Article written by Marieke van Rooyen
In 2006, Donald Pitt was involved in a car accident that left him paralysed from the waist down. As a result of his physical injury, he suffered years of depression, never imagining that he would be able to drive again in future. Things changed, however, in 2010, when he moved into a self-help centre and found himself inspired and challenged by quadriplegics residents that he was able to help. “A lot of people in wheelchairs think their lives are over,” Donald says. “When you meet others in a similar position, you realise that your own situation is not that bad.”
It was during this time that he met and became friends with Lize, who became Donald’s biggest inspiration. She embraced life, despite only having the use of one arm and a hand. It wasn’t long before their friendship blossomed into romance.
Licensed to drive
Although Donald obtained a car through funding efforts and passed his driver’s licence in 2013, he was unable to drive as he lacked funding to have the car adapted. During this time, he worked at Teleperformance in Cape Town, which meant taking the train from Bellville station where he had to be dropped off daily. He also had to be helped onto the train and fell a few times as some willing helpers were not used to assisting people in wheelchairs.
In 2015, a friend told him about Nicky’s Drive, a non-profit organisation that funds car adaptations for people with disabilities. Donald’s application was approved and his car was modified with hand controls and a docking station. Now, with his adapted car, he is able to drive himself to his new job at Cape Town Tourism and doesn’t have to worry about making it on time anymore. After the car was adapted, he also married the love of his life, Lize.
Freedom in transit!
Before the adapted car, Donald and Lize would have to hire a bus and pay a driver if they wanted to go anywhere. And, besides the cost, there was very little privacy. Donald says that he is now able to take his wife out for long drives and visit their favourite spot at Sonstraal Dam, Durbanville. “The adapted car has improved our social lives tremendously, it has given us so much freedom!” His wife Lize agrees: “I feel like a queen. Every time we go out I am just so amazed and I can’t describe how thankful I am. I look around me and almost can’t believe that we received this gift!”
A highlight for the couple was using the car to get to the church on their wedding day. Now, Donald says, he feels so different from how he felt before. “You push people away. After my accident I never even thought of dating or marriage.”
The couple is inspiring others too. One of Lize’s students at the QuadPara Association of the Western Cape (QAWC) happened to see Donald driving his adapted car. As a quadriplegic, he was immensely inspired as he never imagined that driving could again be possible.
Donald and Lize Pitt believe that Nicky’s Drive is helping many people: “In South Africa, the technology must be imported and many can’t afford it. It’s amazing that there is someone who sees the need and is looking out for others in this way.” They are delighted to be an inspiration to others, and truly thankful towards Nicky’s Drive for making it all possible.