Only five months after 30-year-old Colin Mitchell injured his spine in a motorcycle accident, he courageously completed the 35-km Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic using a specially designed hand-propelled cycle. While talking about his accident remains difficult, Mitchell enthusiastically describes competing in the road race and the endurance it required.
“I found the race challenging, particularly as it was very hot on the day, but I enjoyed participating immensely,” he says. “It was meant to be a fun event, but I soon found my competitive nature taking over. I’m really grateful to my physiotherapist, Estelle Buys from Medicross Highway Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital in Hillcrest, for encouraging me to participate.”
Mitchell completed the event as part of a Medicross Highway Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital team. Besides Buys, his other team members were occupational therapist Kim Jones, Sr Arina Coetzee, and Ari Seirlis, well-known former CEO of the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA).
Buys, who was Mitchell’s lead physiotherapist during his three-month rehabilitation at Medicross Highway Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital, describes both his recovery and participation in the Amashova as remarkable. She believes his participation shows what can be achieved through immense determination and courage.
“We encouraged his participation in the Amashova as a way to get him involved in fun sporting and social activities and to get him trying new things,” Buys says. “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.”
Buys explains that Mitchell’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 are all part of a process that is painful to go through. Spending such a lengthy period in hospital is difficult for anyone.
“A further major challenge was that he had fractured his left hand during the accident, which delayed his progress towards mobility,” she adds. “Helping him 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.”
Show of determination
According to Buys, the process required considerable mental strength and determination, yet Mitchell rose to the challenge. “Being an exceptional young man, he 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,” she concludes.
A new future
Unsurprisingly, Mitchell’s life has changed quite a bit. “My accident has resulted in a major life change, but I am really grateful to be alive,” he says. “I am excited to have the opportunity to return to work in Durban in a new role and will also be continuing my studies in civil engineering through UNISA that I started before my accident.
“I am thankful for the care I received at Medicross Highway Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital, which has really helped me get my life back on track. Estelle Buys, Kim Jones and Sr Arina Coetzee, in particular, went out of their way to support me, even well beyond my stay at the facility,” he concludes.
Janice Greaves, manager of Medicross Highway Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital, says it is a great privilege to work with such a dedicated team of nurses and healthcare professionals for whom work is a passion and a calling. “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.”