A fisherman’s new friend

Willem Bekker, an amputee who sustained an occupational injury in 2010, was elated to receive a phone call in November 2016, reports Anlerie de Wet

On the line was Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA), a non-profit mutual assurance company, of which Bekker is a beneficiary.

They told him that they wanted him to go to their state-of-the-art care facility at the end of November to participate in their rehabilitative care workshop.

They said that Professor Anton Johannesson, an Icelandic prosthetist and orthoptist, who is the clinical manager of prosthetics at Össur Nordic, a orthopaedics equipment manufacturer, would “use” him to demonstrate the workings of a new prosthetic.

“They said I could then keep the prosthetic! I was very excited. New technology and machines make all the difference to people with disabilities,” says Bekker.

Dr Deodat Kritzinger, medical general manager at RMA, says that three other people with disabilities also received advanced prosthetics that would improve their mobility.

Four amputees from the prosthetics made during the prosthetic workshop. The team consists of (back row, from left) Icelandic prosthetist and orthoptist Professor Anton Johannesson; Paralympian Ernst van Dyk; RMA pensioner Willem Bekker; RMA’s prosthetics partner, Marissa Nel, and general manager: medical from RMA, Dr Deodat Kritzinger. (Front, from the left) prosthetic beneficiaries Johanna Hadzhi, Olympia Phara and Harry Liebenberg.

Ernst van Dyk, a South African wheelchair racer and cyclist – who has eight Paralympic medals – handed over the prosthetics to the four recipients.

“The rehabilitation process is unique for each individual and this process can be long and arduous but is ultimately rewarding. It is our cherished hope that the insights shared by Prof Johannesson will help to speed up this process so that individuals can recover more quickly after amputation.”

Kritzinger says that Bekker would’ve been mobile sooner after his accident if the technology of today was available at the time.

In 2014 Bekker made the hard decision to amputate his left leg below the knee. His ankle was crushed in the accident and he had nine operations in four years, but the doctors just couldn’t fix it.

“I made peace with it. I couldn’t be in hospital all the time. I wanted to move on with my life,” says Bekker.

He has used other prosthetics before, but says the new one is lighter and much more comfortable.

“My new prosthetic needed to be adjusted a little, so RMA is helping to get it done, but soon I will have it and enjoy my hobbies, like fishing and building fishing equipment, with a lot less fuss,” says Bekker.

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