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When life sucks a little

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

The last week I’ve been having to squeeze that lemon very hard, to get a bit of lemonade out of it. It’s been very tough and emotionally draining.

Let me start from the beginning.

Saturday, 27th of July, Lance and Steve went on game drive with 4 other guests. They left at 4 and were due back around 7. Just before heading back to the lodge for dinner they spotted a leopard and decided to go after it. They drove up to a steep bank and a little voice in Steve’s head told him to get the guests out of the vehicle, in case something would happen. And something happened indeed…

While maneuvering the car down the hill it slipped on a large log. It rolled completely over Steve and eventually landed up on its wheels again. Lance said he will never forget the look on Steve’s face: pure panic! It all happened within seconds and Lance was the first by Steve’s side, who was out cold for a couple seconds and pinned under the vehicle. When he opened his eyes he was in complete shock and somehow managed to get his legs from under the vehicle. Luckily one of our guests is a doctor and was able to assist. Another lodge was contacted and rang Nicole with the news that there had been an accident and Africa Safe-T was on its way. The only thing we knew was that the vehicle had rolled, but not who was inside of it, who wasn’t, how many people were injured (or worse!). The only thing we were certain about was that there had to be at least someone injured, or Africa Safe-T wouldn’t come out to rescue. Both of us were in tears and completely shocked. Was Steve driving, had Lance been sitting on the trackers seat, were the guests in the car? Thoughts were running through my head, while I tried to stay calm and be there for Nicole. The wait for another phone call or message from anyone was agonizing. We sat in silence by the radio in the other Landrover, hoping to pick up a signal, but nothing came. Eventually the phone rang again, with the news that only Steve had been driving and everyone else was fine. I felt relieved to hear that Lance and our poor guests were ok, but very worried about the news that Steve was injured. Plus we still didn’t know how bad of a state he was in. Nicole went to see him and I was left behind. Soon after, I was overcome by emotion and tears were rolling down my face. This had been one of the scariest moments of my life. Not knowing what had happened and if people were injured, or even dead. Five days ago, when I had started my new job, I never expected to be running the lodge by myself so soon.

An hour or so later Lance and 3 out of 4 guests arrived back at the lodge. Clare, the guest who is a doctor, stayed behind to look after Steve. It took a long time for the “ambulance” (a car with the back seats taken out, to barely fit a stretcher in) to arrive and when it did there was only one paramedic, who seemed barely qualified to help out and had no painkillers with her. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, she now needed someone with a PDP, Public Drivers Permit, to drive the car to the hospital, because she needed to be in the back with Steve!

Back at the lodge, seeing Lance, I could tell he was in shock. He couldn’t talk, had tears in his eyes and seemed completely stunned. I walked him to our room and really just wanted to be there with him, but we had 6 guests to look after and they were starving, so I left him to have a shower and got back to everyone else and served dinner. Bert, a 72 year old Dutch man, who has been living in South Africa, since the age of 11 and works as a guide at the lodge next door, was very nice to see if he could do anything to help and stayed around for a while. Everyone went to bed after dinner, although it was difficult for most of us to fall asleep after tonight’s drama.

The next morning I was up at 6 with Lance to get everything ready for the morning drive. Bert was so very kind to take our guests, who were obviously still shaken, but ready to get back in the saddle. I talked to Nicole, who told me the full extent of Steve’s injuries: both shoulder blades were broken, his humerus (bone in his upper left arm), his sternum and many ribs. It was such a relief to hear that it wasn’t anything internal or head, neck or spinal related. I can’t imagine the pain he must have been in. Nicole told me they had finally arrived at the hospital at 4AM, 9 hours after the accident!! They had put a cast on his arm and shoulder, but eventually had surgery, where they put a pin in his arm. He was kept in ICU, to monitor his lungs, for 4 days and eventually was able to go home to recover only one week later.

The day after was one heck of a day. I worked for 17 hours and was absolutely exhausted. I was given orders by Nicole over the phone and managed to not burn the place down or poison people. Everything went very well, although I couldn’t have done it without the staff and our most amazing guests, who were just incredible!

In a way having been thrown into the deep end hasn’t been all bad. I’ve had to learn very quickly and it’s made me realize that I really can handle anything. It was a rough couple days and soon after got worse when I received news from home that my sisters boyfriend, who is like a brother and best friend to me, has cancer. After staying strong for the last couple days, this really was the drop. I was shaking, hyperventilating and my whole body tingled. I was an absolute mess and couldn’t believe what I had just heard. The rest of the day I felt numb and functioned on auto pilot. My face was swollen from all the crying and I felt emotionally exhausted.

It really doesn’t seem fair to be tested like this in life, especially not in such a short period of time, but I do believe everything happens for a reason, and I’m sure it was meant to make me stronger and realize how much support I have back at home. The kind words from all of you were amazing and made me feel very loved. So thank you so much 🙂

Earlier this week our boss, Nicole, had made an appointment for both of us to see a counselor, to talk everything through, which I was really impressed with. It was a very good experience and things are looking up for everyone. Steve is back home, recovering, Lance is doing all the game drives and hasn’t got lost yet (plus, he’s had some incredible viewings: Lions, elephants, giraffe, zebra, hippo, leopard cubs and even a cheetah!), Nicole is working hard at the lodge, while looking after Steve, I’m helping out wherever I can and still doing very long days and best of all, Dan has had surgery to remove the cancer and the results showed it hadn’t spread and he’s clear! We couldn’t be happier to hear this amazing news!

I guess sometimes life needs to get a little tough to wake you up and realize how incredibly lucky we are. So, again, a big thank you for all the kind words and I apologize for the long post. Here’s some photos 🙂

Windscreen cracked and broken off, some of the roll bars on the side are bend, the dent on the side is from Steve’s body, passenger seat fallen apart, bonnet is bent and stuck, while diesel leaks from the engine.

Going for a drive with Ngwedi and Lance

Awkward selfies from the trackers seat

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