Cheverné Duvenage (14) has started Grade 9 at Hoërskool Driehoek after spending three months in hospital following the bridge tragedy at the school last year. But a big stomach op still awaits . . .
And it’s not the end of the challenges of the teenager, who sustained serious injuries when a concrete walkway at the Vanderbijlpark school collapsed.
In a Facebook post penned by her mom, Nicola, she confirms that her daughter started Grade 9 at the school on Wednesday and will have major reconstruction surgery in March to her stomach wall.
Cheverné also needs a cosmetic procedure to deal with prominent scars on her stomach.
Nicola says her daughter’s biggest challenge is that she needs to shed 20 kg before her surgery.
“Cheverné started her special diet yesterday. She wants to try to be more active but so far it’s been difficult because of the limitations of her injuries,” says her dad, Elardus.
Regarding Cheverné’s diet, Nicola says she’s doing the diet with her daughter – but it’s not easy “for a teen to say no to chocolates and ice cream”
“But we’re so positive and we can’t wait for the outcome . . . of course she’s very scared of the op and asks that you to pray for her with us”.
Four learners died and more than 20 were injured when the walkway collapsed on Friday 1 February at the school. Cheverné was among the learners who suffered the worst injuries.
After the accident she spent a total of 53 days in the Netcare Union hospital in Alberton where she had seven operations, including to her pelvis, hips and stomach wall, before she was transferred to a rehabilitation centre in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, for a month.
She had to learn afresh how to walk.
In her Facebook post Nicol says whenever people ask her how she coped with the traumatic events, she answers as follows: “I don’t know. Just by the grace of God.”
Her post continues: “The pain of the parents who lost children is the worst imaginable and my heart goes out to them. Our suffering is nowhere near theirs. When I consider what we went through, I can only be grateful that we’re now is a much better place.
“It was a very difficult year and emotionally probably the worst ever. In December we went to Sodwana and Cheverné really enjoyed swimming in the sea, so much that we had to give her pain pills at night to sleep. Every night when we settled she’d say: “Jeez it was nice and everything’s still worthwhile.
“Then she’d wake up and say she won’t be swimming again. But when we look again, she’s frolicking in the sea like a little girl. This year she’s learnt a saying she now often repeats to us: ‘You only die once, but live everyday’. She quickly makes the rest of us in the house realise it again.”
Nicola responds as follows when people enquire about her daughter’s welfare:
“I wish I could tell, because every day it’s different. Our biggest challenge is her emotional side, because like many kids she tends to ask: Why did it happen to me, for what purpose, why me?
“And when she’s not allowed to do something because of her injuries, things get very difficult at home: after all, she didn’t ask for it?”