Stories of tenacity and hope shared as RMA opens own Care Facility in Welkom
“It’s wonderful to know how powerful you can be as a human”
Welkom, Monday 18 April 2016, Entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and author Mdu Mathenjwa is a testament to the strength and tenacity of the human spirit. Eight years into his rehabilitation process Mdu looks back on the journey that has brought him from despair in the wake of his injury on duty (IOD) to an inspirational workplace safety and keynote speaker.
In 2008, at the age of 22, Mdu was working as a processor for a mining company and studying to be a chemical engineer when he was involved in a life-changing industrial accident.
“In the course of my work, I sustained chemical burns when a combination of sulfuric acid and nitric acid exploded on me. While this was an extremely painful experience, both physically and emotionally, because of the considerable support received, I gained a truer appreciation for the value of life and our power to make positive changes in ourselves and in the world around us.”
Mdu spent seven long months recuperating in Netcare Pretoria East Hospital. “Burns recovery is a long and painful process; from dressing changes and physical therapy, to the emotional pain of coming to terms with my accident.” He spent a lot of time evaluating many aspects of life and getting to know himself in ways he never could have conceived of prior to his accident. “Sometimes I even wished I had spent more time getting to know myself and figuring out what makes us tick as human beings.”
“RMA provided a psychiatrist, who visited almost every day when I was in hospital. With the support of the psychiatrist I came to a number of realisations that gave me a new perspective, which helped me to reach a point where I felt strong enough to deal with the trauma of my burns. Many years later, if I’m in need I can still talk to him.”
Looking back at that period of his recovery, Mdu says he struggled with many aspects of his identity and how the accident would affect his life. “I was concerned about the way I looked and how I could carry on. Society and even my family members looked at me differently. My family would cry when they looked at me. When I went out to the mall wearing a pressure mask, the security guards interrogated me about my mask until I showed them my scars,” he recalls.
“Everyone stares at you because for them, this is something abnormal. But you have to understand that if you start hating them for what they see, you will start hating yourself.”
Three years ago, Mdu took the decision not to continue with his long course of reconstructive surgeries. “I accept the way I look now. Even though it is different from how I used to look, I am comfortable with myself and I know the strength it has taken to reach this point in my rehabilitation.”
As part of Mdu’s burns recovery, he did five months of intensive physiotherapy to help loosen the tight scar tissue on his neck. “The skin stretching is painful, so at first I hated it, but then I started to feel the difference the physiotherapy was making and I would push myself to make the most of it.”
Little did Mdu know that his accident would be the catalyst for meeting the love of his life.
“There was this wonderful woman who would come and visit her father, who was my best buddy in the hospital. When we spoke, I was worried that my injuries would make me unattractive to her but I think she saw more in me than just my physical appearance. This was the point when I realised I had to take the initiative and not pity myself; that I needed to re-evaluate the way I defined myself and my value.” Today Mdu and Karien are married.
Following his seven months of recovery in Netcare Pretoria East Hospital, Mdu stayed in a rehabilitation centre in Rustenburg. He says that the friendships he forged with other residents, who had also suffered injury on duty, was in itself a potent form of therapy. “I was fortunate to be around people who would work with me and show me that there is nothing wrong with me. These friends taught me to keep focusing on everything I want to achieve and not let the injury define me.”
Following his medical care and compensation, which was funded by Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA), Mdu has also expanded his career in ways he previously would have thought unimaginable. Because of this he volunteered to share his insights at the launch of the Rand Mutual Care Facility in Welkom.
“RMA do not reduce you to a beneficiary number, they see value and potential in each person and I feel that, even since the settlement of my claim, they continue to value me. This belief and hope in individuals, who have been at their lowest ebb following a serious accident, is so precious because it helps to restore people’s faith in themselves. This is why I approached RMA offering to share my story with others; as I want to pay forward the hope they gave me,” Mdu says.
Mdu has established himself as a motivational speaker and advocate within the workplace. As an entrepreneur, he has incorporated this service offering into his company, Grashyo Creations (PTY) Ltd, which also has a publishing and marketing wing.
“Now that I am further along my journey of rehabilitation, I have a renewed sense of how much I still have to accomplish. Whereas I once felt pain and despair, I now see value and potential everywhere.”
Dr Vincent Maphai, chairman of RMA, hailed Mdu for his resilience and strength in the face of adversity. “Rehabilitation can do much to help people build new lives for themselves in the wake of life-altering injuries, but the character and determination of the individual takes their potential to even greater heights.
“It is our hope that RMA’s new care facility in Welkom, which will provide live-in care for RMA’s long-term custodial care pensioners and services such as pressure sore management, rehabilitation and pro-active interventions to RMA’s other pensioners, will serve as the ideal environment for others to grow and develop beyond their expectations. In-keeping with RMA’s philosophy of caring, compassionate compensation, this centrally-located facility will furthermore provide relevant specialist services and professional care, and offer RMA pensioners the opportunity to learn new skills,” Dr Maphai concluded.