Friday, 27 February 2015

Lions Head of the Table Mountain Range

Lions Head as seen from Signal Hill.
In the Table Mountain Range, a mountain peak known as Lion’s Head can be found.

Lions Head and Signal Hill look like a sphinx.
As mentioned in a previous article, being next to Signal Hill, combined they appear to look like a sphinx.

During the 17th century when the Dutch found Cape Town they named this mountain Leeuwen Kop which in English is Lion’s Head. Signal Hill was first known as Leeuwen Staart meaning Lion’s Tail.

The 669m (2195ft) peak offers beautiful views overlooking the city of Cape Town, Sea Point, Camps Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The mountain is adorned with the endemic flora known as Fynbos. A truly magnificent place to watch the sunset.

View overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
For those abled bodied people why not enjoy the Full Moon hike? It is a tradition known by the local hikers to venture up while the sky is lit by the moonlight. It takes an hour to get up to the top. National Geographic listed Lion’s Head as one of the world’s most thrilling hikes last year.  There is a different route than the one used for the Full Moon hike, which is an exciting 3 hour walk to the top using chains, ladders and paths. It is in some ways rather challenging.

It is a great spot to go paragliding or hand gliding which is an adventurous activity for both people able bodied and disabled.

So if in the city of Cape Town be sure to have take in the view from one of the surrounding summits on the sphinx.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Superb Swimming for MS

The Event at Camps Bay High School.
This past Sunday on the 22nd of February Swimathon took place at Camps Bay High School. It was just introduced this year for the first time in South Africa and was a great success raising almost R25 000.

6301 laps were swum in 7 hours by 8 teams with the team Cold Water Swimmers winning overall. Team Tina won most spirited. There were about 80 determined swimmers in total taking part in this exciting relay event.

This will be an annual event to raise money in the fight against MS and to create awareness. 

Multiple Sclerosis is an often disabling condition that affects many people throughout the world. It has an effect on the central nervous system which causes the brain to struggle to communicate with the body. There is no cure as of yet!

Claudia Dieckmann, a MS sufferer herself, organized this event and I was lucky enough to interview her. Read what she shared with me about Swimathon and MS awareness:

Team Tina won most spirited.
So Claudia, first things first, how did Swimthon go?

Gosh! The Swimathon surpassed my wildest expectations. I couldn’t have asked for more. The Swimathon went so well.

The spirit of the teams were incredible, the weather was unbeatable and we raised more than R25 000 for MSSA.

We had great sponsors, suppliers and supporters. Without them the Swimathon would not have been possible.

Are there any memorable stories from the event that stick out in your mind?

At the moment, the event is a blur and I am overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of everyone involved.

We had so many kinds of people take part, from a 7 year old right to those training for triathons.

To choose memorable moments would be too difficult, the whole event was amazing.

First Power Hour about to begin.
Will there be any more events taking place soon?

I’m still recovering from this one but I want the Swimathon to be an annual event. Dates and venues still to be confirmed.

There are many fundraisers for MSSA to create awareness and necessary funds. So whether you swim, run, bike, walk, hike or yoga…you can always do it for MS.

What was special to you about this event?

The best thing was seeing everyone having a good time, seeing the fruits of my labour and getting the great feedback from participants. 

I have also been blown away by the kindness and generosity of people and companies.

Like someone said, ’the reward is in the harvest.’

What did you love about organizing Swimathon?

Arranging the Swimathon was second nature to me as I come from a Marketing and Event Management background. I used to be able to do all kinds of sports, now I can only swim. MS has made sure of that.

I purely decided to organize the Swimathon from love of swimming and the numerous benefits it has on so many levels.

Also Swim for MS is new to MSSA and the Swimathon had never been done in South Africa before.

What did you find hard duirng the planning stages?

The pool!
It was tough organizing this on my own. Next time I will have a committee.

Multiple Sclerosis has its limitations but I just have to work with these.

What would you like to see more of within the community of MS awareness?

There is so much that needs to happen in the world of MS. Such as a cure in my lifetime to be found.

A big push this year is ‘access.’ Providing care, medication and support to those that need it.

A huge thank you must go out to the swimmers, volunteers, sponsors and supporters for a fantastic, fun and very successful day!

Keep S'Myelin and keep swimming.

Look out for a more personal interview on Claudia about her life with Multiple Sclerosis.

All photos done by Celeste Glass Photography.

Link to the MSSA website.

The Swim for MS awareness Facebook link

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A February adventure

The tourists!
The 8 day Kruger tour this warm February involved a mixture of international tourists.

The Fritz family of 6 flew down from Germany for an African adventure. Two American friends, Nancy and Dawn, carried on to see Cape Town once the Kruger experience had ended. A son and mother team, Carline and Antoine from France joined in the venture.


A bush baby joined in the fun by sitting on the table. Bush babies are adorable small primates which are native to Africa. They have very big eyes giving them exceptional night vision, and bat like ears which enhances their hearing.

Hippos were seen cruising the water. Mischievous monkeys and baboons were also witnessed. Elephants, and giraffes were seen meandering. 

A hippo cruising in the water.

A pack of a dozen African wild dogs were seen roaming. They are highly social animals, and develop strong bonds with their pack. Each one has its own unique coat pattern, and all have a pair of the same big round ears.

There were 2 close calls to spotting a leopard, but then everyone was 3rd time lucky in seeing one! Leopards are secretive and stealthy cats.

An Epic Tour really does make for a great family trip to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Kim's ''New World'' from the outside - Part 5

Lovely, Kaylin
This is the final chapter of Kim’s New World for our blog, but her life story still holds many more chapters. 

Kaylin takes us through her concerns for her mother’s future, how their mother-daughter relationship has evolved and advice for others going through a similar experience. 

Do you have any concerns for your mothers' future? 

Finance will always be a concern, adequate healthcare is always costly no matter which way you look at it. To live off a R1650 government disability grant is extremely tough to say the least, especially when that barely covers the basic items she needs for each month.
My mom’s health is my main concern; people in wheelchairs have problems that fully able people don’t, such as: circulation issues, chronic urinary tract infections, kidney problems and the risk of ‘the dreaded pressure sores.’

Any of these things could put her into hospital for an extended period of time which is never a nice thought.

Has the accident changed your relationship with your mother?

My mother’s accident has definitely changed our relationship for the better. Growing up I didn’t really appreciate my mother and all the things she did for us when we were younger. I know it sounds cliché but her accident made me realise how fragile life it and how much you take people closest to you for granted.

I am a grateful that I get to help my mother after all she has done for me. I would not be where I am today and with my medical degree if not for my mother’s support, so for this nothing I do could come close to the thanks I have towards her.

She is by far the most amazing woman I know – her strength, love and hope makes her who she is.

As a daughter of a wheelchair user, what advice would you give to other people in the same situation?

Having a loved one in a wheelchair is extremely challenging at times, for both parties.
It’s very difficult for children, partners, spouse and family to see their loved ones in a position such as my mother’s but don’t ever unload negative feelings such as anger or sadness towards the affected person.

Unfortunately this has been challenging for my 3 younger siblings, I think they are all still young and look at it from a different point of view. This doesn't make things any easier.

Kims' 4 kids. 
Be considerate – put yourself in the affected persons' position always.
Take each day as it comes and try not think too far ahead, it will only add unnecessary stress to your life.
You need to be more accommodating, there are always ways of doing things and it may not be conventional but so what? There is a solution to every problem.

I remember one day my mother wanted her hair dyed but alas her wheelchair would not fit through the bathroom door, instead we sat her on the bed in front of a massive bucket, lots and lots of black bags and towels (covering my white carpets!). Looking like a scene out of CSI we got things done. Yes it may have taken 2 hours instead of 30 minutes but we managed.

Kaylin's 21st with Kim. 
Always encourage the wheelchair user to what is easier for them not what is labelled as 'the norm.' We ended up putting a spare bed in our lounge so when the family spends time together my mom can lie down and relax. It looked very strange to visitors but now it’s normal to us.

It’s very scary but you aren’t the only one feeling that way, you learn together and its team work.We came out being the toughest mother and daughter team around!

Friday, 20 February 2015

13 ways to show your pet you love them

''Everyone thinks they have the best dog and none of them are wrong.'' – W.R Purche

Our pets are often showing their love for us in their own ways. Here is a list of how we can show our dog or cat that we adore them :)

7 ways to show you love your dog

  • -   Talk to your doggy. Your dog loves to hear your voice.
  • -   Pet them and stroke their fur.
  • -   Take your dog for a long walk on the beach, round the block or up the  mountain.
  • -   Give them a good brush.
  • -   Play together. You can chase them, play catch with a ball or stick. There are  so many fun toys you can buy from the pet store that they will enjoy playing  with or chewing.
  • -    They love back and tummy scratches.
  • -    Give them some dog treats. They sure will appreciate it.
5 ways to show you love your cat

  • -  A lot of cats go mad for catnip. It  makes them roll around on the floor  and feel blissful. It pretty much gives  them a bit of a buzz.
  • -  Gently stroke their fur.
  • -   If you catch them slow blinking you,  be sure to slow blink them back, it’s a  sign of love and trust.
  • -    Play with them using string, rolled  up newspaper, sticks or cat toys you  can buy.
  • -    Talk to them in a high pitch voice.  Also use their name.

Take your dog swimming at a safe beach when the waves are calm. Dogs usually love to swim!

Or treat your kitty cat to some tasty bits of tuna, or chicken.

Take note:
By playing games with your pets you are increasing their happy hormones in their brains', as well as establishing a bond between the both of you. It also provides exercise for your beloved pet as well as helping to relieve anxiety or stress.

''What greater gift than the love of a cat.'' – Charles Dickens

Now go on and show that animal of yours some love…


Kim’s ''New World'' from the outside - Part 4

Kaylin in her medical outfit.
Kaylin who will turn 24 this year is the eldest child of Kim Sanderson. She is a newly qualified medical professional who joined the army straight out of school to pursue her dream of having a medical career.

A woman of strength, passion and sparkle like her mother. And this is her story from the insight of a loved one of someone who has been through the life changing incident of a physical disability.

How would you say you took the news of your mother’s accident?

The news of my mother’s accident was really devastating for our family. She was an extremely independent woman with four children and was ‘’the life of the party’’. This was a life changing event for our family.

Our mother who was our carer now had to be cared for. A roller coaster of emotions, to say the least, tears, anger and disbelief that this was happening and there was nothing we could do to change it.

You constantly question if one little thing had happened differently, would the result have been as catastrophic?

Kaylin and Kim.
How did your family adapt to your mother being in a wheelchair?

To say it was an adjustment is an understatement.

Simple things now had to be thought out. Like when my mother first came home (she could basically do nothing for herself) and required strict 3 hourly turns to avoid pressure sores. My brothers and I had to take turns waking up every 3 hours throughout the night to do this, not as easy as it sounds when you are half asleep, and in the middle of the night. This eventually became exhausting for all parties and after about 3 months, my mom and her sister developed a technique to turn herself in 15 minutes (she can now do it in 1 minute).

People take the simple things in life for granted like feeding yourself, dressing yourself and going to the bathroom independently.

Preparing family meals now fell into our hands.

The funniest part was the Dr laughing because my mom taught herself how to put on her make up before she learnt to brush her teeth!

My mothers’ biggest fear is that she is a burden to her family, although challenging, this could not be further from the truth. It’s human nature to want to help your loved ones no matter what. My mom is such a selfless person that had anyone close to her had this happen to her, she would not hesitate to do the same for them.

My mother has her good days and other days are extremely emotional and draining.

Simple things had to change such as going places like on shopping trips, to restaurants and on outings. Everything has to be carefully thought out now, researched and planned. We have to find out if places are wheelchair friendly. Some people say they are but upon arrival they aren’t, some clearly have no idea what this means.

Kim, her 3 sisters and her mom.
There is not really any spontaneity anymore. Even family gatherings are a challenge as my mother can’t sit for extended periods in her wheelchair in case she gets pressure sores. So on hot days when we are all outside the sofa has to be dragged outside to make her more comfortable.

These things all seem small but 100 of these things slowly add up.

What were the mile stones during your mother’s recovery?

My mother had to basically learn everything from scratch as a baby would for the first time, and we had to learn where we could help and where she should be given her independence.

Her sister (cheekily) said to my mom ''I don’t know what the big deal is, you get to sit in a chair all day, I would love that.'' My mother then proceeded to make a bet with us all that we would not be able to spend an entire day in a wheelchair. And needless to say we all failed within a few hours, if not minutes. This included her sister losing about 5 minutes later when she needed to get ‘Coke’ out of the fridge and couldn’t reach.

We are very thankful to the Western Cape Rehab Centre who gifted my mother with a motorised wheelchair as we could not afford one. This gave her a great form of independence back as she is able to scoot around the town and buy some groceries by herself.

The final part of this remarkable story will end with Kaylin sharing her concerns for her mother, how their relationship has changed and advice for other loved ones of people who have found themselves with a disability.  

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Kim’s ''New World'' - Part 3

Kim and eldest daughter Kaylin.
The story has unfolded and we are now at the end of what Kim has to share with us by discussing how her life has changed. As well as tips she has for those going through a similar experience as she did almost 5 years ago. The next and final 2 parts of Kim’s ''New World'' will be her daughter, Kaylin opening up about what it is like for a child of a wheelchair user.


Any tips you would give to those who have just experienced something similar?

Let go of your old ways – it doesn't matter that it took it you 5 minutes to dress before. It is now going to take you 30 minutes.

This is not a death sentence – you can live a long happy life (even though you may not feel you want to at the moment). There are others who are fighting for their lives, cancer patients, and burn victims and so on. Count yourself lucky, by the grace of God you are still here!

No matter how bad you think your situation is, there are always others that are worse off.
This is by no means karma, punishment for any sins or a reason behind it. It is what it is.
Your life is only as happy or miserable as you make it.
Kim's hand has been operated on.

What do you wish you had known at the beginning?

This is a difficult one to answer. My one regret would be having my hand operated on so early on in my recovery. I should have waited longer as I gained mobility over time and in retrospect I didn't need it.

How would you describe ways your life has changed from since before the accident to after?

Before life was fast paced and I had many goals, ambitions and a bucket list. Life has now slowed down, things take much longer, I process things differently and I've definitely become wiser. I now want different things out of life, still have goals, ambitions and a bucket list but they have changed, been adapted.

I wanted to travel and see the world. It can be done but not without loads of money. But I play the lotto – we can all dream.

What do you enjoying doing for fun?

At the moment I don’t have much fun, really not much to do here in my small town in the Northern Cape. I get to go to Cape Town every 6 months for a break though. Then I love going out with the kids and because I don’t get out much, I savour every moment. We do food shopping and go out for a good meal.

I think everyone’s situation is different. Now that I live in a small town, going to Cape Town and seeing family - that is my fun.

I used to love the beach, fishing and being outdoors, but because I don’t drive I have to rely on others for help if I'd like to do these things.

You will notice that paraplegics, quadriplegics or generally anyone in a wheelchair all have a very close relationship and respect for another - a kind of a bond because we know what we have gone through to get to where we are and just how challenging every day is. 


 I hope this gives you a bit of insight into my ‘’New World.’’

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Kim's ''New World'' - Part 2

Kim’s ''New World'' continues and she opens up to us about the challenges she has met along the way, concerns about what the future holds, how the relationships with those around her have changed and the experience of coming back home from hospital.

The journey 

What would you say was the hardest part about coming back home?

After about 4 and ½ months in hospital and rehab I really looked forward to coming home.
I was not able to run my own household, I had to have my sisters do my shopping, make my food, dress me, help me with my kids, etc. So it was probably no longer being able to make my own decisions and not having control.

My sister would come and close up at night so that would be the end of the night, I would have to wait till my maid arrived in the morning to have my curtains and windows opened or my radio and tv switched on.

I was now on everyone else’s time, I was slotting into their lives.

Doing physio.
Describe some of the challenges that you have met?

Financial challenge – Not being able to provide for my family. The government grant is only R1650. I now do data capturing and manage a small restaurant to make ends meet.

Emotional challenge – Having had to adapt, saying goodbye to my old life, letting go and having had to start from scratch. Everyone will tell you, you have to accept your situation, but I refuse to accept that because that means I am admitting that I will be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. That means giving up hope I will ever walk again. Without hope we have nothing and I will always believe I will walk one day. Miracles happen and hope gives me strength.

It will be a long journey and a difficult one, there are many people that thought they would never walk again but today through science and miracles they are. I was diagnosed having a complete injury which gave me zero chance of walking to being in-complete in rehab which gave me 30%. Never say never!

Physical challenge – Just getting out of bed is challenging, many just give up and lie in bed. You really have to push yourself. In the beginning I was so frustrated with being limited and relying on others, having my patience tested, I wanted to scream and believe me I did. I had bad days and good days then good days became more than the bad days. At the 2 year mark it was like I was whole again.

I do miss dancing as I loved that a lot. It was a challenge to come to terms with not being able to move my feet on the dance floor.

As time has moved on, I have changed, I no longer have the same outlook. I remind myself everyday – it’s not like it was before! I have adapted to this pace of life which is slow and steady although my brain does work in overdrive.

Main concerns about the future?

It is uncertainty, what does the future hold? If someone told me that the rest of my life would go smoothly, I would always be able to pay my bills, I would never have to go back to hospital, I would always be able to pay my bills then I would feel different. But no one even able bodied people have that luxury. So why should I?

This may sound ridiculous but it is probably getting old! Not being to be as mobile as I am now. I am now about to transfer myself out of my bed every day into my electric chair and scoot around getting on with my daily things.

I have to turn myself around every 3 hours at night to avoid pressure sores which can send me to hospital for a very long time. So going back to hospital again is also a major concern.

How has what’s happened changed relationships with your family and friends?

Kim with her daughters,
Kaylin (left) and Hannah (right)
I made a joke and said if you want to see who your real friends are – you don’t have to die – just break your neck. I have a handful of friends, just after my accident I went to a local mall and saw a few old friends who just walked past me as if they never knew me. I know they just didn’t know how to deal with it or how to react but it was hard for me to deal with.

My family (children) are scattered all over, and life as we knew it has been turned upside down. I am no longer treated as head of the household. Discipline is out the window because I can’t follow up and basically it is free reign for everyone. My sisters are all fantastic, we are close and they are always there for me. I think if I wasn’t a mother, things would be different but my accident has affected each of my kids’ lives, and will affect their futures. 

Tomorrow Kim will tell us her tips for people going through a similar situation, things she wished she had known in the beginning and what she loves to do for fun.

Signal Hill and the noon gun

Take the road up to Signal Hill and enjoy remarkable views overlooking the Atlantic. It makes for a breath-taking sight to see the sun both rise or set. Signal Hill is a 350m peak that was once called Lion’s Rump because together with Lion’s Head, it looks like a sphinx.
Signal Hill and Lions Head combined look like a sphinx.

Signal Hill used to be the point where signal flags were waved to communicate with nearby ships. As early as 1806 the noon gun was originally situated and used as a time signal for ships from the Castle of Good Hope. It was later moved to Signal Hill.

Noon gun firing.
The Noon Gun is set off every day at midday except Sundays and public holidays. There are in fact not one but two guns, the second gun is used as a backup. The South African Navy and The South African Astronomical Observatory are in charge of the loud firing of the gun. In the year of 1795 the British Navy brought over the guns during the invasion. The noon gun is Cape Town oldest living tradition having been fired at noon since 1902, and the two guns are the world’s oldest guns used today on a daily basis.

The slopes of Devils Peak and Signal Hill are the only mountains on earth where critically
endangered Peninsula Shale Renosterveld vegetation is found. This unique vegetation is epidemic and indigenous to the Cape Town City bowl. It was once the dominant vegetation growth of the Capes city bowl but has been diminishing due to the city growth.

Sunset on Signal Hill
This is a popular paragliding spot for those daredevils looking for an incredible flight. People might have disabilities that stops them from being able to walk, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fly! A pair of arms is all that is needed to steer the canopy attached to the paraglide. Wheelchairs have even been designed to take up into the air for the flight too.

Go check out this disability friendly destination :) 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Kim's ''New World''

Beautiful Kim.
This is the tale about a beautiful woman that I (Keira –from Epic Enabled) have known for 10 years. I always knew her to be a vibrant, sparkly and adventurous woman. Today she is still that!

Kim Sanderson born in 1975 has been in a wheelchair since tragedy struck in September of 2010. Her story will unfold in an intense 5 part series including words from her daughter Kaylin.

The beginning

So Kim, what happened in your accident?

I had gone to Mozambique on a holiday with a friend, and one evening we went to visit a friend a short drive away. We sat around having drinks (I had 2), dancing and chatting. Then around midnight I decided to dive into the pool. Everyone was inside and I was alone. The moment I dived in I remember hitting the top of my head and instantly was paralyzed, but put it down to a concussion. My body turned to cement, dragging me under, my hands were not working and my voice was a whisper.

Panic started to set it and I tried to call for help but only a faint sound was coming out even though I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I was still being dragged down until I felt a hand reach out, and I was pulled out.
Kim in physio.

After more than 48 excruciating hours and flights I arrived at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. I was in ICU for 7 days being stabilized then operated on and diagnosed as a C6/C7 complete injury which is commonly known as a quadriplegic.

I am essentially paralyzed till under my armpits, this is my break line. Although I have limited grasp in my hands and fingers they are becoming much stronger with time and exercise. Many doctors will tell you there is only room for improvement up to 2 years after your accident, then no more. But ask any quadriplegic and they will tell you this is not true, it continues. Our bodies are always repairing, changing and getting stronger.

I had not hit my head hard, it was just a bump! Apparently the pressure travelled down my spine and ‘blew out’,my C7 vertebrae.  My doctor said to me that I was very unlucky, most people would have walked away with a sore neck or a bad headache. I was osteoporotic which literally meant I had soft bones.

I have full mobility of my arms and shoulders and because of this I am classed as a tetraplegic. Most people with my injury are paralyzed neck down and cannot use their arms. I guess I am one of the lucky ones. You learn to count your blessings and be very grateful for everything.

I spent 30 days on my back in Groote Schuur SCI (Spinal Cord Injury) ward then 3 ½ months in a rehab at rehabilitation centre in Mitchells Plain- they are brilliant.

I also had 3 more major operations to try improve my mobility and general quality of life over the next year. Hysterectomy, hand operation and tummy augmentation. That first year was hell and I spent more than 8 months in hospital!

What were your greatest fears at first after you had been told your diagnosis?

Every day was scary, each day had something I realized I couldn’t do. Day 1 I couldn’t feed myself, couldn’t drink water, couldn’t hold a glass. Day 2 couldn’t brush my teeth, couldn’t feel my bladder, couldn’t go to the toilet, and couldn’t brush my hair. Day 3 I couldn’t turn myself, couldn’t sneeze, couldn’t hold a pen, couldn’t write, couldn’t laugh, couldn’t cough. You see every day was scary as hell and I was living in an ongoing nightmare. Then I went to bed at night, woke up and realized it was happening all over again!

There was a lot of fear about the uncertainty of the future, where to from here?!

Independence was probably the greatest fear as I was always very independent and always busy. How was I going to look after my 4 children? My kids were always on my thoughts.

Another fear was being a burden to others. I don’t believe a person realizes the magnitude of what’s going to change or what has happened at first. Every day is a new challenge and one slowly realizes life as you knew it has gone. It’s been almost 5 years and I still find there are things I never realized I can’t do. But you always find a way!

Kim and her daughter, Kaylin.

Keep tuned for the next installment of Kim’s ordeal that life has thrown at her. Next she will be telling us about her challenges, what it was like going back home and how it has changed her relationships with loved ones.