Just five months after 30-year-old Colin Mitchell of Marina Beach on the KZN South Coast was involved in a motorcycling accident that resulted in injuries to his spine causing him to lose the use of his legs, he courageously completed the recent 35km Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic using a specially designed hand propelled quad-cycle.
While talking about his accident remains difficult for Colin, he enthusiastically describes competing in the road classic cycle race in South Africa and the endurance it required. “I found the race challenging, particularly as it was very hot on the day, but enjoyed participating immensely. It was meant to be a fun event but I soon found my competitive nature taking over,” says Colin of his experience.
“I am really grateful to my physiotherapist, Estelle Buys from Medicross Highway Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital in Hillcrest, where I spent three months undergoing rehabilitation following a month long stay in a hospital intensive care unit, for encouraging me to participate,” he adds.
He completed the event, which was called off later in the day due to the extreme temperatures, as part of a Medicross Highway Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital team. In addition to Buys, other team members were occupational therapist, Kim Jones; charge sister, Arina Coetzee; and Ari Seirlis, the well-known former National Director of the QuadPara Association of South Africa.
Buys, who was Colin’s lead physiotherapist during his three month rehabilitation from June to September, describes both his recovery and participation in the Amashova as “remarkable” and says his participation shows what can be achieved through immense determination and courage.
“We encouraged Colin’s participation in the Amashova as a way to get him involved in fun sporting and social activities and to get him trying new things. On the day, he showed the same determination that he demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation, so much so that some of us had trouble keeping up with him at times,” says Buys.
She explains that Colin’s rehabilitation process was by no means easy. “The mental adjustment of being dependent on others, the process of gradually regaining confidence and the understanding that one’s lifestyle has changed, is a painful process to go through,” she says.
“Spending such a lengthy period in hospital is difficult for anyone, and a further major challenge for Colin was that he had fractured his left hand during the accident, which delayed his progress towards mobility.
“Helping Colin to move forward both physically and mentally meant that we had to assist him in understanding that he could move on from his accident and look forward to the future. Colin’s rehabilitation process required considerable mental strength and determination, and he proved that he was more than equal to these challenges.
“Colin, being an exceptional young man, came to accept what he was confronted with during the rehabilitation process and he has made peace with the fact that his future is going to be considerably different to what he had expected before his accident. His paralysis means he requires a wheelchair but, as he proved in the Amashova cycle race, he is moving forward with his life and will not let anything stand in his way,” adds Buys.
“My accident has resulted in a major life change, but I am really grateful to be alive. I am excited to have the opportunity to return to work in Durban in a new office role later this month, and will also be continuing my studies in civil engineering through UNISA that I started before my accident,” says Colin.
“I am thankful for the care I received at Medicross Highway Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital, which has really helped me to get my life back on track. Estelle Buys, Kim Jones, and Sr Arina Coetzee in particular have gone out of their way to support me, even well beyond my stay at the facility.”
The manager of Medicross Highway Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital, Janice Greaves, said that it is a great privilege to work with such a dedicated team of nurses and healthcare professionals for whom work is a passion and calling, and who have each patient’s overall well-being at heart.
“It was a great privilege to have such an inspiring and courageous patient as Colin in our care, and we wish him all the best with his new position and in his studies,” she concluded.