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Most babies come into the world with cheers and celebrations. Born in 1977, I came into the world with the words "We have a problem." I was born with a spinal defect known as Spina Bifida, that left me with a hole in my back, damage to
the spinal cord, dislocated hips, club-feet and water on the brain
(hydrocephalus), resulting in many, MANY operations needed, partial paralysis and I choose to use a wheelchair.
At birth the Doctors gave me a 2% chance of survival and a very poor prognosis on the quality of life I would have, should I survive. I don't even want to go into what they thought about me being educated. Well, I did survive, 47 operations later and I am sure there are more to come.
Have I had a quality of life? Hell yeah!
You know, sometimes situations seem terrible, not making sense at the time, and it is only many years later that it all makes sense. Every single interaction and happening in my life, good and otherwise, have indeed happened for a reason and worked out for the best. I do not consider my situation to be unique.
My parents did the best they could, allowing me to be as "normal" as I could be. I was sent to a mainstream school in Grade 1 and I was expelled 6 months into the year after being considered a "risk" to the school in the event of a disaster, like a fire!?.
After a lengthy court battle with the relevant parties and the department of education, my parents were forced to place me in a school that catered for scholars with disabilities, which they did and it turned out to be the best move they could have made.
It was at
Hope School that I was introduced to sports for people with disabilities. In 1989 I was chosen to represent my province, being
Southern Transvaal at the time, now
Central Gauteng. I went on to represent my province at the
National Championships for the Physically Disabled from 1989 – 1997, when I retired from competitive sports, to further my studies.
Between 1989 and 1997 I won 39 Gold Medals, 16 Silver Medals and 5 Bronze Medals at the National Championships.
I was invited to compete in the All African International Invitational in 1995 where I won bronze for 800m Wheelchair Racing. The highlight of my sporting career was in 1996 when I won Sportsman of the Year at the National Championships, bagging 8 Gold Medals and 8 South African Records, AND being chosen to represent South Africa at the
World Wheelchair Games in Stoke Mandeville, UK, later that year, where I won Bronze for 100m Breast Stroke.
I was also fortunate in that I excelled in leadership at Hope School, being chosen as Prefect in Std8 and Std9 and Head Boy / Hostel Head Boy in Matric (1996) and winning the Rotary Round Table Award for Best Leadership.
Going back to when I was born, there was concern that I wouldn't be educated... I matriculated Higher Grade with University exemption.
I then went on to study in the Allied Health Professions, qualifying as a Allied Health Practitioner (Therapeutic Reflexologist & Meridian Therapist).
One day in dissection, a fellow student passed the comment,
"What person is going to want to get cured by someone who
themself is not fixed"... a hard comment to swallow indeed and it was only after studying 5 years and attempting to open my own practice that I realised there was much truth in that comment.
I made numerous attempts to gain employment in various industries and I was
turned down repeatedly on the basis that I had a disability. So instead of
bumping my head over and over again, I took control of the situation and started my own business.
Because of my disability, I was always close to the ground and therefore developed an intense fascination for "Creepy Crawlies". I was a mother's worst nightmare! You name it, I have tried to keep it and breed it! A project I did in Std 4, on scorpions, pointed me in the direction of The Spider Club of Southern Africa. My love for nature and all things creepy just grew from there. Over the years I kept many species of scorpions, spiders and snakes while still at school. This fascination led to the creation of one of the first online, e-commerce based Reptile websites in South Africa, called Snakes Alive which my late father designed for me in high school.
On my life's journey, I owned two Pet Shops. The business grew and more time became available for me to pursue other ventures and so I tried to enter the workplace once more... Things hadn't changed,
perceptions around disability hadn't changed and the only place I could find employment was at a call centre, being a call centre agent. I only subjected myself to that for 3 months or so before resigning but it was during a lunch break just before resigning that a colleague commented on my voice and said that I should try get into radio...
As luck would have it, that same day, in the newspaper was an advertisement, advertising a radio presenting course. I did the course and the rest they say, is history!
My career in radio and TV has been interesting to say the least. For more on my career in the media, check out my
Media Profile for the full story.
I share my life story because there are a few valuable lessons that I feel could be useful. Heaven forbid that you should go through the same in your life, learn from mine.