Sunday, 10 June 2007

The night I lost my life

CRIME COST: Jackie van Zyl with her husband Kobus. He was totally crippled during a house robbery.

A FORTUNE: Jackie van Zyl says it costs millions to care for husband

On a cold night in May 2003 Jackie van Zyl’s life changed irrevocably when robbers shot her husband, Kobus, in the head during a house robbery at their Parkhurst home in Johannesburg.

The gunshot did not kill him, but left him blind, paralysed and severely brain damaged — totally dependent on care for the rest of his life, with the costs of maintaining him over the last four years totalling about R2-million .

Jackie said: “My life ended that night as well. I came home with a baby — but there was no nine- month pregnancy [to prepare you]. I suddenly became a mother, a nurse, everything at once overnight.

“I look at him every day and I am reminded of what happened that night. He was a brilliant man, but after that night he can no longer think for himself or even feed himself. He doesn’t know where he is, or what has happened to him. He is reduced to nothing, a shell. He is just living.”

After the shooting, Kobus, then 40, was hospitalised for months and his medical costs soared .

During the robbery, Kobus tried to create a diversion so his wife could escape.

She said: “Kobus lunged at one of the robbers. He told me to run. I ran down the passage ... They were fighting and I heard the gunshot ... I heard him trying to breathe, he was gasping. Then the police and ADT arrived.”

Doctors at Milpark Hospital, where he was treated, initially thought Kobus would not survive.

Jackie said: “The bullet went through the centre of his brain. The whole frontal lobe was blown away.”

He spent four months in the hospital’s trauma ward. Thereafter, he was sent to the Netcare rehabilitation centre for another month for further treatment at a cost of R1 350 a day — about R162 000 in total for the time he spent there.

Before the robbery Kobus was an attorney, but closed his practise and started pursuing a career in information technology.

Jackie said: “We had nothing. He started working at a firm two weeks before he got shot. I had a hospital plan, which he was on. That was it. When he got out of Milpark, we were on our own .”

The shortfall on her hospital plan cover was massive and she had to fork out R600 000.

A counsellor at the hospital told Van Zyl to put Kobus in a home, but she refused. “There was no way. I married him . I took my vows seriously — for better or worse, in sickness and in health. My entire salary goes into taking care of him now. I live off overdrafts .”

Returning to their Parkhurst house proved stressful .

“I was terrified and tried to live there for a year. I spent R30 000 on an electric fence and security doors. That place was like Fort Knox. I was scared they (the robbers) would come back .”

The couple eventually moved to a security complex in Bryanston, where developers were able to model the townhouse to suit Kobus’s needs.

Kobus, who also suffers from epilepsy, has the mental age of a four-year-old child and requires full-time care.

Jackie takes over from the caregiver, Leona Willemse, in the evenings after work.

She estimates it costs between R30 000 and R40 000 per month to take care of her husband.

Jackie considers herself lucky that she can provide for Kobus’s needs, but said: “As bad off as we are, we are lucky. Financially we survive, for as long as I sell cars we can stay here. What about people who just can’t ?”

The Van Zyls celebrated their 10 year anniversary last week with friends and family. Kobus was there for a short while.

Source:South Africa the Truth

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