Hospital’s inspiring sports day for people living with disability attended by hundreds

Empowering event filled with hope and laughter a great success

Wednesday, October 25 2017

“I believe that anyone who has experienced life-changing, disabling injuries is a superhero. Being a superhero doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have magical powers, just by living each day and reaching your goals, even if it is just one little step, that makes you a superhero. You can do anything you want to do. You can dream just as big as you used to and even bigger.”

Pic:"Sandile Mbele, regional director of Netcare’s South West region, handed over trophies to all who participated in the Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital sports day."

These are the encouraging and heartening words spoken by Palesa Manaleng, a South African athlete who was involved in a cycling accident that left her paralysed from the waist down. She is one of the many former rehabilitation patients who recently participated in Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital’s annual sports day in Johannesburg for people with disabilities.

Since its inception 17 years ago, the event has become an inspiration and a beacon of hope, which celebrates the possibilities and abilities that can be attained, even after suffering a disability as a result of severe injury or illness. This year, the sports day was once again attended by hundreds of former and current patients as well as their families, friends and supporters.

“When people are disabled due to stroke, amputation, injury or illness, many of them think that they cannot continue living a full life any longer. This sports day provides the opportunity for former rehabilitation patients to meet up with new patients in order to demonstrate that you can still live an active and fulfilling life, even after sustaining a disability,” says Manaleng.

“In addition to demonstrating that many people with disabilities can live meaningful and active lives, this year’s sports day theme “Strive for progress, not perfection” conveys another important message,” explains Joe Sandows, general manager of Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital.

“To patients who sustain injuries that lead to disability, the feeling of hopelessness and fear can be overwhelming and many times, the only thing a patient wants, is to go back to being their former selves. To them this often involves the need to perfectly regain every ability they had before their disability,” says Sandows.

“Then, when this goal of perfection seems unreachable, patients tend to become extremely discouraged, often losing hope and forgetting all the progress they have made during their rehabilitation. The message we want to convey is that recovery does not mean that you have managed to perfect old abilities again, it means that you have developed new ones that will enable you to live a full and meaningful life,” he adds.

Palesa is a prime example of what this year’s theme aims to illustrate. She continues to explain how she never let her disability stop her from doing the things she loves most.
“I love to play sports. Before my accident, I used to run 10 kilometre races, I enjoyed cycling and swimming and I even did some weightlifting. So, after my accident I just kept on playing sports, because it is something that continues to make me tremendously happy.”

Some of the former and current rehabilitation patients taking part in the fun activities during this year's sports day at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital.

Palesa Manaleng, on her hand cycle, training for the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo. Palesa is one of the many former rehabilitation patients who recently participated in Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital's annual sports day for people with a disability.

“Since my accident, I have represented South Africa in two World Cups in hand cycling and wheelchair racing and I am currently training for the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo. My disability has not slowed me down at all, if anything, it has made me stronger and more motivated than ever,” she says.

In addition to the fun activities and games that patients could participate in during the sports day, the event also aimed to educate the public and break the negative stereotyping about persons living with a disability.

Lauren Paikin, practice manager at Rita Henn and Partners, the physical therapy practice situated at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital, says that this year’s event is a testament to the progress that has been made in this regard.

“Almost two decades ago when the first sports day was held, very few people attended. Now, hundreds of people ranging from small children to pensioners attend this event and it is a wonderful indication of how far physical rehabilitation has come in South Africa,” Paikin says.

“People suffering from disabilities are much more integrated and a lot more visible in the community than they were in the past and this is really what we all strive for. We want our patients to be able to go back into society with the skills to manage their lives and their disability so that they can continue to live functional and happy lives,” she adds.

Sandile Mbele, regional director of Netcare’s South West region is an avid supporter of the annual sports day and attended the event again this year, together with Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division; Noeleen Phillipson, director cancer, psychiatry and rehabilitation services at Netcare; and Peter Warrener, Group HR director at Netcare. When the day’s activities concluded, Sandile handed out trophies to all the participants.

“Every single person who took part in this event has overcome gigantic obstacles, severe pain and immense difficulty and for that, each of them deserves a trophy,” says Mbele.

“The Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital sports day is one of the most inspiring events in our region’s calendar and we look forward to hosting an even bigger event next year that will allow us to reach a larger portion of the 7,5% of South Africans who live with disability each day,” he concludes.


Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Pieter Rossouw
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:  [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]