MY STORY | Doctors said I wouldn't ever be able to live a normal life but I proved them wrong

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Shaney Thomas and her husband, Julian. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Shaney Thomas and her husband, Julian. (PHOTO: Supplied)

When Shaney Thomas was 10, doctors told her she'd never be able walk, work or lead an independent life as a result of the injuries she'd suffered in a car accident. Now the 43-year-old mother from Cape Town tells YOU how she defied the odds.

"On 12 December 1988 at noon, I was returning home with my dad, mom and brother from a family trip to Gqeberha. I was asleep on the back seat when the accident happened. As we headed to Storms River bridge an on-coming car crashed into us. 

The 21-year-old woman who was driving the car had fallen asleep at the wheel. She died at the scene and my father died on the way to hospital.

My mother broke her jaw and right arm and my brother escaped with minor injuries. I didn't have my seatbelt on because I was sleeping against the armrest so that's probably why my injuries were so much worse.

After the horrific car accident she was in at age 10, Shaney had to learn how to walk and talk again. (PHOTO: Supplied)
After the horrific car accident she was in at age 10, Shaney had to learn how to walk and talk again. (PHOTO: Supplied)

I was 10 at the time and so small that rescuers struggled to get me out of the wreckage. I had an asthma attack but luckily a doctor had been driving behind us and managed to help us. 

A week later I awoke from a coma at a hospital in Gqeberha. I was flown down to Cape Town where I was told that my father had passed away.

I was finally discharged in January with doctors saying there was nothing more they could do for me. I had suffered brain damage which left the right side of my body lame and affected my speech. My left arm was broken and my right eye was injured.

When I returned home I really struggled to accept my loss of mobility. Looking outside and seeing others walking, encouraged me to want to walk.

My mother always encouraged me to keep pushing. One of her friends, Sawzia Prince, promised to buy me a Walkman music player if I learnt to walk again and that really motivated me.

Her mother's friend, Sawzia Prince, helps to feed
Sawzia Prince, a friend of Shaney's mother, feeds her after her accident. (PHOTO: Supplied)

A year later I underwent eye surgery that corrected my squint. I started at Eros School which offered occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy. I did a lot of physical training which really helped me, and by my late teens I was completely mobile again.

I got my driver’s licence, a diploma in travel and tourism, and joined a gym where I learned to swim, run and do all the things able-bodied people do. I also landed my first job.

When my mother sold our family home in 2001, she bought me a flat which allowed me even more independence. 

People around me thought I'd never be able to work or walk because of my brain injury but I had proved them wrong. 

I got married in 2005 and people kept saying that my husband, Julian, and I wouldn't be able to conceive but I gave birth to a son, Jared, a year later. In 2011 we welcomed our second son, Luke. 

family, car accident
Shaney has received a lot of support from Julian and their sons, Jared (middle) and Luke. (PHOTO: Supplied)

My body started to change soon after that. I don’t know if it was my age or because I'd undergone two Caesarean sections, but I began walking a lot slower.

I went to go see a neurologist and physiotherapist but they couldn't find anything wrong. It just felt like everything was going downhill. Both my doctor and husband could see I was always tired and Julian suggested I quit my admin job in 2019. 

Since May I’ve been seeing a biokineticist.

I can stand but can’t walk without help and I had to stop driving. Since it’s school holidays my sons are helping me to walk around the house. I still cook and they help by getting me the ingredients. 

READ MORE | Meet the Eastern Cape farmer who herds sheep in a wheelchair

When I was younger I was a very motivated person. I wanted to prove people wrong. 

Now that I'm older I'm not as motivated but I look at my children and I pull myself up again and say I can do it. There are times I feel down and depressed but then I remind myself how short life is. 

I look at myself now and tell myself that I am perfect the way I am and I have a story to tell.

I hope my story uplifts others." 

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