Get­ting mo­bile again

Nicky’s Drive helps peo­ple in wheel­chairs to re­gain their in­de­pen­dence

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - KERRYN MCKAY

FOR Eu­dricht Kotze, not hav­ing his in­de­pen­dence af­ter a car ac­ci­dent left him a quad­ri­plegic in 2012, sim­ply wasn’t an op­tion.

At the time he was 20 years old, liv­ing alone in Stel­len­bosch and work­ing as a civil engi­neer. His work re­quired him to travel a great deal and he had al­ways en­joyed be­ing be­hind the wheel.

He was driv­ing home af­ter a long week­end when he lost con­trol of his car on a dirt road and had the ac­ci­dent that was to change his life.

Kotze lay in a hos­pi­tal bed for three months, re­cov­er­ing from his in­juries and tak­ing in the fact that he had no move­ment from the chest down. No one, he says, can pre­pare you for this. “In ret­ro­spect, I re­alise that prior to my ac­ci­dent I was not in a good space in my life. The ac­ci­dent made me re­assess my place here. In a way, I feel like I have been given a se­cond chance.”

Shortly af­ter com­ing out of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, Kotze took up wheel­chair rugby. He hadn’t played any sport since his school days, but this quickly be­came one of his pas­sions.

He also be­gan to peer- coun­sel oth­ers who were go­ing through re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion for sim­i­lar in­juries. He said: “When I was in re­hab I had so many ques­tions, and very few an­swers. Peo­ple around me could help me but they didn’t al­ways have the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion.

To date, Kotze has peer- coun­selled 10 peo­ple through the Life Vin­cent Pal­lotti Hos­pi­tal’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion unit, where he him­self was re­ha­bil­i­tated.

Kotze said that liv­ing as a quad­ri­plegic re­quires ad­di­tional equip­ment — and sub­se­quent ex­penses — to aid and sup­port the lim­i­ta­tion of move­ment. “I did find, though,” he said, “that not all the things you’re ad­vised to buy are re­ally nec­es­sary. As part of my peer coun­selling I also ad­vise peo­ple as to what they are re­ally go­ing to need, and what is not al- ways that nec­es­sary.”

For Kotze, the most im­por­tant fi­nan­cial in­vest­ments have been in fi­nanc­ing his wheel­chair, pur­chas­ing a car and in­stalling the nec­es­sary car adap­ta­tions.

Given that he is cur­rently fundrais­ing for a cus­tom- made wheel­chair that will ac­com­mo­date his 1,89 m frame, hav­ing re­ceived fi­nan­cial sup­port for car adap­ta­tions was a huge bonus.

“I heard about Nicky’s Drive on so­cial me­dia,” he said, “and how the or­gan­isa- tion funds car adap­ta­tions. This was some­thing that I des­per­ately needed for my new ve­hi­cle.”

Although able to move his arms and wrists, Kotze has lim­ited hand move­ment.

His car adap­ta­tions in­cluded a spin­ner with which to steer, as well as hand con­trols for the brakes and ac­cel­er­a­tor.

“I drive ev­ery­where, ev­ery day,” said Kotze. “Although I no longer have to drive vast dis­tances for work, my cur­rent po­si­tion as the na­tional sales ac­count man­ager for a se­cu­rity dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany still re­quires me to un­der­take the oc­ca­sional site in­spec­tion or client con­sul­ta­tion.”

Driv­ing a car is some­thing that com­pletes Kotze’s in­de­pen­dence. “I drive, I work, I play sports, I go shop­ping. I live a full life,” he said.

Im­por­tantly, Kotze main­tains that in­de­pen­dence is as much a mind­set as it is a life­style.

“I’ve seen peo­ple with less mo­bil­ity than I have, who are ac­tu­ally more in­de­pen­dent than I am. I be­lieve that the road to in­de­pen­dence is a jour­ney, and to get there, you need to have the drive.”

• Kotze is not a reg­is­tered coun­sel­lor, but he is happy to pro­vide peer coun­selling to peo­ple who might like to talk to some­one who has gone through a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence to them­selves. Should you wish to talk to him, please con­tact Nicky’s Drive, who will be happy to put you in touch with him on 021 555 3298 or via e- mail nick­ys­


Eu­dricht Kotze lives a full life de­spite be­ing wheel­chair- bound, thanks to be­ing able to drive with the as­sis­tance of Nicky’s Drive.

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