“Mr Heath, we see from the CT-scan that you did receive some damage to your back.” The young doctor then said: “Basically your back is broken.” The other doctor continued and explained that the first lower vertebra (L1) was cracked and it also compressed somewhat into the second (L2) vertebra.

The doctor’s words stuck in my mind for a while and the very first thought was: Ok, so that would explain the extreme pain that I am experiencing right now. I could sense the panic and fear going through my wife’s mind of “what now?” I was somewhat apprehensive of going for such an important operation in a State hospital, especially with the poor aftercare service they provide.

This ordeal started late afternoon of Friday 23 September when I saw my grandsons jumping on the trampoline – one of those portable ones – and then decided to join them. I jumped a couple of times – not very high – still landing on my feet. But then I made a crucial mistake to pull my feet up in front of me to land on my buttocks. The trampoline was set at its lowest setting for the children’s purposes (below 40kg) and I did not know it was not suitable for adults weighing in at 100kg. When I eventually saw the warning label a few days later, it was too late.

The law of gravity declares that anything that goes up, will come down – but the weight of the object and the distance that it falls also contributes to the total force of impact. ( I think Newton defined this one?) The end result of this move combined with my weight was the sudden impact of my buttocks hitting with the cement floor below the trampoline.  The joy of jumping with the children immediately changed to utter shock and pain in my back and me crying out for help. It was a feeling of immense pressure on my spine on the lower end of my back and I could feel all the muscles in my back going into spasm. This is basically a normal reaction of the body to protect your spine.

At first my wife and children thought I was still playing around with the dogs and grandchildren before they recognized that something terribly has gone wrong. Gerhardt, my son in law tried to help and urged me to lie very still but the pain was so extreme I could not control my legs or upper body. I felt lightheaded and thought I was going to pass out but regained control of my breathing and then started to sweat profusely of all the pain. I have never experienced so much pain in my life and believe me, I have been around the block before more than once with a broken arm and an ankle, falling from bicycles, horses and due to skydiving.

Funny enough, my first reaction was to test whether I could still move my legs, feet and toes and if I still have feeling in each one. Thoughts flashed through my mind of how many young people’s life’s has been changed due to such similar accidents or diving into a pool where after they have been paralysed for life. Your life could change in a minute – and it is not always the devil’s fault. All people (including children of God) make mistakes (wrong choices) and we will have to face the outcome of it all.

The paramedics injected 4mg morphine and by the time I have been loaded into the ambulance about 20minutes later, the pain was back and I could feel each and every bump in the road as we travelled to the hospital. So the good news is that I do not require any surgery but the bad news is that I will have to stay in a horizontal position for at least 6 weeks – meaning lying on my back and doing nothing. And I have already lost 6kg by doing nothing for the first 3 weeks??? Weird.

New x-rays this morning revealed that the L1- vertebrae has been compressed nearly 50% on the one side and the doctor still recommends a long term rehabilitation period and will check out the progress by next week again. It is quite clear that the compression is far more serious than the crack because it could produce problems and pain at a later stage – but we cancel this out in the Name of Jesus Christ who is my Healer.

At this moment I am extremely grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ for protecting me, because it could have been much worse. The very moment in time just before I decided to land on my buttocks and not my feet, a thought crossed my mind that I should not jump any higher because I did not know how my muscles in my back would react to this jolting process. Let me be quite clear on this – had I jumped any higher to show off before the grandchildren, the impact and resulting injury would have been much worse. Was it not for the grace of God and who I believe intervened and gave me a warning thought, I could have experienced an even worse injury to my spine – and the possibility of being paralysed from the waist down is not excluded.

But what did I miss the most over the past 3 weeks? Is it:

• The scheduled events that I was looking forward to attend, but had to cancel on short notice?

• To be able to get up from bed, only if it meant to sit upright for a while and eat some food?

• To take a shower and wash my hair?

• To be independent and drive around when I need to?

• To sit down and work on the computer? (right now I am lying down and working on my notebook) Not one of the above mattered so much.

What I miss the most is to receive a visit from a friend, a brother or sister or pastor who would spend some time and pray for me. My second daughter posted on her Facebook the day after the accident that maybe it’s now my time to receive a visit and prayer from our brothers and sisters and pastors, because of all the years that I have been praying for them and other people. Aside from 3 people that came to visit and pray for me, none other came or they did not bother to pray for me. I thank all those family and friends who phoned more than once to find out how I am coping and progressing as it meant such a lot to me. It is scary to find that the Church has become too busy with other stuff and programs and wants to spread the Gospel to other cities and nations, but we neglect the basic act of love, compassion and empathy towards each other. I think there is a lesson to be learned from this experience.

I praise God for my godly wife Venetia who anointed the water and prayed for me while she was washing my body from top to toe on the bed. Even when she had to cope with a new job and taking the Gautrain to work, she would still meticulously make sure that I am comfortable and in need of nothing. I thank God for my daugther Charmaine who washed my hair and cut my toe nails with so much love.

Most people will tell you that such an event is life changing and I am sure it will have a positive effect on me as well. One such positive change is that I have come to the conclusion that extreme sport is not suitable for people of our age (over 50) and that jumping on a trampoline constitutes to be extreme sport 🙂

In the next post I will deal with all the emotions I had to battle with and how satan tried to induce fear in my life through this ordeal. All praise and glory be to Jesus Christ and He is worthy to be worshipped.

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1 Comment

Colleen · October 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Hi Eric,

The gift of friendship is a precious thing, & yes.. it’s so sad that the Christians of all people seem to have forgotten this. There are so many ‘good causes’ that fill our lives – we are so busy helping out strangers, that we forget / neglect to help those that should mean something to us!

My fathers church members & friends showed me that all hope is not lost! You guys showed me that all hope is not lost!
The endless visits I witness in 9 days to my fathers bedside, amazed me.
There are still many people, who have not lost this basic teaching of the Lords: “Love your neighbor as you would love yourself’ I believe that it goes beyond just saying the occasional “hello, how are you”, & meeting perhaps their material needs…. it goes on to meeting the emotional need as well!

So in your time of need – your emotional time of need, I pray that there will be those who will remember the true value of friendship, that they will step up & be counted amongst those that can be relied upon, that they will change from the doubting Thomas – to the rock that relationships can be built on.

This too will pass, & it will be another testimony added to your personal HIStory.

Thinking and praying for you – here across the globe!

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