Life is not always fair and sometimes challenges you in ways you simply don’t know how to manage. However, people who triumph over these challenges become an inspiration to the rest of us, and show us that there is great reward in continuing to fighting and keeping the faith.
In our profession, you are reminded daily of the reality that, in a split second, your life can change dramatically. Tania van Twisk’s is one of the most inspirational stories that you will ever come across. In June 2011, Tania’s life changed in the blink of an eye while shooting a program for an ASTV production 52 km from Naboomspruit.
The driver of the Toyota Fortuner in which she was a passenger struggled to keep up with the rest of the team and lost control over the vehicle. It overturned and rolled 7 times and Tania was flung from the vehicle. Her serious injuries suggested that the vehicle rolled over her:
Her neck (C1 and C2) was broken and had a multi-fragment appearance;
She suffered from a double fractured posterior C1 arch with a small separate bone fragment on the left side between the dens and the atlas;
Her back (T7 and T8) was broken with associated multi-fragment involvement of the T8 vertebral body as well as the posterior column of T8 and T7;
She had signs of suggested complete severing of her spinal cord;
She displayed a multi-fragment appearance of the T7 vertebral body as well as multiple loose fragments in the bony canal of the posterior arch of T7 and T8;
She had multiple rib fractures, non-displaced ribs on the left side and multiple fractures on the right side of the 7th on the left and of the 8th rib on the rib adjacent to the costovertebral junction;
She suffered compression injury of the right side of the anterior T4 and T3 vertebral bodies, with an anterior compression fracture of T3/T4 on her right side.
Her lower left and right lung fields collapsed;
She displayed prominent pre-vertebral soft tissue haemorrhage.
I met Tania in October 2012 when she visited us for a reciprocating gait orthosis (RGO), a full body orthotic device that allows a pelvic rotation which imitates physiological rotation during walking. It is a long and intense procedure which starts with a full body cast to take the body’s shape and measurements. The full body cast is then sent to Becker Orthopedic in the United States of America, where the RGO is then manufactured according to the cast and measurements taken.
The first fitting was quite intense because no one knew what to expect. For the first time in a long while Tania would be able to stand up and try to put one foot in front of the other. It was more difficult and more intense than what we expected! Losing your mobility takes you back to the point where you once again realise: it is blessing to be able to walk!
Tania’s first attempts were very challenging, but we all knew that she was a fighter and that she would achieve what she wanted to with the necessary training and commitment. Tania and Tarina, the physiotherapist treated her every week for weeks on end, and still continues to do so, joined forces with a biokineticist at the gym, who she still meets weekly.
Today, Tania is able walk between 20 and 30 metres in 20 minutes. She feels it does a lot to boost her self-esteem now that she is able to stand up from her chair and look people in the eye!
It took considerable effort to achieve this, and it still does! We take our hats off to you Tania! Well done; you are true inspiration!