For Eudricht Kotze, not having his independence after a car accident left him a quadriplegic in 2012, simply wasn’t an option. At the time he was 20 years old, living alone in Stellenbosch and working as a civil engineer. His work required him to travel a great deal and he had always enjoyed being behind the wheel. He was driving home after a long weekend when he lost control of his car on a dirt road and had the accident that was to change his life. “It happened just outside Clanwilliam,” recalls Eudricht, “I didn’t know the road very well, and as I drove from the tarmac to a gravel road, the car swerved underneath me, and I lost control.”
Eudricht lay in a hospital bed for three months, recovering from his injuries and taking in the fact that he had no movement from the chest down. No-one, he says, can prepare you for this. “In retrospect, I realise that prior to my accident I was not in a good space in my life. The accident made me reasses my place here. In a way, I feel like I have been given a second chance.”
Shortly after coming out of rehabilitation, Eudricht took up wheelchair rugby. He hadn’t played any sport since his schooldays, but this quickly became one of his passions. He also began to peer counsel others who were going through rehabilitation for similar injuries. He says, “When I was in rehab I had so many questions, and very few answers. People around me could help me but they didn’t always have the necessary information. Having gone through this life transition, I know the questions that others in a similar situation have, and the support that they need.” To date, Eudricht has peer counselled 10 people through the Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital’s rehabilitation unit, where he himself was rehabilitated.
Eudricht says that living as a quadriplegic requires additional equipment – and subsequent expenses – to aid and support the limitation of movement. “I did find, though,” he says, “that not all the things you’re advised to buy are really necessary. As part of my peer counselling I also advise people as to what they are really going to need, and what is not always that necessary.” For Eudricht, the most important financial investments have been in financing his wheelchair, purchasing a car and installing the necessary car adaptations. Given that he is currently fundraising for a custom-made wheelchair that will accommodate his 189m frame, having received financial support for car adaptations was a huge bonus. “I heard about Nicky’s Drive on social media,” he says, “and how the organisation funds car adaptations. This was something that I desperately needed for my new vehicle.”
Although able to move his arms and wrists, Eudricht has limited hand movement. His car adaptations included a spinner with which to steer, as well as hand controls for the brakes and accelerator. “I drive everywhere; everyday,” says Eudricht. “Although I no longer have to drive vast distances for work, my current position as the national sales account manager for a security distribution company still requires me to undertake the occasional site inspection or client consultation.”
Driving a car is something that completes Eudricht’s independence. “I drive, I work, I play sports, I go shopping. I live a full life.” Importantly, Eudricht maintains that independence is as much a mindset as it is a lifestyle. “I’ve seen people with less mobility than I have, who are actually more independent than I am. I believe that the road to independence is a journey, and to get there, you need to have the drive.”
Eudricht is not a registered counsellor, but he is happy to provide peer counselling to people who might like to talk to someone who has gone through a similar experience to themselves. Should you wish to talk to him, please contact Nicky’s Drive and we will be happy to put you in touch with him.