How rehabilitation turned a young man’s life around

Posted on 28 April 2017

In 2008, Dan Lombard was a healthy, fun-loving 18-year-old in his Matric year at Pretoria Boys’ High School. This all changed on Tuesday 13 May when he broke his neck during rugby practice at school, an accident that left him a C4/5 quadriplegic and forced him to re-evaluate his life plans.

‘It was quite surreal lying there on the field. Although I was paralysed, my only concern was whether I’d be able to play our match the next day,’ Dan recalls.

Surgery was required to stabilise his broken vertebrae, and after six days in ICU Dan was sent to the rehabilitation centre at Mediclinic Muelmed in Pretoria – a move that would change his life in more ways than one.

‘I was in a pretty bad space physically, completely unable to move except for my head. My saving grace was my fitness – I was trying to break into the 1st rugby team, so before my accident I trained regularly,’ he explains. ‘In fact, my rehabilitation began six days after I broke my neck. To put that in perspective, the usual stay in ICU with a fracture like that is between two and four weeks but I was only in ICU for two days.’

Team effort

‘The staff at Mediclinic Muelmed are incredible. From therapists to porters, everybody chips in to help get the patients back on their feet as quickly as possible. I will forever be indebted to the hospital staff, especially my physiotherapist, Melanie Harding, who helped me to get some function back in my biceps,’ says Dan.

Although his disability is severe, Dan chooses to be as independent as possible.

‘I refuse to allow my disability to prevent me from living my life to the fullest. I have travelled overseas, obtained two degrees, and achieved many firsts as a quadriplegic – including being the first quadriplegic house committee member in the history of the University of Pretoria,’ says Dan.

Solid foundation

‘The care I received from Mediclinic laid the foundation for my life going forward. And it’s a pretty successful and happy life, if I say so myself,’ says Dan. The hospital was not only a place of recovery for the now 27-year-old, but also the place where he took his first steps as a budding sports journalist.

‘I started my blog, RugbyfromaWheelchair, in the hospital parking lot back in 2012. Since then I’ve written for the Bulls, Varsity Cup and SuperSport, and I’m assistant editor of Game On Magazine.’

Mediclinic is more than just a hospital for Dan – it’s where he picked up the pieces of his shattered life and learned how powerful his mind really is. It’s where he realised that the only way to move past a traumatic event is to accept change – a decision that paved the way for him to become the man he is today.

Published in Prime

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