‘I want my legs back’: A personal history of catastrophe by para-athlete Palesa ‘Deejay’ Manaleng
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The JRB brings you an exclusive excerpt from a work in progress by Deejay Manaleng, which tells the story of how she became a top South African para-athlete.

One, two, move the legs, one, two, place my hand, lift and swing. I miss the toilet and land on the floor, my head missing the basin by an inch. I lie there for a second, struggling to hold back the flood of tears that is trying to break through.

I was discharged from rehab a few days ago and this is the first night that I am alone in my cottage. My mother has gone back to Witbank and the nurses and physios are left behind at the Netcare rehab centre.

There is no one to lift me up, and I realise I don’t have the upper body strength to lift myself into my wheelchair or onto my bed. I drag myself around the cottage trying to find something to climb onto, I drag myself for hours on end and nothing seems to work.

I finally let the tears pour, cursing every moment of my existence as a river flows down my face. I have wet my pants, the catheters are too high for me to reach when I am not sitting in the chair. My ankles are bleeding from all the dragging and banging against unfelt objects in the house.

I cry myself to sleep. I awake to the realisation that I am still stuck on the floor. I spend three days trying to get myself onto a chair or at least the bed. I fall, I roll, I drag myself across the floor. I cry, I tire and sleep, only to wake up and cry some more. I keep telling myself I need to survive, I need to do this on my own.

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Categories Non-fiction South Africa

Tags Palesa Manaleng The Johannesburg Review of Books The JRB

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