Almost paralysed, woman beats odds

2013-12-18 00:00

WHEN a Durban businesswoman suffered a broken neck, fractured lower back, broken left collar-bone, fractured ribs, and a punctured lung in a car accident, her thoughts immediately went to her disabled life partner.

“At first I thought I’d be wheelchair bound like Martin,” Allison Baenhoff said from her Umhlanga business yesterday.

That Baenhoff is not paralysed is remarkable, her surgeon, Dr Andre Mochan, told The Witness yesterday.

Baenhoff said the will to survive was key to her recovery after a head-on collision in Johannesburg on July 12 this year.

Positive attitude, mind over matter, and self-determination saw her through a series of operations and many sessions of physiotherapy after the accident.

Baenhoff was a front-seat passenger when the crash took place.

“I took the brunt of the impact. Paramedics had to cut the door off to get me out of the wreckage. It was around 5 pm and the hospital I was taken to had no trauma unit, so I had to be rushed to another hospital in that condition,” she said.

Mochan attended to Baenhoff when she arrived at Netcare’s rehab centre and he said Baenhoff’s other injuries could be survived, but the neck was the cause for concern. He confirmed that when she was brought in for therapy she was paralysed, and was bedridden.

“Not everyone survives this. What’s amazing is the degree to which she has regained the function of her legs and arms. When she was brought in, there was no hope, and the medical records were not promising. This is unusual, especially with the speedy rate of recovery. It’s amazing,” said Mochan.

She had to undergo three operations to “fix” her “wrecked” body, but she was not aware of the extent of the damage.

The next afternoon she was taken to theatre for the first operation.

She said she remained in ICU for two weeks where she had round-the-clock care. After a month, still bedridden, she was transferred to the Netcare rehabilitation centre.

“No one thought I would be able to walk again because of the injuries. This was an eye-opener for me to get to understand, even slightly, what quadriplegic people go through. I went through gruelling exercises during therapy sessions and the more I went for those sessions, the more I cried. I was frustrated but all the pain, tears of frustration and the zeal to conquer have paid off,” she said.

Her partner Martin Young is paraplegic after a car accident some 33 years ago.

“I’ve always supported him. He is strong and does things himself but he does ask for help if he is stuck. He drives himself around as his car was adjusted to be hand controlled. It is his positive energy, my parents’ and two daughters’ support and our customers that helped me pull through this,” she said.

Young said he was worried when he heard about the accident. “After learning about the extent of the injuries, I thought, ‘Oh my God, now there’s gonna be two of us’. Obviously being a paraplegic for 30-odd years myself, I knew what those injuries meant. When I looked at her lying on the bed, I was devastated. She is a very active person so I didn’t think she would cope with being wheelchair-bound,” said Young.

Baenhoff is still undergoing physiotherapy and her right arm still needs more attention.

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