Allison finds her way home

Individuals with temporary or permanent disability could benefit from rehabilitation

Monday, December 2 2013

Allison Baenhoff suffered a devastating car accident on 24 July this year. Her neck was broken, she fractured her lower back and sustained a number of other upper body injuries. She was admitted to a hospital in Johannesburg in a critical condition, with her very survival hanging in the balance.

After a month in hospital, Allison was transferred to Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland Park for specialised therapy. Remarkably, she was able to walk out of the rehabilitation hospital nine weeks later, on 25 October 2013. A further month of outpatient therapy at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital and Allison was ready to go home to Durban and resume her life.

“If you consider the injuries I suffered, it’s clear that I am very lucky to be alive and walking again,” said Allison, who was speaking ahead of International Day of Persons with Disability on 3 December 2013. However, she adds that her rehabilitation and recovery was a long, gruelling journey, requiring all of her mental and physical reserves.

Managing director of the Netcare Hospital Division, Jacques du Plessis, says Allison is a prime example of what can be achieved when a patient who has suffered a traumatic injury or became disabled by a medical condition has a single-minded determination to get better and is supported by a focused and committed team of healthcare professionals at a hospital dedicated to rehabilitation.

“It is so often assumed that there is little that can be done for individuals who have suffered severe trauma to the body and/or the brain as a result of accidents or a medical condition such as a stroke. In many cases specialised rehabilitation can do much to assist patients in their recovery and restoring their functioning. With the necessary support structures, many individuals are able to overcome their disability or at least learn how to cope with it and live the fullest possible life.”

Allison says she was scared when she was transferred to Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital. “I burst into tears when I got wheeled into the facility’s Hope Ward as I had no idea what to expect. I was diagnosed as a ’non-quadriplegic’, which meant that I had full sensation in my limbs. However, at the time I was totally incapable of doing anything for myself and had to be bathed, fed and changed by the nursing staff. Even when I wanted something to drink I had to call for help. It was the most frustrating feeling having to depend on others to do everything for you when you were used to doing it all yourself.”

“My life partner of six years is a paraplegic and it was an eye opener to experience what it must be like to be without the use of your limbs, even though my disability was temporary. As my therapy and my journey back to recovery started, I was far from prepared for what was to come. Learning to walk again was no joke, particularly as I had always done so without as much as a second thought. It was an exhausting and frustrating time during which I lost my appetite and all interest in what was going on around me, despite the encouraging words and compassionate care of the doctors, nursing staff and therapists at the hospital.”

Determined to get well once more, Allison persevered, learning to walk again with the aid of special rehabilitation devices. This soon began to pay dividends and within just four short weeks at the hospital she was mobile again, albeit with the use of a walker.

Thereafter she was encouraged to start spending weekends at home. “Family support was important and of great value but I knew I had to start getting by on my own and so I practiced getting around my home without the assistance of the walker. I had regained some of my independence and was firmly on the road to recovery. More than two months at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital taught me patience and fortitude, and that with the necessary determination, you can often turn a difficult situation around.”

Netcare’s group human resources director, Peter Warrener, says International Day of Persons with Disability is very close to the hearts of the group’s management and staff. “We are committed to creating an inclusive, demographically representative workforce and continue to place emphasis on the employment and empowerment of people with disabilities. We are pleased that we are making progress towards our goal of increasing the number of permanent employees with disabilities to 4% of our more than 20 000 strong workforce by 2015. This figure is currently at 2.25%.”

Employment opportunities at Netcare for individuals with disabilities include learnerships, which provide them with technical skills and experiential learning required to be employable in the labour market. “In 2013, Netcare offered 73 learnerships and internships to people with disabilities,” he adds.

The group’s efforts in employing and empowering people with disabilities were recognised when the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (INSETA) named Netcare winner of the 2012 National Disability Company Award, which honours individuals and organisations that contribute positively towards the integration of people with disabilities into the mainstream economy.

“Despite the fact that there is an improved awareness of the many challenges facing people with disabilities in South Africa, most are still marginalised from mainstream society and economy. “It needs to be recognised that people with disabilities have just as much to contribute,” Warrener concludes.


Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney or Sarah Beswick
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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