Parents still live in hope after son's accident, dire prognosis


The events of that fateful day in 2017 keep replaying in his mind's eye: The emergency phone call from his son's friend telling him Ruan had been badly hurt and wasn't breathing; and Rynand Joubert's own shock at seeing his son's motionless body in the Mediclinic Gariep Hospital in Kimberley, Northern Cape.

A motorbike accident in July 2017 has stripped him of all his dreams for his son after Ruan was left him with a severe brain injury.

The prognosis is dire: Ruan (21) will never completely recover from his brain injuries, doctors told Joubert.

But the Jouberts aren’t ready to give up hope.

"From the beginning, we've refused to believe there’s no hope for recovery," Joubert told YOU.

"And we're grateful we didn’t abandon hope. Yes, he's wheelchair-bound and no, he can't do anything for himself, but there are so many signs of hope. He's almost able to chew by himself, he can lift his thumb to show he's okay, he can smile slightly and he’s regaining his stubbornness. So don't ask him to laugh – he'll do it when he wants to," Rynand says.

Earlier in February, after 10 months in Bayswater Care facility in Bloemfontein, Ruan was moved to the family home in Kimberley to live with his parents, Rynand and Liesel. He’s receiving 24-hour care from professional nurses and his family.

He’s still in a semi-vegetative state, which means he reacts and shows signs of movement but, there are few other indications of recovery.

"We felt it was time for him to come home," Joubert says.

Liesel and Joubert would travel from Kimberley to Bloemfontein every weekend to visit their son. Their daughter, Adri, who studies teaching at the University of the Free State, would visit Ruan every day.

"It means so much to us to have him in his own environment where he's surrounded by us – not just seeing him every weekend. He needs care but he's not hooked up to any machines, which makes our job easier.

"I also think it's important to his recovery that we're able to communicate with him more intimately. We walk with him every day after work and wheel his chair in front of the TV so he can watch rugby with me, or watch news or a soapie with the family," Joubert says.

The line goes quiet for a moment, then Joubert says, "I keep asking myself, 'What if he understands what's going on around him?' It must be awful to be bedridden. We can't let that happen."

But doctors' prognosis that Ruan probably won't ever recover hasn't changed.

At this point, it's unclear whether Ruan can even see although he opens his eyes. The family is waiting for the results of recent tests.

Joubert and a group of friends are planning a walk on March 21 to raise funds for a vehicle in which to transport Ruan in his wheelchair. The walk will start at the scene of the accident near the town of Boshof, on the Bloemfontein road, and end at the family's home in Kimberley.

They are also planning another 5km walk in Kimberley.

"It's hard to walk with a large group of people on the highway because it's too dangerous," Joubert says. So it'll just be me and a few friends – but we're hoping people will join us once we reach Kimberley."

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