“Enjoying the bare minimum of things gets boring so if you’re going to eat pizza, have it with extra cheese and more toppings.”
This is how Sandile Mkhize from Roodeport, Johannesburg, chooses to live his life every day – but it took a long and hard journey before he got there.
On the morning of 26 January 2013, Sandile was on his way to have breakfast in Witbank with a couple of friends when the devastating motorbike accident took place.
“As I was turning the corner on a highway on my way to Witbank, I lost control of my back wheel,” Sandile tells YOU.
“I didn’t fall, but I landed on the gravel and hit something which I can’t remember and woke up I think minutes later, surrounded by paramedics.”
“Before the accident, I’d like to think I was quite a mischievous and curious guy, confident easy-going, generally good with people and I always liked public spaces and events .”
But soon after the accident life changed for the young man when doctors revealed he was paraplegic.
After spending a few days in Witbank Provincial Hospital, Sandile was transferred to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital where he spent about two and a half years in intensive care, having to endure multiple surgeries and complications while simultaneously trying to navigate life in his “new body”.
He was then sent to Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland to undergo rehabilitation.
The 31-year-old said there was a moment where he’d given up and didn’t see the value of life as a paraplegic in a wheelchair.
“I didn’t really wanna live but there was a turning point when my mom came to visit me,” he said.
That’s when he realised he didn’t want his mother to have to go through the pain of burying him, and his fight to live began.
“I’ve received support from my friends and family, but if I had to single out one person it would definitely be my mom – she literally gave birth to me twice,” Sandile said.
Before the accident, Sandile struggled a lot with anxiety and depression for which he was prescribed medication. But after realising he didn’t like the side effects, his psychiatrist at the time recommended he go to the gym instead.
This has since encouraged him to keep active, even after the life-changing accident.
Since 2016 Sandile has taken part in the Wings of Life race, which raises money for spinal cord research, and supported the cause every year as one of their ambassadors.
In 2017 he cycled from Cape Town to Johannesburg within a period of 10 days with a team calledOcal Global to raise money for people with special needs and disabilities.
Apart from his inspiring achievements, Sandile is doing his final year in BCom Finance at Unisa and he’s also a first-year student at We Think Code, where he fulfils his interest in coding.
In addition, Sandile runs his own education business, where students can share notes with one another on a website and he hopes that it grows into a sustainable business.
“Through the accident I’ve learned that I’m stubborn, but in a good way. I generally don’t like being told what to do, especially what I can’t do,” Sandile said.
“With being in a wheelchair certain spaces indirectly tell you that you’re not supposed to be there, because of the stairs or it’s not accessible by wheelchair.
“But regardless of whether it’s accessible or not, I force a way to still be accommodated in such spaces, which has also taught me that I have a persevering spirit.”