I was at a breakfast meeting, advising a college on how to make a house wheelchair-friendly. Michelle was at a table nearby, and overheard the conversation. She was very interested as she runs orphanages in the disadvantaged community of Orlando, near Komatipoort. In that community of RDP housing there is a young girl who has muscular dystrophy and her home needed to be converted. Michelle came over and introduced herself. She had to rush off but we exchanged business cards and I promised to phone her the next day. To her surprise and shock, I did just that, and we discussed her situation.
I needed to see the house before giving any advice on how to adapt it and agreed that, if she could find suitable accommodation, I would come down. Michelle had no idea what that meant! She started looking around, only to find that, although Komati was full of bed and breakfast accommodation, not one of them were wheelchair friendly. She eventually found a backpackers lodge and, although it had no grab rails or anything for me, there was enough space to get around in my chair. I drove the five hour trip to Komati, the longest drive I had undertaken since my coma a year earlier. We had dinner together and I learnt that she had gone to the effort of investigating disability and, more specifically, cerebral palsy, my disability.
Spending time with her in the township of Orlando, and seeing Michelle’s caring ways, I was captured by her loving heart. And the rest, as they say, is history! Over the next couple of months we spent a lot of time talking on cellphones and skype, developing a very close friendship. Over the Christmas holidays in Swaziland we fell in love. Every week we travelled to see each other. One weekend I would go to Komati, one weekend she would come to Jo’burg. Michelle would leave at 3am Monday mornings in order to be at work by 8.
We have had to overcome many obstacles, the most serious being people’s perception that Michelle will be more a nurse than my partner and lover, cold hearted statements such as “she must be a special person for taking this on” are very hurtful. It is these attitudes that leave many disabled people feeling unworthy of being loved. My mom, and others close to me, always told me that, one day, I would find a woman who would see past the physical – a spiritually mature person - and I found her in Michelle! Looking at my past achievements and desires - such as climbing kilimanjaro - being married to Michelle, being loved by Michelle and being in love with Michelle is my greatest dream come true.