When she was a baby, she was dropped by a sister in the hospital in Beaufort West where she was born.
Placed in an incubator for six months, as the tiny child struggled to survive, it was the start of a journey that saw the little girl and then the young woman, undergo 11 operations to correct and ease the condition she grew up with, from those fateful first days of her life.
Deomicia du Preez, from Scottsville, has spastic diplegia, also known as Little’s Disease; a form of cerebral palsy. Those who have it endure the chronic neuromuscular condition of hypertonia and spasticity.
Sitting in an electric wheelchair, in the reception room of the Mission Care Practice in Scottsville where she works, the 26-year-old flashes a brilliant smile frequently, testimony to her mantra of positivity that has kept her going in her short, but eventful and, mostly challenging life.
She barely flinches as she describes how it all started. “Yes I got hurt at birth, and was in and out of hospital.”
Of the day she left hospital and could not walk, she says, “I was 13 at the time and went to have a back operation as my spine grew skew. But it affected the movement in my lower body.”
Her last operation was at the age of 16, when she had two hip replacements and she’s also had operations on both her thighs to ease her muscles and give her limited mobility.
After two years of unemployment, she got help from the City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate’s Vulnerable Groups and was enlisted in the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) Workplace Skills Training and Placement Programme in February.
She says she has blossomed at the Mission Care Practice, where patients come to manage chronic medical conditions, get help with family planning, screening for HIV and STD treatment.
From the City, she says, she was given training on interview skills, time management, communication, and tips as to how to conduct herself in the workplace, along with basic administration skills.
She gives that smile again as she says she is so thrilled as she has now been offered a permanent position at the practice.
Much of her self-assuredness she says, can be attributed to her “excellent” schooling, first at Eros School in Athlone and from Grade 9 to Grade 12 at Jan Kriel School in Kuils River.
“Jan Kriel also taught me a lot about being confident,” she says, adding that she is keen to get her story known, to tell people that in a situation like hers, faith and a sense of going forward whatever the day brings, are the key factors to survival.
“If people knew what I have had to go through it would be good. I could basically write a book on my experiences.”
While many people acknowledge the challenges of being disabled, she says that one of the greatest problems is that each day brings different hurdles. Sometimes it feels easier and sometimes it’s just more difficult.
“For example getting around is obviously difficult and you have to rely on Dial-a-Ride which can’t always fetch me and offer transport.”
She laughs, when she says that she is mistress of whizzing around in her wheelchair, which, as was seen in the small reception room of the care centre, can be reversed, moved sideways and get her in and out of narrow spaces by the touch of a button.
“If I ride my wheelchair really fast I can get from my home in Scottsville to Cape Gate in 30 minutes. I ride in my chair to work every day, and if there are skollies around I just flash them a smile and they leave me alone. I am after all, a very open person.”
She lives, she says, in a very warm environment, with parents who have been incredibly supportive, as have been her younger brother and sister.
When quizzed about how she gets the basics done, like moving off her wheelchair to get into bed, for example, she says, “I was waiting for that question. I am and want to remain an independent person. I get out of my wheelchair by myself and can get myself onto my bed or into the bath. And other things.”
Another smile as she talks of the future and her visions. “I have failed my learner’s licence four times by two points but I will get it. By the grace of God I will,” she says,
“I also dream of having my own small business one day, and that, God willing, will happen too. I am grateful not only to the City and the people who have helped me but for my strong faith that has pushed me through.”