Exactly two years to the date, on a Sunday afternoon, tragedy struck for Chadley Kannie who lost his leg in an accident that saw his dreams of becoming a pro footballer shattered in an instant.
At 15:00 on Sunday 4 September 2016, Kannie was returning home from a gig when he was hit by a drunk driver.
“I loved music and after a show, I was getting out of the back of the bakkie when a drunk driver crashed his bakkie into us. I lost my leg at the scene, it was a clean cut and I had a cut on my head,” he says.
Only 16 at the time, Kannie was well on his way to becoming a professional footballer, having been scouted by a local semi-pro football club only a short while before his accident.
“When I was in the hospital, the only thing I wanted to do was say ‘thank you [to God]’ that I am still alive. After I did that, coming to terms with it was very easy. During my recovery, there was a lot to think about. My dream was to become a professional footballer and to be a footballer you need two legs and unfortunately, I lost mine,” he says.
His mother, Alicia Jacobs says hearing about the accident was devastating, not only to her, but to everyone who knew Kannie.
“When people first heard about the accident, the first thing anyone was worried about was his soccer. He had a passion for it from a young age and everyone knew he loved soccer. He always said he wanted to be a professional soccer player and they all knew he would not be able to do that anymore,” she says.
His leg was cut off a little below the knee at the scene with doctors removing half of the remaining thigh in surgery.
“I have been cautious and it still triggers bad memories when I see people drinking and driving recklessly. But looking at this in a spiritual way, maybe it was not set out for me to be a professional soccer player, maybe God wanted me to touch and inspire people in a different way. In the end this is a life-long lesson to him and I am not holding a grudge against him,” he says.
While seeing the doors the accident has opened for him, it has undoubtedly changed his life. He implores those thinking of drunk driving to think about the consequences, not only for them, but for the potential victims as well. “Accidents caused because of drinking and driving have a serious effect on the other person’s life, future and even their emotional state. I have a life scar, something I have to deal with and face every day. It isn’t easy to do everyday things, because you deal with a lot of questions and stares,” he says.
In the last few months of Grade 10 when the accident happened, his recovery had affected his schooling, but determined not to let it get him down, Kannie is back at school completing his Grade 11 this year.
“I am still at a main stream school because I don’t have my leg, but there is nothing wrong with me. I don’t need to go to a special school,” he says.
Determined not to give up on his dream, he decided to pursue a career in coaching and hopes to complete his licence soon.
“Seeing all the effort my family put in kept me going. I wanted to be the boy my mother could be proud of. I wanted to be a success, no matter what. After accepting this, nothing could get me down,” he says. “I am currently at Ajax doing my badges. Ajax is really interested in the youth and they have a great culture.”
A registered nurse, Jacobs says the strength and courage Kannie has displayed has inspired her.
“When you have an amputation, you can still feel the limb. He felt his leg and thought it was maybe just badly broken. The doctor told him that his leg was gone on Monday and on Tuesday, he told me he wanted to do coaching or management. He had already accepted it. Everyone in the ward was so surprised at how he had come to terms with it,” she says.
“Seeing how he dealt with it, I can now use his story and strength to help other people cope with their amputations. I have people who have lived full lives who now need to lose a limb and it is difficult for them, but here he is, so young and so positive.”
But he may still have the chance to play again, thanks to the donation of a prosthetic limb, made possible through the Road Accident Fund. “He had received a prosthetic leg from the hospital but it hurt him and gave us endless problems. He then relied on the crutches to get around. I made the application after asking my colleague. We told them his story and they gave us the good news. We are so happy that they are enabling him to live a normal life,” says Jacobs.
He recently received the prosthesis and with it he can run, jump, climb, swim and even play soccer again. He is currently working with a physiotherapist to assist him in mastering the use of the limb and has already played his first round of soccer.