The battery-powered wheelchair zips down the street. Francois Zietsman’s hands are gnarled with arthritis but he has his right hand firmly on the controls. His legs have been amputated and he wears an eye patch.
But with a gorgeous woman on his lap this scenario is far from sad – Francois (39) is in love and soon wedding bells will ring for him and fiancée Zammy Bolinsky.
Three years ago the idea of finding love seemed far-fetched to him.
But a fairytale has unfolded since. Their romance began in 2008 when they had to join hands at a church gathering.
After her divorce Zammy was reluctant to get involved again and because of his disability Francois had given up hope of romance. But it seems love now has indeed found him.
When Francois was eight the minibus his mother, Erika, was driving blew a tyre and rolled and he was flung from the car.
He had to undergo 11 hours of emergency surgery and required more than 140 stitches. After eight months – and more than 30 operations – he was finally discharged but that was just the start of his uphill struggle.
First Francois was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and needed a hip and knee replacement. Then his body rejected the prostheses and his left leg had to be amputated. Last year because of arthritis his right leg was amputated too.
Francois was in a wheelchair – but that didn’t stop him. He’s clocked up 3 500 km in only two years – most of them to visit Zammy who lives only 3 km from him.
They were sitting next to each other at a church seminar when the minister asked the group to join hands for a prayer.
“The minute our fingers touched we knew we had a special connection,” Zammy says.
They started seeing each other and slowly but surely Zammy fell in love with her knight in a wheelchair.
Their wedding is set for October and they’ll honeymoon in the Drakensberg.
For now Francois’ focus is on his next big challenge: learning to walk with the artificial limbs he acquired last year.
Zammy and Erika buckle the limbs onto his knees and help him stand. He leans on two crutches and his puts his weight on the legs. Zammy supports him from behind.
They slowly start to walk. Francois is determined. In four months’ time he wants to walk down the aisle to his waiting bride.
Because now he knows love really does conquer all.
Use the tag reader app to snap the tag in the issue of YOU, 23 June 2011, to watch SA singer Steven Sterling’s video, Take My Hand, performed to clips of Francois’ story.
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