Get up and go!

The Daantjie Pietersen story is different from what I expected. It is not the story of a dying man. It is not a story of despair and hopelessness. It is an inspiration to everyone who dares to look ahead and, in the distance, see a future.

Tuesday, 19th June 2012. Daantjie went to work as usual.  He was in a hurry to finish all the work in time, because at the end of the week, his annual leave would start and he did not want anything left undone.  Friday, when he would leave his workplace at the waterworks, everything must be in place.

By 15h15 he was ready to start the water pumps to extinguish the controlled fires on Helshoogte.  As he turned around to walk back to the bakkie, he felt dizzy, stepped into a hole in the ground, but made it to the bakkie. The dizziness became worse, the bakkie started rolling downhill and ended against a pole next to the road.  Crying out to the Lord for help, he managed to summon help over the walky-talky.  Just in time, because the next moment he passed out.

An ambulance took him to hospital where he collapsed and was admitted.

“On eagle’s wings I am going to get out of this hospital,” he told himself. He stayed for three days and was released. Not the best start to a vacation, but since he felt better, everything was fine. For three days. Back to the doctor with throbbing headache, he was given a death sentence.  High blood pressure caused a stroke and the doctor made it clear there was no hope. He was expected to die, soon. With treatment for the high blood pressure he was sent home to await his lot.  But dying was not on Daantjie’s agenda. Not yet.

Daantjie was bedridden. His daughters went over to help with his physical care. After three weeks, his dear wife told him, ‘enough is enough.’  She helped him out of bed.  Baby steps, little by little he started walking, leaning against the wall, down the passage and eventually reaching the bathroom. This was the stage where Hospice stepped in, unaware of the progress he had already made. A caregiver was sent daily to see to his needs. But by now, he had less need of physical care, so it was more a matter of counselling and emotional assistance that was provided. This was very helpful, because he cried often, shedding streams of tears.

They also provided a wheelchair, which contributed to his mobility and improved his independence.  During a visit to the physio-therapist, he was offered help to get out of the wheelchair, which he refused.

“Just give me those crutches,” he said.  Sceptically, the therapist handed him a crutch.  With difficulty, but all on his own, he managed to get out of the wheelchair.  Soon he was walking on his own, – not without a limp, – but walking independently nonetheless. After two months, the wheelchair was given back and Daantjie Pietersen was permanently back on his feet.

Leaning on a stick, he started walking. Everywhere he needed to go, he walked, dragging one leg and thanking God for grace in abundance.  He walked to the shops; he walked to the clinic; he walked uphill on Helshoogte. Then one day he walked to the traffic department with a letter in his pocket. Approving the request in the letter, he was now given permission to drive his car again. Daantjie Pietersen had come full circle, except for the weak leg.

Six months after Hospice got involved, care became redundant and was terminated. He had no need for it anymore. Hospice, however, was not finished with Daantjie. They needed him now. A caregiver would pick him up at his house and drive him to the wards or to a patient at home, for encouragement.  He delivered talks to show people in despair, that there is always hope.

“Never give up, fight back and don’t just sit down, waiting to die.  And never accept a diagnosis that condemns. Get up and go! There is a life out there that needs to be lived.”

Daantjie was now concerned about his future and his financial predicament. Unable to earn a living he did not know how he could provide for his family.  Mr. T T Ferreira, his former employer of the farm Tokara, collected him one day and took him to his house. Daantjie mentioned to Mr Ferreira his concern and asked him if there was anything he might be able to do so that he could earn a living. To which Mr Ferreira replied reassuringly. Daantjie needed to relax, take it easy and not worry about work or money.  His salary would be available like every month as if he was employed. Nothing had changed except that he would not work. Stress in the workplace might cause another stroke.

Relieved about his finances, he was still not content. He needed to do something. Sitting still was not in his nature. Every day he asked the Lord what was next.  What could he do with his day.  What could he do to spend his time fruitfully. Since he was thirteen years old, he worked to help provide for his siblings.  They all lived with their grandparents, he, his three brothers and one sister, after both their parents took off, never to be seen again.  Half way through his fifth grade, Daantjie dropped out of school to help his gran to support the children. Never since that day there was a time he did not work, not only earning a living, but received training and attended courses to improve his skills. How can he now just sit and watch the sun coming up and going down?

Then one day last year, he got a call from Mr Ferreira. He had a job for Daantjie if he was interested. Low physical requirements and low stress, but at least it was something to do.  He was in tears as he told Mr Ferreira ”Yes!  Thank you, I’ll take the job”. Daantjie is now the caretaker at Idas Mews and runs the place as smoothly as can be expected of a man who had always done his very best at whatever he put his hand to. The books are balancing, because Daantjie finds the best prices for services, parts and supplies. Everything is in working order or immediately attended to.

By the grace of God Daantjie stood up out of his situation, not willing to give in to negative predictions, but grabbed the positive and made the very best of the life that was given him.  A man, not to lie down, but, by faith, to get up and go.