Comrades volunteer's hell after hit-and-run

2018-11-19 11:30
Comrades volunteer who was hit by a car.

Comrades volunteer who was hit by a car. (Ian Carbutt)

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Severe headaches, memory loss, pain and a barrage of tablets each day.

That’s what Comrades Marathon volunteer Johan Doubell (51) suffers daily after he was run down by a hit-and-run driver while volunteering at the race this year.

Despite several operations and multiple hospital visits, he has been left mostly wheel-chair bound.

In an exclusive interview with Weekend Witness, sitting on his couch with his crutches placed at his side, Doubell said he had been through multiple operations this year and will be going for several more in the new year. “I take around 50 tablets a day, including vitamins. I am on sleeping tablets but they do not work very well. I have terrible nightmares and have been told I often cover my face with my hands in my sleep as if I am trying to protect myself.

“I am in a wheel chair or in bed all day. I can only walk 20 steps at a time. I know I will never be able to walk without assistance again. Since the accident, I have lost my job and my fiancée Erika has had to sell her car to help with the mounting medical bills.”

Talking about the accident itself, Doubell said he was three metres off the road, bent over picking up water sachets, when he “heard tables flying and people screaming”.

“Then I looked up and saw the car’s two headlights in my face.”

It was at that moment that Doubell was struck by the bakkie.

“I was on the bonnet of the car and then I was on the ground and the car drove over me, reversed and sped off.

“I remember being flung around, and then it was over and I realised I could not feel my legs.”

READ: Comrades volunteer critical after hit-and-run

Doubell and his fiancée, Erika Kapp, set out early on the morning of the Comrades Marathon, June 10, “for a lekker day”. The couple were volunteers at one of the water stations in Ashburton when a bakkie hit three women before it swerved into Doubell.

His knee was broken in five places. He also suffered broken ribs, a cracked skull, a broken cheekbone and a collapsed lung. “I was in St Anne’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for 15 days.

“Doctors had told Erika they did not think I would make it.

“After being in the ICU for three days, the doctors called Erika and told her to come and say her goodbyes to me.”

“All the bones in my forehead were fractured so they removed them and replaced them with a plate,” said Doubell, lifting his hair to reveal a large scar across his forehead.

“My eye was hit right back into its socket. It had to be sucked out and they placed netting behind it to prop it up.”

Doubell said half the bones in his femur were crushed and had to be removed, leaving him with half the bone, the rest being made of a metal rod.

However, his prognosis gradually started improving and after his 15 days in ICU, he was moved to High Care.

He said there were many people he had to thank, but above all, he was most thankful for the support from his fiancée. “Erika works night shifts as a nurse but still makes sure I am okay, that I eat and have my meds and juice. She still does the dishes, the washing, cooks food and she has a daughter in matric.

“She has been amazing. She is a wonderful person,” said Doubell, tears trickling down his face.

“No one knows how much she has done. There is no replacing her. I don’t think I would have had the will to live if it had not been for her,” said Doubell.

A police source who asked not to be named said that the matter was sitting at the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for a decision on whether to prosecute the driver of the vehicle that struck Doubell.

KwaZulu-Natal national prosecuting authority spokesperson Natasha Kara was unable to respond on Friday, saying it usually takes the authority 48 hours to respond to media queries.

Man ‘genuinely sorry’ for actions

Speaking to Weekend Witness on Friday, the man who allegedly ran over Doubell, who cannot be named as he has not appeared in court, apologised to “each and every person” who was affected by the incident.

“I want to apologise to the other people who were injured as well as their families and loved ones.

“I am genuinely sorry for that terrible morning,” said the man, his voice thick with emotion.

He handed himself over to police a few days after the incident.

Doubell said he had met with the man three weeks ago. “He came to apologise to me,” he said.

“Who am I to judge another person. I cannot be angry with him for the rest of my life,” he said.

Doubell said he found the man to be “a very nice guy who was genuinely remorseful” for the incident. “I have forgiven him, however, I do want justice to take its course. I don’t want him to be locked up and left to rot in prison but I do want him to see the inside of a court room.

Doubell said both he and the man were in the dark about what was happening with the case.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  accidents

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