Inspiring through a sports day

Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital hosted its annual sports day for people with disabilities on October 20 in Johannesburg. Former and current patients, accompanied by family and friends, attended the event, as did former patient and South African athlete Palesa Manaleng.

“I believe that anyone who has experienced life-changing, disabling injuries is a superhero. You don’t have to have magical powers. Just by living each day and reaching your goals, even if it is just one little step, makes you a superhero. You can do anything you want to do. You can dream just as big as you used to and even bigger,” Manaleng says.

Since its inception 17 years ago, the Netcare sports day has inspired and celebrated the possibilities and abilities that can be attained, even after suffering a disability. Manaleng notes: “Many people who suffer a disability due to stroke, amputation, injury or illness think that they cannot continue living a full life. This sports day provides the opportunity for former rehabilitation patients to meet up with new patients in order to demonstrate that you can still do so, even after sustaining a disability.”

General manager of Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital Joe Sandows comments: “In addition to demonstrating that many people with disabilities can live meaningful and active lives, this year’s sports day theme – ‘Strive for progress, not perfection – conveys another important message.

“Often the only thing a patient wants is to go back to being their former selves. To them, this involves the need to perfectly regain every ability they had before their disability. When this goal seems unreachable, patients tend to become extremely discouraged, often losing hope and forgetting all the progress they have made during their rehabilitation. The message we want to convey is that recovery does not mean that you have managed to perfect old abilities again. It means that you have developed new ones that will enable you to live a full and meaningful life.”

Palesa is a prime example of what this year’s theme aims to illustrate. After her accident she continued to participate in sports, representing South Africa at several World Cups, and is now training for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

“My disability has not slowed me down at all; if anything, it has made me stronger and more motivated than ever,” she says.

In addition to the fun activities and games that patients can participate in during the sports day, the event also aims to educate the public and break the negative stereotyping about persons living with a disability. Lauren Paikin, practice manager at Rita Henn and Partners, the physical therapy practice situated at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital, points out that this year’s event is a testament to the progress that has been made in this regard.

“Almost two decades ago when the first sports day was held, very few people attended. Now, hundreds of people, ranging from small children to pensioners, attend. People suffering from disabilities are much more integrated and far more visible in the community than they were in the past and this is really what we all strive for,” Paikin notes.

“The Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital sports day is one of the most inspiring events in our region’s calendar and we look forward to hosting an even bigger event next year that will allow us to reach a larger portion of the 7,5 percent of South Africans who live with disability each day,” Sandile Mbele, regional director of Netcare’s South West region, concludes.

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