How to overcome disability

Posted on 31 March 2015

It’s any able-bodied person’s worst nightmare: losing a limb, receiving a prosthetic in its place, and being bound to a wheelchair. So what does it take to overcome a physical disability like that? Paralympic wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso Montjane shares her winning formula.

‘I received my prosthetic leg in 2000,’ says Kgothatso. ‘Before then, I was forced to either hop around with my surgical boot or rely on crutches to support me. At first, having a prosthetic was a challenge, but as time went on, it got better and better. I now rely on it to get me from one place to the next. Although, when I’m on the tennis court, it’s a different story altogether.’

A different story indeed: on the tennis court, ‘KG’ is almost unstoppable: she’s appeared at two Paralympics, won the SA Sportswoman of the Year with a Disability in 2011 and 2013 (and was a nominee for the award in 2012), and is a consistent presence in the world wheelchair tennis top 10.

Her disability – although she prefers to see it as an ‘alternate ability’ – was caused by Amniotic Band Syndrome. ‘My mother’s placenta was damaged, and attached itself to my body parts, meaning parts of my body weren’t able to develop properly, namely my leg and fingers,’ she explains. That affected both of her hands and a foot, with the other foot being amputated when KG was just 12 years old.

So how did she overcome those obstacles? Here are her five secrets:

1. Remember you’re not alone
‘I was very lucky growing up: I was put into a school for the physically disabled from Grade One, and being around others who faced similar challenges to me had a very positive influence on me. I came to know that I wasn’t the only one facing this battle and learnt to accept myself and appreciate life as it was.’

2. Rely on the support of those around you
‘I feel privileged to have so much support in my life. My parents’ support has never wavered and they’re happy to see me doing what I love. They come to see my games when I play tournaments at home. Wheelchair Tennis South Africa has also been a pillar of strength for me and given me the opportunity to express myself doing what I love. If you’re surrounded by supportive people, you can do anything.’

3. Back yourself
‘I strongly feel that if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will; it starts with you. Build yourself up to be the best you can be. Being differently abled is not something that I can blame on anyone else. It was the will of God; something I am grateful for and have embraced wholeheartedly.’

4. Find balance
‘I train six days a week for two hours at a time, and am currently doing my second course: a national diploma in retail business management at the University of Johannesburg. I feel that although I have to fight for time, I am well balanced and living my life to its fullest extent.’

5. Give it your best shot
‘I developed a penchant for sports early on and used to play wheelchair basketball, among others. When I was introduced to wheelchair tennis in 2006, I saw in it the opportunity to travel the world, something I’d always hoped for myself. I realised I had a talent and started fighting to beat myself at my best every time.’

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Orthopaedics

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