So August 15th marks the “anniversary” of the day that changed my life forever. This is not something that I talk about unless I’m asked the obvious question: “What happened to you?” I thought I’d write about it in a little more detail to tell my story and perhaps this will be therapeutic for me.
It was back in 1995, I was only 5 years old at the time. My dad had his own business in the construction industry, and he had some work to do quite far from home. Seeing that he would need to stay a while my parents decided to turn it into a little family holiday.
As I was very young, I don’t remember all the details, although some memories are very vivid. I remember the day that we had to return home, I didn’t want to leave. I begged my parents to stay but we had to head back home because my dad wanted to be there when they started with the foundations of our house.
It was a long drive from Durban back to Johannesburg where we lived. As it was actually a work trip, my dad had a few of his workers with us. We had to stop to drop them off at their home. My dad wanted to take the 3 of us home first and then drop his workers off, but it was so late already so my mom said he should just drop them off and then we can all go home together.
My dad stopped the car and his workers got out then shots were fired. I was asleep in my mother’s arms and my sister was standing on her knees, looking out the back window. My mom thought it was fireworks at first and then she felt something wet on her face. She realized it was blood and told my dad that they were shooting at us.
At this point my dad already knew because he was shot through both of his legs and was losing a lot of blood. He just tried to speed away as quickly as he could. I remember waking up when the bullet hit me saying, “Ouch, my stomach.” as it entered through my stomach and exited through my back. I lost consciousness and stopped breathing.
My mom started CPR on me and my dad got us to the nearest hospital. It was only when we stopped at the hospital that my parents realized that my sister had also been shot through her back. Miraculously the bullet just went in one side and out the other, not damaging a thing.
I went straight to theater where the surgeon tried to repair damage caused by the bullet. My pancreas, left kidney, liver and large intestine were badly damaged and my spleen and appendix were removed. I had to have a Colostomy because of the severe damage to my intestines. My grandfather and our pastor rushed to blood banks as I had lost a tremendous amount of blood. The doctors weren’t sure what the extent of my injuries were or if I would survive the trauma.
I remember waking up in an extremely bright room and thinking I was at the dentist. Then I asked for my mom and just wanted to go home. The nurses called my mom and told her that I was asking for her. She didn’t believe them as she thought that I had brain damage because I stopped breathing.
That was the beginning of a long road to recovery. The doctors then told my parents that the bullet severed my spinal cord at level T10 and that I would be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of my life. I spent weeks in hospital, needing to go back to theater a number of times to try clear up infection caused from the bullet ripping my intestines apart.
In intensive care, I was not allowed to eat or drink anything. They only allowed me to suck on ice through a cloth even though I felt like I was dying of thirst. All I wanted was healthy food to get better and be able to go home.
The hospital staff were wonderful during this time. My mom was able to bring our Maltese poodle to the window of the ward so I could pet him for a while. They even arranged a party for me when I was well enough.
I regularly had meltdowns when it was time to draw blood or change my colostomy bag as it was extremely painful. I was allowed to sit for short periods of time but I got very frustrated because my legs weren’t working. This was something major to adapt to and I struggled to understand what was happening.
It’s been 25 years filled with many emotions, uncertainties and never ending medical complications. Despite all this, I have lived an extraordinary life so far and I don’t plan on stopping now. I have 2 amazing boys which are my reason for breathing.
As for the criminals that shot at us… They were set free even though there were eyewitnesses that pointed them out. The police searched their homes and found no weapons. They also had no firearm licenses therefore they were found innocent.
I feel this happened to me for a reason. God has a plan for my life and He has had one all along. Maybe I haven’t quite figured it out yet but being the best mom I can be for my children feels like my purpose in life. Although I do hope that I can help others stay motivated, no matter what situation they find themselves in.
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