Meet Petra Burger : HPCA’s Disability Co-ordinator

Petra is a true inspiration and motivation to those of all walks of life and is a true example of a woman with courage, strength, determination and a will power which has allowed her to always have a positive outlook on life even when it seemed like the toughest thing to do.This is her story. 

Petra at the age of 24 was a young and ambitious woman who was studying to be a social worker. At this very young age, she experienced a terrible motor vehicle accident which left her paralyzed from the waist down. To make the situation more heart breaking, it was on her wedding day while driving to church.

Petra however does not dwell on that factor much because for her personally she’s feels it was ‘divine intervention.’  In the car with her was her father, who broke his collar bone and the driver left with a few injuries. All survived the accident, however Petra was left the worst off.

Petra’s whole spine was completely twisted in the accident. Once the accident had occurred, she was knocked out and in a coma for 21 days when she then eventually woke up in ICU. She recalls waking up and seeing her mother standing in front of her. She then asked her mother “When is the wedding?” Her mother had a real sense of humour and in light of the current situation they had a laugh about what Petra asked when her mother responded – “Dammit Petra, you missed it!”

Petra then recalls having a laugh about that and then falling asleep. When she woke up a couple of hours later, the man she was going to marry before the accident stood at her bedside. Petra with confusion in her eyes, looked at the man and at that moment he responded to her by saying, “Sorry Petra, but we cannot get married. I cannot marry a disabled woman.”

This was the first time Petra heard she was permantly disabled. After she heard that, her body went into shock and unfortunately she went back into a coma for another two weeks. Petra explains that she feels it was her body’s way of protecting her of what she had just heard now. After the two weeks she came out of the coma and her journey as a disabled woman began.

Petra’s recovery

The road to recovery she admits was a tough one. She was in hospital for two years and all in all she went through 26 operations for her spine. She was very thankful for the wonderful supportive groups at the hospital. After the two years she was charged from hospital and the journey for work as a disabled woman began.

For a good 4, 5 years she struggled finding work. Luckily, she had very supportive parents who gave her so much love and support and she admits she does not want to know what she would have done without them. Petra had experience in the social work aspect of things, finding a job in it however was difficult, and even more challenging now that she was disabled.

She then decided to look for a job in the disability sector, which she managed to acquire successfully, so in 2003 she was employed by the disability organisation where her main role was fund raising.

Petra’s new positive journey forward

In the same year that Petra found a job, she also managed to find love again as well. She got married, and everything went through this time as planned! She admits it was an extremely tense day for her and it brought back a lot of memories and emotions of when she was supposed to get married 20 years ago before the accident happened.

Petra, a strong believer in being positive, managed to change her life for the better, she even managed to get the courage and enthusiasm to enrol to do her MBA – Business administration which she successfully completed and can now boast having a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

Petra’s vision for HPCA – Disability

When Petra received an email about the post being advertised at HPCA, she knew it was for, she ticked all the boxes it required and she just knew this is what she wanted to do. She came for the interview and openly admitted that it did not go as she imagined it to go, however she remained positive.

She then received the call and was overwhelmed with joy to hear she got the job!

Petra states she has big plans for HPCA and its disability project. Petra wants to create much more awareness around the 12% of people with disability, and that she wants to create better inclusion for them, access to services and better employment rate for people living with disabilities.

Petra burger is a woman one must sit back and admire, through all the challenges life has thrown at her, she has been able to get right back up with a smile on her face, and courage in her eyes and vision in heart for what she believes.

If you would like to find out more about the Disability project email Petra –

“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” – Stephen Hawking