Justins New Frontier
- By: Giulia Nigrini
- Short URL: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/justins-new-frontier
My name is Justin and I am a quadriplegic farmer in Mpumalanga South Africa. And now I need your help in purchasing a Quickie wheelchair for quadriplegics to keep me on the move.
Where it All Started
My journey begins way back in 1998. That is the year I moved on from primary school and stepped into Grade 8 at Lowveld High School, Nelspruit. During my time there I stayed in hostel, sort of like a boarding system for students. I remember enjoying school overall and I had a keen interest in sports. Soon after arriving at the school I took on rugby and swimming. I seemed to have potential in both sport as I became a reserve for the 1st team rugby and then completing the Midmar Mile (open water swimming event) twice. As a B average student with good athletic ability I was doing well in school. I was enjoying being a teenager and looking forward to developing into a strong and prominent member of my community. Grade 10 came along, and I entered Mr and Mrs Lowveld High, I got second runner up which I felt pretty chuffed about. It was all going so well.
Now in my rugby career I was always positioned as flanker until 20 May 2000 where I took up the position of hooker in the match. I received Man of the Match for that day as well. Towards the end of the game my neck got injured, I didn’t think anything of it at the time. My neck was rather stiff and remained so for a few days. I continued with my practices as I felt immense pressure to not let the team down. I imagined I would get over it eventually.
27 May 2000 were playing a match against Ben Viljoen High. About 10 minutes to the end of the match scrum was called. I remember looking over at the grand stand thinking to myself “I must go to my locker to get my keys and other stuff” as I was going to meet up with my date at the air show. So now we are about to commence the scrum, crouch – hold – engage. We crouched and then the next moment engaged and I didn’t get my head down in time. My head then collided with the opposing hooker’s shoulder. My neck broke and all I remember is stars. I remained conscious throughout the whole experience. Initially it was a shocking feeling. Then it felt like I was standing up but in reality, I was lying on the floor, I could see my arms and legs, but I couldn’t move them. I think it tool the ambulance about 15 minutes to arrive.
I was taken to a private hospital in Nelspruit for immediate care. My face was swollen while a nurse was pinching me all over to see if she could get a reaction. They ran all the tests, x-rays and scans they could. Soon my dad realised that I needed some real medical attention and I was taken to Eugene Marais hospital in Pretoria (about 3 or so hours away by car). As we landed, they started on preparations for surgery and once I was at the unit I was prepped as well. I spent the next 2 and a half days in ICU. Then I began physiotherapy to learn what I can still do and how to do it. It took be about a week and a half to just twitch an arm. It was certain, I was now a quadriplegic and my life would never be the same.
Upon returning home around August that year I finally understood how similar yet different it all is and would be going forward. Fundraisers were started to help raise the funds for the initial chair. It was like everyone was taking their slice of the pie coming to meet and talk to me. Returning to school was not an option due how I awkward it made things, especially with the background in sports. I mostly didn’t want to be pitied.
When I was 19 years old my dad decided to move out to the family farm. I wanted to be my own person and live my life to the best of my abilities. I then decided to move to place I had encountered before called Ashley Village. On 4 July 2002 I arrived at Ashley Village a new person. I was able to continue my studies and find employment. After my first year there I resigned to study business entrepreneurship for disabled people. Soon after I started an internet café with a friend, but it unfortunately did not go as planned. A little down on moral with a few friends we planned a trip to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. On this trip we stayed at a fishing village where I met Lenie. Lenie was a nice lady and she made me blush.
We went on back home to our lives leaving behind a beautiful paradise. Though Lenie and I did keep in touch. And eventually in 2006 Lenie came to Durban where we started dating. When I knew she was the one I asked her to marry me and she said yes. In 2008 we got married and have been together ever since. We both found employment and spent many years living at Ashley Village. It came to a point where we wanted to do something with our lives so with the severance package Lenie had received we moved to Nelspruit.
Lenie and I took courses on tunnel farming while looking into aquaponics and aquaculture. “Could this be it?” we thought to ourselves. We stumbled on quails one day and decided to start farming quails. With just 27 quails to start we grew the business and the farm into the small-scale farm it is today.
What is your need for funding? Life as a Quadriplegic Farmer
It is not as simple as a 'all fits one' scenario. Paralysis can come in a variety of forms. Spinal cord injuries are individual cases with their own unique challenges. In my case I had to overcome a complete cut of the cervical region in my spinal cord, C4/5. There are the obvious challenges of having to come to terms with your new life and the way it must go forward. You start with the basics such as rehabilitation, which is only 3 months in South Africa.
However there are many aspects that we do not normally think of when it comes to taking care of ourselves. In the position I find myself I need a constant carer to ensure my well being. Having the very limited mobility that comes with such injuries leaves me requiring assistance in all my daily activities. But the journey is about finding innovative ways of dealing with those challenges, and finding pleasure in new adventures.
After our living situation in Durban became impossible we needed to make a serious change. We moved to Nelspruit to stay by family. This had put Lenie and myself in an awfully difficult position. Requiring a constant carer Lenie had to take this role on full time and therefore could not take up employment and without proper transport neither was I.
We saw this as an opportunity to figure out something that would work practically while giving us both a sense of fulfillment. As mentioned before we eventually began with quail farming, Ware's Quail Farm. You see we soon came to understand that a home based work situation would be required, something somewhat flexible as well. Small scale farming gave us that opportunity. Lenie being physically capable much of the labour fell to her while I managed the business and research side of things. Together we were able to increase our flock and gain enough capital to move out onto a larger property and live independently.
My current electric wheelchair has been a part of that journey and brought me a long way. With an all-terrain chair that has the necessary controls I am able to get around the farm, manage my seating position to limit spasms and so much more. Alas, my wheelchair has come to an end and I desperately need a new, more advanced, wheelchair to continue on this epic journey. A proper all-terrain electric wheelchair is essential to having a fulfilling life.
As the wheelchair controller has started to pack up it has become unreliable causing uncertainty in our everyday lives. I would like to reach my goal by 1 October 2019
How Your Contribution Helps
Your contribution will give me the vital start I need to purchasing a much needed new all-terrain electric wheelchair. The Quickie Puma 40 powered wheelchair is a high quaility chair providing all the necessary controls.
Not only does the Quickie assist me in gaining freedom in and out of the house it also gives my wife peace of mind that I am secure and safe at all times. It will give us both that little bit of extra independence and security in our daily lives.
For more information on the wheelchair:https://www.sunrisemedical.co.uk/powered-wheelchairs/quickie/power-wheelchairs/puma-40
The funds will be used directly for the purchasing of the chair with the required accessories. Any further funds will go towards wheelchairs spares and tools as well as ramps around the farm.