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What is your ‘Why  Not’?

When I was 16, I experienced the worst physical set-back which has ever happened to me. It also ended up being one of the best life lessons a person could have. On the 7th July, 1997, just before 7pm, I was hit head on by a car, driven by a drunk driver. I was hit while travelling at about 80km/h on my Yamaha DT175 motorbike. My best friend was on his motorbike too and we were on the way to his house after a gym session to have a sleep over.

 

There are many people who have suffered much greater atrocities than I, but everything in life is relative to us as individuals. Each day I remind myself to be thankful for being alive and I think we all need to find the energy, the reason and gratefulness within ourselves to feel the same.

 

There are many motivational people out there who explain the importance of having a “Purpose” and a “Why” in life….

With the decisions I face and which influence and define my life, I always like to ask myself …….”Why Not?

 

Having a “Why” and a “Purpose” in life is a big question to ask yourself. It may not always be that clear and it may take a lot of time to realise and find out what it actually is. By asking yourself “Why Not” more often, along your journey, may help you with defining and realising what your ‘Why’ is.

 

When you understand that everything you are, can be taken from you in a split second, then the meaning of life starts to make sense….it doesn’t necessarily need to be something drastic which helps to put things into perspective for you. We have all had something which has occurred in our lives, that makes us sit-up and realise, that this opportunity we have to be alive is unique, a privilege and in a way fortuitous.

 

It’s drawing on these moments and occurrences, that when you are faced with making a decision, big or small, to ask yourself…..”Why Not?”

 

Should I quit my job and go travelling? Why Not…

Should I go say hello to that handsome guy? Why Not…

Should I go and do that bungy jump? Why Not…

Should I smile at a stranger today? Why Not…

Should I start that small business I am so passionate about? Why Not…

Should I take a big risk today? Why Not…

 

The biggest lesson for me is to not let fear get in the way of making a decision.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_type=”row” type=”full_width” text_align=”left” css_animation=”” css=”.vc_custom_1509363812378{padding-top: 0px !important;padding-right: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”][vc_column_inner css=”.vc_custom_1509364039704{padding-top: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1532074880437{padding-top: 50px !important;padding-right: 50px !important;padding-bottom: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}”]

It started like any normal day in the school holidays…

 

I don’t remember waking up on the morning of the 7th July at all, but I do know that a good friend of mine, Craig, had stayed over that night. We were dating twin sisters, who were away on holiday with their families at the time.

 

It was winter and school holidays in South Africa, which meant we had a whole month off school. Most of my holidays were spent training and exercising. It was just my passion and where and how I made friends. We were training for the upcoming athletics season, I was as fit as a fiddle at the time and feeling really great. I was a bit of a plodder to be fair, but I was training my butt off that holiday, to hopefully have a good season.

 

Each day I would run in the morning at school with the other kids and then in the afternoon I would go to the gym with my best buddies. The gym culture in South Africa is huge and we all started as soon as we could as young boys. My best friend, Brandon, and I hit gym in the late afternoon before heading to his house for another sleep over. I used to love sleep overs as a kid!

 

The only thing I remember of that day is us leaving the gym and just before we walked out the shopping mall, we saw a friend of ours, Lisa, who had just had her braces removed.

 

So far I have avoided ever recalling the events of the day and have only recently reached out to my Mom, to hear her explain her memories of the day. Over time I will try piece the story together a bit more and ask other friends and family.

 

The Accident

 

It’s worth noting, that on the Monday I had my brakes fixed on my motorbike (who knows how much they did or didn’t help). The day before my accident I had just got my motorbike licence and my Mom had bought me a new helmet too. I had also just finished paying off my motorbike, so was pretty chuffed and proud about that!

 

It was rush hour traffic and Brandon was 50m ahead of me. A drunk guy turned in front of me, from the opposite direction and I hit him head-on. The people who were witnesses, reckon that I flew forward about 30m in the air, as high as the telephone poles and landed in a heap on the road…

 

All the traffic came to a complete stop. Fortunately for me, there was a paramedic in the traffic who was on his way home….If it wasn’t for this man, I don’t think I would be here writing this now. His name……….was Gareth too.

 

Brandon immediately called my mom and told her I had been in an accident and that they needed to come right away. The scene of the accident was fairly near our house. My mom and sister looked from the balcony at home and saw how the traffic was banked up. They drove there and took a short cut to avoid the traffic and to get there quicker.

 

Brandon’s Dad, Mervin, was there by the time my mom arrived and so many other kind people were there too. There was a young couple who stopped and saw everything and were eye witnesses. They also gave my Mom their baby’s blanket for me.

 

My Mom is a nurse and had seen it all before. Seeing your own Son as the patient was a complete different scenario for her to deal with though. Based on her analysis of me, she thought the worst…..I was unconscious and in bad shape. My mom was stressed and running around trying to help, but was a bit of a wreck emotionally as you can imagine.

 

My step dad arrived a bit later, after he had finished work. He was very calm and helped take control and also helped my little Sissie too.

 

The drunk driver had run away and Mervin and some other guys, chased him to his house and made a citizens arrest. I later found out that the driver, was an acquaintance of my good friend’s Dad.

 

Brandon, my Mom and Gareth the paramedic, saved my life. To this day I owe them everything. In Gareth’s car, he had emergency equipment. It included a drip and an airway opener, which he had down my throat so I could breath, because I was having difficulty. My mom helped with inserting the drip. She also sat with me and stabilised me while Gareth gave me anti-brain swelling medication. It took at least an hour to get me stabilised. My Mom also saw that my one leg looked badly injured with tissue damage.

 

The ambulance eventually came, as it took a while to get through the traffic. They put me in and my mom rode with me in the back of the ambulance. It seemed to take forever to get to The Sandton Clinic, where I went into the Emergency ward. The clinic and the staff were amazing with their response and help.

 

Not long after, some of my closest friends started arriving at the clinic…They left that night not knowing the extent of my injuries and if I would be ok or not. To this day I think about all these amazing people and the trauma they must have gone through. The love I have for them is endless….

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My injuries

I count myself as probably the luckiest person in the world. I have no idea how I managed to escape alive, had no broken bones and no serious long term injuries or damage. I also have very little recollection of much pain, it’s amazing what our minds block out to protect us!

 

At the moment of impact, I flew forward and my knees hit the petrol tank (you can see how crushed the tank is in the photo), my testicle clipped and caught the handle bar on the way over and the strap broke from my helmet and the helmet came flying off.

 

Once I was stabilised in the hospital, I went for MRI scans for brain x-rays, they also had to intubate me because my one lung was deflated. I had a very minor bleed on my brain and a terrific amount of brain swelling. The doctors were concerned and not sure if I would have a brain haemorrhage or not….I was super fortunate not to.

 

I spent the first 2 nights under sedation and on a respirator (intubation). The reason for the respirator is that it monitors and helps you to breath, it also calms you down to avoid any additional stress on the body. It aided to reduce my brain swelling. Those first 4 nights were in ICU and then I went into High Care for another 8-10 days. My Moms friend, Janet, looked after me in High Care. It certainly helps having a Mom who had been a nurse for many years!!

 

As you can imagine, my whole body was grazed and badly cut-up, mostly my knees, thighs and hands. I was just wearing shorts while riding my bike (please never do this, if you are reading this!). I had glass, stones and tar everywhere in my skin, some of it lodged fairly deeply which took months to surface and come out.

 

My one testicle had severe internal bleeding causing a lot of swelling, I almost lost it. They had to operate and drain it, to reduce the swelling.

 

Somehow I just missed breaking my tibia and fibula. 8 days after the accident, I had an operation on my leg which was badly damaged. I needed to have a skin graft on my leg/shin, which they took from my bottom. The was a lot of nerve damage on my leg and to this day I have a numb feeling, almost like pins and needles, on my lower left leg, where the nerves have started growing back. The only pain I really remember, is when I had the staples removed from my leg and shin bone a few weeks later…!!

 

While in hospital, I was on a pain relief drug called dormicum, which they gave to me intravenously. A side effect is that it impairs your short term memory while you are on it. My friends were still able to see the funny side and crack jokes with me when I was in hospital. Whenever visitors came I would always repeat myself – “Thanks so much for coming”….and then a minute later “Thanks so much for coming” – None of that I can remember of course, haha!

 

A more long term injury, was my short term memory. For quite a few months I struggled with remembering things. I would go to school for a few hours and not remember anything I had done that day. To this day I find that I struggle sometimes with short term memory, if it’s related to the accident or not, I am not too sure!

 

By far the luckiest injury I had was on my neck. It could have been the fatal one. One of the spokes on my bike went into my neck and missed my jugular or carotid artery by a whisker. All that I can think, is that it wasn’t meant to be my day…….

 

As I was extremely fit at the time and training twice a day, that played a huge part in aiding my injuries and recovery process. I think a strong body and strong mind pulls you through the darker and harder times. I did manage to lose 10kg’s very quickly as a result of the accident though.

 

A funny story – My last day in hospital the staff had given me an enema to see that my bowels were moving correctly. I had many visitors who were waiting in one of the hospital passages to see me.  2 minutes before visiting hours I told my mom that I needed the toilet. As I was not able to walk, she had to take me there on a commode. I misfired and everything went all over the place. She had to politely tell my teacher, Shaun Fuchs, what had happened and asked my visitors to leave unfortunately. That was just the start of the caring my mom gave me for the next few months of recovery…

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My recovery process

To be honest, most things during my recovery were and are a blur to me. My short term memory meant that I wasn’t able to recall much. In the early days my short term memory span was minutes, then it become hours, then days. My long term memory was perfect and I could remember everyone and everything else.

 

My Mom requested for me to get out of hospital early, I think I was only there for about 3 weeks in the end. She had more experience than anyone, on how to nurse someone back to health. So the process began…

 

She was like my guardian angel. Each day she would bathe me and dress me. We would sit on my bed and she would change all my bandages. She would sit me on the end of my bed and with tweezers she would take bits of glass and tar out of my hands. I found it a real bonding moment and is probably one of the only things I remember.

 

I wasn’t mobile at all because of the damage on my leg. Over time things obviously improved and I was given some crutches. They allowed me to be more mobile, gave me some freedom and everyone around me too.

 

I think that the spirit and energy of my family, friends and everyone else and everything they were doing for me, really aided in my recovery. I received the most massive card with the nicest messages from my friends, I would read it and look at it everyday. There were also so many other cards and sweets I got too. I would read them all the time too and think what a lucky person I was. I think my Mom ate most of that chocolate though, but I’ll let her off 😉

 

I pretty much had a whole term of school which I missed, even the days I was there, I wasn’t there, as nothing was going in. When I eventually got better, I went to school on crutches. Initially it was just a couple of hours a day and then slowly it became full time again. All the teachers were amazing and my friends too – it was human kindness supreme! Friends would carry my bag for me between classes and do many other things which I cannot remember.

 

My maths teacher, Mrs Aird, was the most amazing lady. She would take me home after a couple of hours, when I would then go and stay with my neighbour, because my Mom was back at work. Mrs Aird would make us food and meals to be frozen. She even gave me extra lessons in the following school holidays to help me with Geometry that I had missed.

 

Once I was able to walk again, I remember asking if I could go to the gym and start training. The only time I could really go was at 5am in the morning before school. So I would wake up and climb the wall of our house and then slowly walk to the gym and go work out.  I have no idea what I did in the gym but I remember doing it most mornings and was so thankful to be mobile and active.

 

I don’t ever recall having dark moments or being frustrated. I was never sad about what had happened and I never suffered mentally. I can only remember good things happening as a result of my accident. The people that suffered the most, I think, were my friends and family. They remember much more than I do and saw me at my worst, when it was touch and go.

 

I think I was back in the swimming pool for the next season. Playing waterpolo and swimming, were my happy places.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_type=”row” type=”full_width” text_align=”left” css_animation=”” css=”.vc_custom_1509363812378{padding-top: 0px !important;padding-right: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”][vc_column_inner css=”.vc_custom_1509364039704{padding-top: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1532078027582{padding-top: 50px !important;padding-right: 50px !important;padding-bottom: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}”]

People shine in your dark moments

To this day I feel amazingly blessed and grateful for the incredibly kind, caring, generous and patient people who were around me.

 

If only I could remember things better and all the awesome people who helped me when I was recovering and also the great things they did to help me.

 

{It’s funny how our minds work, this paragraph is the story I have always had in my head, however my Mom has since corrected me that it’s not what actually occurred} One of my few memories while recovering, was the day I got to meet the guy who hit me. I guess that he come over out of guilt and to say he was sorry. I don’t know if it was planned, but that day all of my closest buddies were over at my house. There was a rugby game on and we were all watching it in the TV room at home. He came in and stood at the entrance, I didn’t look at him….I don’t know why, maybe because I preferred not knowing who he was, or what he looked like. He said he was sorry and I don’t actually think that I responded, I can’t recall to be honest. I just remember that my buddies were there to support me and to give me that brotherly love once he had left.

 

The real version of the above is that my Mom called the guy to tell him she expected an apology in person. Goooo MOM!!! He was supposedly remorseful on the phone. When she saw him at our house, she wanted to punch him. Fair enough. He did come into the TV Room, very sheepishly, and apologised. However I have no memory of looking at him and seeing his face. I’m fairly happy about that. I heard someone say this line the other day and it struck home, “You can only forgive somebody, if they are truly sorry.”

I have forgiven him and sincerely hope that he has never touched alcohol again in his life. Whatever your name is, I hope that you are sleeping well and doing good things in life.

 

I have brief recollections of split second moments in hospital. During one visiting hour, I had a lot of friends around me and I know that they were finding the good in the moment and making jokes of my short term memory. Friends are there to make you see the lighter side of things and to add laughter when you are down. I do recall Brandon coming in and it was the first time I remember seeing him. I just burst into tears and thanked him for saving my life. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else with me when it happened, we all have those friends who would do anything for their buddies and he is one of them.

 

I did get to meet Gareth too – It was quite a long time after the accident and I was working at the restaurant I had worked for years (Brandon’s parents restaurant actually!). I was just ringing up a bill and Mervin (Brandon’s Dad) came up to me and told me, there is someone here who you should meet….He said, “This is the paramedic who saved your life!” I was a bit stuck for words and don’t really remember what I said, but I know that we had a very nice chat for a few minutes.

My Mom did take me to meet him before that at the Fire Department. She bought cakes for all the guys there, but he wasn’t there that day unfortunately. One day I’d like to see him again and really thank him properly.

 

Of course the nurses and doctors at the hospital were outstanding. Another really good friend of my Mom, Sandy, would come and check on me everyday at the hospital because she worked there. While I don’t really remember her checking in, I know that she was and would always let my Mom know how I was doing.

 

Our neighbour, Terri, would look after me when my Mom went to work. Our maid, Eva, would help me too.

 

The teachers at school were absolutely marvellous with their support and understanding. I know that they were very accommodating and eased me back into school life and learning. They kept a close eye on me from afar and were monitoring my progress without making a big deal of it. I recall getting passed/exempted that school term, because of the time I had missed and also not being able to remember any school work!

 

My friends at school were just amazing and gave me all the support I needed. Helping me climb up stairs, carrying my bags, being friendly, making jokes and helping nurse me back to strength, as all good friends do!

 

Of course my family were the ones who devoted most of their time, to helping me recover. I’ve mentioned that angelic work which my Mom, Caroline, did. She put everything aside in her life, to help me. She has helped me piece together a lot of the detail in this write-up too. I can only imagine that my Step-Dad, Colin, was a rock for her and helped her to keep a positive outlook. I know that Colin and my Sister, Ally, were there for me every step of the way and put their lives on hold too.

The rest of my family sent awesome cards and letters from other parts of South Africa and the world. I read them all the time too.

 

For Dad and my Step-Mom (I write more about them below), it was a devastating time for them, because I hadn’t seen them for a long time before the accident. My Dad put his life on hold and did everything in his power too. He’d check-in with the school how I was doing, helped with the majority of the medical bills and so much more I can imagine and remember. My Step-Mom, Lorinda, was his rock and helped guide and support him through this tough time.

 

This is not necessarily about wishing and thanking every single person individually, because I know there are people that I would miss out and I have not mentioned. It’s nothing personal, I just literally have very little memory and I know there were a ton of people doing awesome things in the background, which I will probably never know about. I do love and am thankful for everyone both individually and collectively. I wish I could tell you how much exactly…..it’s a lot!!

 

The important lesson in all of this, is that people want to help. Deep down, we are all good willed by nature and want to help others. People will shine in other people’s darkest moments. It’s this faith and belief that I always carry with me and makes me look for and see the good in people. We don’t need big things or bad moments to happen in our lives to ask for help. While everyone does have their own issues to worry about, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will be surprised with the generosity and support you receive…![/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_type=”row” type=”full_width” text_align=”left” css_animation=”” css=”.vc_custom_1509363812378{padding-top: 0px !important;padding-right: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”][vc_column_inner css=”.vc_custom_1509364039704{padding-top: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1531420246027{padding-top: 50px !important;padding-right: 50px !important;padding-bottom: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}”]

Your greatest challenges, will also be your greatest lessons

In life you never think that these sort of things will happen to you, yet they do. Everyone of us has had some sort of tragedy, be it physical, emotional, psychological, financial or something else.

 

When these things do happen to us, it’s natural to think the worst and to probably think that you will never see the light of day again, or overcome whatever it is. It’s very difficult at the time to remain logical, but the thing is, things do change. If it is the worst day or moment of your life, it will get better. If it is the best day or moment of your life, it will get worse. Things happen in cycles and there are always going to be ups and downs, it doesn’t matter who you are.

 

When we are having the ‘downs’, we need to ride it out, no matter how tough it is. We must do our best to not hold onto those times. If you hold onto the times you are down or sad, it will only drag you down further. When we are having the ‘ups’, we must be conscious of it and enjoy them, be thankful for them. Keep the memory but don’t hold onto the ‘ups’ and expect that life will always be that way. That doesn’t mean that you mustn’t be positive and look at the glass as half full. It’s just important to be aware that everything ebbs and flows.

 

At the time of my accident I had no idea that it would be one of the best and most important things to ever happen to me……. Subconsciously over the years, I have always found myself to be on the positive side of things, to smile a lot, to try new things, to take a few risks, to travel and see the world, to see the best in people, to be nice, to make an effort with people and to be optimistic about everything. These are things just seem natural to me, are not fabricated and are not done because I expect anything in return.

 

I now truly believe that my mind and soul have guided me into thinking and being this way as a result of my accident. My subconscious mind knows that it was a lucky escape and encourages me now to make the most of everything. It may sound a bit esoteric but I have no other explanation for the way I am 🙂

 

Based on the 100’s of books, articles, blogs and podcasts I have read and listened to, I think it’s fair to say that from most people’s darkest moments, emerges their greatest lessons and turn-arounds. Innately we are strong and we are survivors. While it might not make sense at the time and there may not seem like there is a light at the end of the tunnel, remember that things will get better.

 

To quote John Lennon:-

 

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

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Life is short and every cloud has a silver lining. You’ll have many tough moments in life but you need to dust yourself off and get back on your bike

This picture was taken before the accident of course, as my beloved DT175 never saw the road again. My parents quite rightly never allowed me to ride a motorbike again. I have actually ridden a scooter in London for the last 10 years, but I am a super careful and aware rider and driver these days, because of my accident. It frustrates me seeing people drive irresponsibly and not thinking of the implications of their bad driving. Bring on electric automated cars….!!

 

As I’ve have mentioned a couple of times, I count myself lucky that this happened to me, as it’s made me appreciate life a lot more. It helps me to try spread a positive message and vibe and to look for the opportunities in life. When you have everything you know and everything that you are, almost taken from you in a split second…..you realise that life is short. So so short…..You also begin to understand that most things in life are not in your control, but it does give you a great sense of what is important in life and why you are here.

 

 

The Silver Lining

 

Before my accident I had not seen my Dad for almost two years. My folks had an unfortunately messy divorce but that is not the point of this. The point is that I started to see my Dad and Step-Mom again! If it wasn’t for the accident, it may have been a long time before we rekindled our relationship. I made a promise to myself to never put anyone through that again, if I had any influence over it. My relationships with all my parents these days are flourishing. Relationships, friendships and acquaintances are the most important thing and without them, nothing in life would be possible.

 

I received a little bit of money from the Government Road Accident Fund, as compensation for the accident and what happened. It was literally like £1,000 or something, so not much. Although it seemed like millions to me at the time!! It gave me the extra pocket money I needed to top up my savings, for my year after school. The accident happened half way through my second last year of high school, when I was in Grade 11. In South Africa each kid goes through 12 years of school. I had decided to not go to University and take a year off after school, to go and explore the world. Without the extra pocket money I would not have been able to do it. If I had never gone on that overseas trip after school, my life would have been different. An initial 1 year adventure, has turned into what is now 19 years and what a fulfilling time that has been….

 

Get Back On Your Bike

 

Each day you wake up, the world is still spinning and the sun is still shinning. If you are fortunate enough to be one of the 7.6 billion people alive today (July 2018), then remember that you have an option to decide if you smile about it or not. While that may sound ignorant or uncaring to people who are in war torn countries, or other situations which have little hope, my message must not be misconstrued. We still have the responsibility to find those little positives and fire within ourselves to keep going, because things will change. Nothing stands still, nothing is linear, in every darkness there is some light….you just sometimes have to look for longer.

 

If something has happened to you and thrown you off course, displaced you, or stopped you in your tracks, then remember that most things in life are temporary. Things will change and they will move on. Be aware that the next big travesty or event is just around the corner for people to worry about and focus on. So whatever it is, you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, put it into perspective and get back on your bike and live life. The road may be a tough one, but it will be worth it in the end. Your greatest challenges, will bring you your greatest lessons and reasons for growth as a person. You owe it to yourself and those around you and always remember, that you have a responsibility to pass things on to others, like your wisdom, knowledge, advice and experience.

 

Lastly, I guess that I would like to say, that this is not a sob story or a search for sympathy. Writing this down has actually been a very therapeutic process for me. I want everyone to be aware, that we all have something to draw on, which has occurred in our own lives and to remember those bad moments and how we felt. To remember that we probably never want to feel that way again, experience it ever again, or to have anyone else go through what you did. Your story is heroic in it’s own way, so go out, find your tribe and share your story….

 

Use your ‘moment’ that happened to you, as your strength and reason to ask yourself, “Why Not…”

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