it exploded, that my clothing had melted to my skin, that they had put nails and bits of metal in the bomb to do the most damage. It was a little while before my mom carefully told me that I had lost my right foot and almost lost my left leg. I was told that I had 3rd degree burns over most of my body and that I had shielded my face with my left hand, which destroyed the top of my hand but saved my eyes.
At that moment, I decided that reacting badly to a bad situation only makes it worse, so there didn’t seem any other option than to thrive and survive. The doctors told me it would take 18 months for me to walk again, I did it in 2. I had an incredible support system of family and friends and over the following years, I fought to be “normal.” I didn’t identify as handicapped or disabled. I didn’t accept that I couldn’t do anything. I fought to do more than perhaps I would have back when it came easily. I didn’t want this one event to define my life and yet the impact of it still ripples through every day of my existence.
It took me 14 years and the gentle push of someone close for me to think “Hey, there are other people out there like me, other people who have shared the challenges I have, and I want to meet them!” I attended one event with LIM359 and I was shocked and inspired to see so many amputees being active, showing so much strength. I felt strengthened to be a part of this group. I realize that acknowledging my challenges does not define me. It allows me to share them, gain support and give it in return, and that is a wonderful thing.
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