She’s the resident granny in her community, adored by everyone. Ask her to make a cake and she’ll reach for the eggs and flour. Need her for help, and she’s there in a jiffy.
But Avril Lindeboom’s selflessness reached a whole new level recently when she courageously threw herself in harm’s way to save the life of a pregnant woman.
One recent Sunday, the 64-year-old grandmother of six from Bonteheuwel in Cape Town was chatting to her neighbour, Prudentia Amos (34), who’s eight months pregnant.
Suddenly they found themselves in a hail of bullets. The rounds that ripped towards them came from five houses away, shot allegedly by gang members.
Without stopping to think, Avril rushed forward to shield Prudentia and her unborn baby before quickly pulling her inside her home to safety.
“The shots came our way like rain,” Avril tells YOU in a shaky voice.
But once she got inside and checked that Prudentia was okay, she discovered she’d been hit. A bullet had entered her left breast.
“When I realised I was shot, I went to sit on my chair. I didn’t freak out and I didn’t utter a word,” the pensioner says.
Fortunately for Avril, her injury wasn’t life-threatening. “The doctor said I was very lucky. He said if I’d moved a lot it would’ve gone through my heart but by the grace of God I survived,” she says.
Although the mom-of-three doesn’t think much of her heroic deed, Prudentia couldn’t be more grateful to her neighbour for saving her and her baby.
“The bullet was meant for us. Just to think it could have hit me, but it hit Aunty Avril instead,” Prudentia says softly. “I’m just grateful she’s alive.”
Avril and Prudentia weren’t able to see the men who were shooting at the time and Bishop Lavis police are still investigating a case of attempted murder.
“The suspects fled the scene and are yet to be arrested,” says police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi.
The two women have known each other for years. “That child grew up in front of me,” Avril says of Prudentia. “She’s my neighbour’s daughter. I’m like a mother to her.”
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Not a day goes by that the pair don’t speak to each other, Prudentia says. Avril often gave her pregnancy advice and warned her to look after herself and the baby because there were regularly gang shootings in the area.
On the night of the incident, Avril was waiting in front of her gate for her 20-year-old grandson, Mujahid, to return from his girlfriend’s home.
“When I know it’s Mujahid’s time to come home, I stand by the gate to check that he comes in safely because of all the shooting that’s going on,” says Avril, who’s known affectionately as Ama in her community.
While waiting for her grandson at around 7.30pm, Avril saw Prudentia walking back home after seeing a friend and the pair struck up a conversation.
“I spoke to her about the baby and that she mustn’t be out too late,” Avril recalls.
A few minutes into the conversation, the pair heard gunshots – and that’s when Avril’s motherly instincts kicked in.
She quickly shielded the pregnant woman, grabbed her, and pulled her inside her house. “I was just praying because we were standing in front of her gate and we just heard gunshots and I didn’t know what to do,” Prudentia says.
“Then Aunty Avril said to come in and pulled me inside her house.”
Once the terrified pair were inside Avril’s home, which she shares with her youngest son, Aaron, his wife, Nasheeta, and their two children, she immediately checked to see if Prudentia was okay.
“I inspected her body to see if she’d been hit but there was nothing,” Avril says.
Then she realised there was a burning sensation in her chest.
“When I put my hand to my chest, there was blood on my fingers and I realised I’d been shot,” Avril recounts tearfully.
She then went to sit on her favourite chair in the lounge and tried to remain calm. Her grandson, Gino (22), brought her a towel and told her to place it on her chest and apply pressure to the wound.
“I was upset because they shot Aunty Avril and she was the one who pulled me inside,” Prudentia says. “I felt so guilty.”
Avril’s family members were panic-stricken but the stoic grandmother remained calm.
“All I asked God was, ‘Let thy will be done’. I just sat in my chair and waited for the ambulance to come and take me to the hospital.”
At about 8.30pm the police and ambulance arrived, and Avril was taken to Groote Schuur Hospital where doctors performed surgery to remove the bullet from her breast.
But even at that point Avril wasn’t concerned about her wellbeing. “As I was lying there, I asked God to forgive those children who shot me,” she says.
“I prayed for them and their parents because they’ve also got it hard; they’ve also got feelings.”
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She’s extremely grateful to have survived the traumatic ordeal. “God sent me back to my children and that’s the most important thing for me,” she says, breaking down.
Prudentia visited Avril in the hospital. “She said thank you to me – she couldn’t thank me enough,” Avril says.
“If it hadn’t been for me, she said she could’ve got the bullet, but I told her, ‘You’re also one of my children’.”
Avril was released from hospital two days later and is well on her way to recovery. “I didn’t think something like this would happen to me. For me, it felt like a movie.”
She’s already back standing at her front gate, greeting community members and strangers alike.
“Even if children pass me who are using drugs, I don’t give them dirty looks. I greet them and talk to them,” Avril says.
Although Avril is coming to terms with what happened to her, she does her best to put her kids’ minds at ease.
“I don’t talk to my children about it. If they ask me if I’m okay, I say, ‘Yes, I’m okay, don’t worry about me’. “They do worry about me, but I always tell them I’m fine, that God is with me,” she says.
Prudentia now hopes to focus on giving birth to a healthy baby – a boy – next month.
“It’s almost that time for him to come,” she says excitedly.
Avril is praying something like this doesn’t happen again and hopes to continue shining her light in her community.
“I’m not a person who gets angry. I love everyone, and I speak to everyone.
“And if they come to me and want me to bake a cake, I’ll bake them a cake.”