Making fishers of men

With a little determination and creativity, a dream to fish was realised and a life-long friendship was formed

Durban, 2000. “There is a wit ou in a wheelchair waiting to see you outside. He doesn’t want to come in. He’s in a hurry.” These were the words from my lab technician 20 years ago. Now, it is important to note that this is Durban. They speak a different language down there. I thought to myself: This is strange but let me go and have a look.

Outside, in a wheelchair sat the bright-eyed man scanning our setup like a meerkat. As I walked towards him, he said: “Howzit boet.” In greeting, he extended his hand to me to and I realised he has no grip in his upper limbs.

“I’m Ari, a quadriplegic, and I want to fly fish. I want you to please make me something that I can strap to my hand and forearm so that I can hold a fishing rod.” He shrugged his shoulders up and down to simulate the hip-hop style dance move with which he intends to cast his line and catch a fish. At that stage, I thought: I really don’t see this happening!

But the stranger had so much enthusiasm, I did not have the heart to tell him the unlikeliness of his request. Instead, I agreed. In the lab, I recreated his vision. A few days later, he was back to fetch his carbon fibre device. He disappeared as quickly as he appeared. I was unsure of whether I should follow up as I had little hope for the contraption. No news would be good news.

It turned out that I didn’t have to reach out because a week later I was called back to the parking lot. The man brought me a gift. It was the very first trout that he caught all by himself and it was my dinner!

Today, many years later, as you can see on the front cover of this magazine, Ari still uses our device. I have since had many very exciting adventures with this man. I learned a valuable lesson that day. If you can envision it; if you are willing to put in the time, energy, perseverance, and a little imagination; if you dare yourself to follow that dream, you can achieve goals far beyond belief, far beyond the expectations of others, and far beyond your own disability.


Heinrich Grimsehl is a prosthetist in private practice and a member of the South African Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (SAOPA). email: info@hgprosthetics.co.za

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