At some point, most of us get pushed out of our comfort zone. Those who flourish are those who accept the challenge to adapt
When Dehan van der Walt completed his matric in 2012, along with his identical twin brother, he never anticipated the magnitude of the change that he was about to go through.
The boys’ post-matric vacation was nearing its end. Dehan had big plans to travel the world and work overseas once the new academic year started. However, all his plans changed in a heartbeat when he found himself in a river a few metres away from the wreckage of their car in the middle of the night. His immediate concern was his brother, who had been in the car with him. He, tragically, did not survive.
Dehan had to undergo a right trans-humeral amputation … and thus began a whole new chapter in his life. In the last three years he has adapted to this enforced change and he accepts the challenges that life throws at him. Learning to drive a car again, playing golf, completing his tertiary studies, writing with his left hand and even playing musical instruments are all proof that nothing can hold this kid back.
He has built his own prototype of a specially designed prosthesis that allows him to hold a pick and strum a guitar. We are currently working on improving the socket fit and function of this custom-designed prosthesis, so that he will have more control over his guitar. He has very particular requirements of the device. The socket needs to be tight on his stump but still flexible enough to allow him complete range of motion. The angle of the tubular component and pinch-grip of the pick needs to be perfect so that the sound is pure and crisp when he strums. It also needs to be so stable that the smallest movement of his shoulder joint allows him to strum individual strings.
This is just one example of how Dehan is willing to change as his life circumstances do; and he continues to inspire his friends and other amputees with his zest for life.
Heinrich Grimsehl is a prosthetist in private practice and a member of the South African Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (SAOPA). email: firstname.lastname@example.org