Train robbery hero learning to walk again, sights set on Paralympics

2017-11-16 06:47
Darryn August. (Supplied)

Darryn August. (Supplied)

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3 months after being stabbed and thrown from a train, Darryn August in high spirits

2016-07-21 11:51

Darryn August was stabbed and thrown from a train on April 25th while he was trying to stop a robbery. Find out how he's doing in the video above.WATCH

Cape Town - Left with a disability after trying to stop a train robbery, Darryn August, a man who never backs down from a challenge, now has his sights set on emerging victorious on a different platform - the Paralympic Games.

Following a bleak prognosis after being hit with a crowbar, stabbed in the head and breaking his spine, the 28-year-old's determination to recover and walk again no longer seems futile as he now manages to get around on crutches for short periods.

August was one of five commuters in a carriage hit by a gang of robbers as the train made its way to Somerset West in April 2016.

WATCH: 3 months after being stabbed and thrown from a train, Darryn August in high spirits

He had attempted to talk the thieves out of their plan, specifically out of concern for the two female passengers.

"One of the women appeared to be about seven months pregnant," August recalls.

"I am not inclined to stand by and let someone get hurt, especially if one of them is carrying a child. To allow something to have happened to her would have weighed on my conscience."

Broken spine

August believes he was targeted because the robbers realised that he was going to stand in their way and not idly watch them pull off their heist.

"I made a promise to myself before that day that if I ever saw anyone in a dangerous situation I'd do whatever I can to help," he says.

His efforts saw him severely beaten and tossed out of the train.

He hit a tree before he landed, breaking his spine.

The robbers made off with his iPad, ID and money, but hadn't taken his cellphone which was in a side pocket of his backpack.

August, who worked as a workshop facilitator for vulnerable children and organisations, managed to phone emergency services before losing consciousness, and was found three hours later by a maintenance worker who also called for help.

This man, he believes, saved his life.

"If it wasn't for him, I would probably have died," August says.

He also sustained broken ribs and collapsed lungs.

R500 000 raised

Following the horrific assault, the two women who had been in the train carriage that day tracked him down.

"They came to visit me while I was in hospital. There were a lot of tears – they were so appreciative of what I had done," he says.

As news of his heroics spread, a BackaBuddy crowdfunding campaign was set up in May 2016, with a target of raising R50 000 toward his medical bills.

To date, more than R500 000 has been raised.

The funds have been used for physiotherapy, electromagnetic stimulus, hydrotherapy and other non-evasive treatments.

Faith and the generosity of the donors motivate him to keep going, August says.

"I was surprised and shocked that total strangers would do this for me. It encourages me not to give up and to do all I can to one day walk again."

Originally from Athlone, he currently lives with a relative in Schaapkraal where he tries to live as independently as possible.

"I do a lot for myself. I cook and clean, although it took time to get used to and involves a lot of effort," he admits.

'Walking is my goal'

August explains that he now has function and sensation all the way down to his toes, but is still dependent on his wheelchair.

"There is a lot that I miss from when I had full use of my legs – soccer coaching, surfing, hiking... But I don't think my situation stops me from doing those things. It just takes more effort," he says.

But for now, his main focus is being able to put one foot in front of the other without any support.

"Walking is my goal. Whether this happens or not won't affect the way I see life or get in the way of what I want to do."

His positive outlook has made him a sought-after motivational speaker, and he is booked at least once a week to speak to people about his life and what keeps him going in spite of the challenges.

August also continues to be a facilitator, working with young people and NGOs. He is also determined to change perceptions about disability and the capabilities of people who are in situations similar to his.

While he works on achieving full mobility, he has also set himself a new challenge – taking part in the Paralympic Games.

In the coming months, August will be training to become part of the paraplegic association at Stellenbosch University, where he will be training to compete in track and field events.

"This will be an opportunity for me to test myself. To get to that level you have to be physically and mentally at your peak. It takes hard work but I am up for the challenge. It might take a while to get there, but I will do it."

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