After 13 years in a wheelchair, Sandra Khumalo is no stranger to the challenges facing wheelchair users. In 2005 she was injured in a car accident while on her way to work at a safari lodge in the Kruger National Park. At the time she had a four-year-old daughter and was concerned about whether she would be able to play with her daughter again.
“I found I could put her on my lap and play, or have her chase my wheelchair. At the time of my injury, my first daughter still needed her mother a lot. It was not easy,” Khumalo recalls. Despite the challenges, Khumalo was determined still to live a full life – a message she embodies and shares with newly injured wheelchair users.
She is an impeccable example of how rich life can be post-SCI. She conquers the world as mother, motivational speaker, champion rower and sales representative for GentleCath Glide – an intermittent catheter by ConvaTec.
Her message to fellow wheelchair users: “An injury is not the end of the world and wheelchair users can still live their life. I’m actually living my best life. I never thought I would be rowing for South Africa. It is about having a strong mind-set and not allowing the wheelchair to prevent you from doing anything.”
After her injury, Khumalo became a South African rowing champion. She competed at the 2012 London Paralympic Games and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games. She also participated in her first two-kilometre race in the 2017 Florida World Championships and is currently ranked fifth in the world.
She has been selected for an international training camp in Tunisia. She plans to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games in August and compete in the World Rowing Championships.
“I want to qualify this year with a medal so that I’m confident in my ability to compete at the Paralympic Games. My goal for 2020 is to bring home a medal – any medal. Although, if you train, you train for gold,” Khumalo says.
She recently joined the ConvaTec team as the sales representative for GentleCath Glide, a product she deeply believes in after it changed her life. She used to rely on reusable catheters, which she sterilised once or twice a week. However, her experience with GentleCath Glide has meant fewer germs, less time spent on catheterising and less frequent visits to the bathroom.
“It really suits my lifestyle. I catheterise less frequently, which makes training and meetings easier. I only catheterise before a meeting. It is designed for fast and convenient catheterising,” Khumalo says. “I also get more sleep. Before, I use to wake up two or three times a night. Now I only catheterise before I go to bed and when I wake up. As a busy person, I find it very convenient.”
Her final advice for wheelchair users: “Once you’re in the right mind-set, there is no time to feel sorry for yourself and the chair is no longer scary. I always say, a wheelchair has nothing to do with what I can achieve, unless it is an actual physical impairment. Wheelchair users should go on living a positive life and do something that makes them excited.”