Amnesia makes cyclist call his wife seven times after accident

Liebenette Burger and Leon. (Photo: Supplied)
Liebenette Burger and Leon. (Photo: Supplied)

She was only 8km away from where her husband was lying next to the road at the R44 turnoff after he’d been knocked off his bicycle. But that day she realised just how far 8km could be when you’re worried about an injured loved one.

Liebenette Burger (45), from Somerset West near Cape Town, was at a mall when a woman, Sonja Morkel, called her. Sonja had come across Liebenette’s husband, Leon (49), by the side of the road where he’d been knocked off his bicycle.

The motorist who’d hit Leon had simply sped off.

“We’re incredibly grateful to Leslie and Sonja Morkel who came across Leon. We don’t know them from Adam but Sonja spotted Leon lying in a ditch. The couple immediately made a U-turn at Stellenbosch Square’s robot to go back and help Leon,” Liebenette says.

“I was grocery shopping. I saw Leon was calling me from his cellphone and when I answered and heard a woman’s voice, I immediately knew something was wrong.

“I didn’t immediately know what Leon’s condition was but Sonja said I needed to come immediately. Leslie called me again and said Leon was badly hurt. I asked him if Leon’s life was in danger and he said he didn’t think so,” Liebenette recalls.

But she got a few more worrying calls from Leon. After Leslie and Sonja told her of the accident, Leon called her seven more times, saying the exact same thing each time: that he’d been run over.

“At first I didn’t understand why he kept calling and telling me to come, that he’d been knocked over. Each time I saw his name on my phone’s screen, I got the horrible feeling that he realised he was dying and just wanted to hear my voice one last time.”

She could follow Leon’s cycling route and location on her cellphone and saw that he was about 8km from the R44 turnoff.

“I sped there at 180km/h with my hazard lights on. I remember thinking at one point that I needed to get there safely and not have an accident. I couldn’t believe 8km was that far away.”

Leon didn’t have any broken bones but because of the impact of the vehicle that hit him, he had serious internal injuries. He couldn’t move when she got there, Liebenette says.

“He had to use his arm to lift his head and his right leg was badly swollen,” she says.

He also had short-term memory loss and still can’t remember anything about the accident that happened on 29 September. That’s why he kept calling Liebenette over and over and repeating himself – he’d simply forgotten that he’d already called her.

“He also doesn’t have any memory of what happened just before the incident.”

Leon’s doing “a bit better” now, she says. “But I have to keep reminding myself the doctor said his recovery could take between four and six weeks.”

Liebenette worries about her husband’s memory loss. “There are moments when I wonder if his memory has completely recovered because sometimes he’ll forget something we spoke about. But I believe he’ll recover completely.”

She says her husband is making good progress. He’d been to a physiotherapist and even recently rode his bicycle out to the spot where the accident happened.

Police interviewed Leon in hospital for information on the motorist but because he had amnesia, they said they’d contact him in a month’s time.

Liebenette says there was a side mirror and glass from the vehicle at the scene.

Mihlali Majikela from the SAPD confirms an investigation is under way. “No arrests have been made.”

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