Paralysed Driehoek schoolgirl says she wants to help others

Shamoné Steynvaart and her mother Charmaine. (PHOTO: Onkgopotse Koloti)
Shamoné Steynvaart and her mother Charmaine. (PHOTO: Onkgopotse Koloti)

Shamoné Steynvaart (15), who was paralysed when a walkway at Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, collapsed beneath her in February this year, spoke to YOU about her life as a paraplegic.


It’s been six months since Shamoné was discharged from the rehabilitation hospital in Pretoria and it’s been nine months since the walkway at her high school collapsed, killing four and injuring more than 20 pupils. Shamoné spent three months in the rehab hospital.

One of the deceased was Shamoné’s best friend, Marli Currie (14). Shamoné sustained a spinal injury to her lower back, leaving her paralysed from the waist down.

But she sounds upbeat and excited to speak to YOU, though she still has a surgery scheduled for 2 December to her left wrist, which was badly broken in the accident.

“It’s going very well. I’m taking a break,” says the young girl who’s writing her year-end exams.

“I didn’t do any schoolwork in hospital but I got through it. I’m attending school again.”

Shamoné is now a student at the Impaq Shalom Akademie in Vanderbijlpark. She says there are several of her former Driehoek schoolmates in this school. Her main reason for moving is because she feels it’s not easy to get around Driehoek in a wheelchair.

“I’m very happy in this school. We’re 18 Grade 9s altogether. I have so many new friends.”

She still speaks to some of the other Driehoek kids about what happened.

“There are things I can’t remember . . .”

Shamoné says the emotional impact of what happened has been far worse to deal with than the physical injuries she suffered. When YOU visited her in May, she told us she was crying more over Marli than for herself.

“It’s still true. Marli’s death was the hardest. I miss not being able to speak to her every day anymore, that I can’t give her a hug,” she says.

Shamoné and her mom, Charmaine, have gone to live with Shamoné’s grandparents Poppie and Wally after she was discharged. Their home has been specially adapted for her.

“They made the bathroom bigger and in my room they took out some cupboards to provide more space. The hardest for me was learning to get into the shower.”

The teen, who’s always been independent, was taught these skills in the rehab hospital.

“It’s not always easy when my mom’s not home but I manage to do everything I need to. It’s not that bad. I can do everything I want to.”

She was sad that she couldn’t attend a friend’s birthday party recently. “They’re house isn’t wheelchair-friendly . . .”

For her own 15th birthday on 28 October her family took her for dinner and a movie at a local mall.

Shamoné still has physiotherapy and psychological counselling. She adores Dr Yolinda Steyn, the social worker who’s helping her with the healing process.

“Yesterday, we started a new trauma [treatment] technique. It stimulates the subconscious to help me remember.”

She says she can hardly recall anything about the incident. She can only remember the few moments just before the walkway collapsed, when she and Marli had been crossing it after assembly. She believes remembering more about the incident will help her heal.

“I’m not angry. I’ve put it behind me – on the day I left rehab and had to start my new life. I believe everything happens for a reason but I miss Marli terribly.”

For now, Shamoné is focusing on finishing her school year. She wants to be a trauma counsellor or social worker one day, she says, because she’d like to help others who are in a similar position to her.

 “I want to help others and to tell them, ‘You can do something with your life. There’s nothing you can’t do. You can do whatever you want’.”

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