He was a playful little boy – just three years old and delighted to be chasing bubbles blown by his five-year-old big brother and four-year-old cousin – but, in an instant, his life changed forever.
Paul Razzano Peters (now 30) from Hanover Park, Cape Town, didn’t have a care in the world as he charged into the road, gleefully pursuing the elusive bubbles – and oblivious to the oncoming car. He tells YOU his story.
It was 10 December 1994, and we were visiting family in Boksburg [now in Gauteng]. My older brother, Delmaine, my late cousin Javase and I were playing with bubbles that we made using water and soap. We all chased after the bubbles, and I was running after them when I was hit by a car.
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I was flung 3m into the air and hit my head on the tarmac. Then God appeared to me. He showed me three doors – one white, one yellow and one red. He told me to choose a door, and I chose the yellow door. I saw a light and woke up in hospital.
I’d been in a coma for three weeks, having sustained a traumatic brain injury that affected my muscles and speech.
As a result of the crash I had cerebral palsy, and hemiplegia [partial paralysis on one side of the body] and I’m wheelchair-bound. My one eye was completely shut.
I had to attend speech therapy and physiotherapy. I didn’t understand everything that was happening but it felt good to strengthen my body. When I learnt to talk again, it felt good to be able to communicate.
I attended Frances Vorwerg School in Johannesburg. It's a special-needs school, but despite this I was often bullied because of my injuries. But I did make a lot of friends, who are still my friends today.
I was invited to do ballroom dancing while I was in high school, which I enjoyed. I was 16 at the time. My partner was Samantha Bartlett, and she was also in a motorised chair.
I stopped dancing because we moved to Durban. After finishing school in 2009, I started my own jewellery business, which I ran for about three or four years.
I then decided I wanted to give back to others, so I helped raise funds for a soup kitchen at my old school. They needed money for a stove.
I became a Christian at 19 after moving to Cape Town, and I wanted to help others who were going through difficult times. I devoted my time to Bible studies and completed a bachelor's certificate at a Bible college. I started going to churches, sharing my testimony and doing evangelism.
Since the pandemic, I mostly do street evangelism in Hanover Park. I do one-on-one sessions with people and on Fridays I run a children's ministry.
Once things get better, I’ll continue to minister at schools and churches. I don’t get paid for this, and I survive on a disability grant, but I do it because it’s my passion.
I do have moments where I struggle with what happened to me, but I go to the Lord and remind myself I must keep on going. I’m independent, but I have physical needs.
I live with my mother, stepfather and half-brothers, who help me.
I need help bathing, my clothes need washing and I need to take muscle relaxants. But I can feed myself and brush my teeth.
Seven years ago I started writing a book, Coming into the Light, with my mother, Shanaaz Arendse. We wrote about my life, dealing with trauma and my parents’ divorce when I was a year old, which had made me angry for a long time.
In the book I encourage others not to give up hope.
I want others to learn how to deal with change in a positive way. It’s supposed to be a form of counselling for people living with disabilities as well as for able-bodied people. The book, which is available on Amazon.com, was self-published in December. We have sold 45 copies so far.
No matter who you are, you’re born with a purpose and must never give up.