Adapting to life after an accident as a disabled person has its challenges. It is important to surround yourself with people who love you and allow them to help you.

“I have learnt and I am still learning the art of delegating the job I very much enjoyed.”

In September 2005 Joy Dufield had an accident while competing in an adventure race course; a very long endurance event which involved cycling in the Bush, paddling down the river, running long kilometres along the beach and abseiling down a mountain.

Having worked as a beauty therapist for 20 years and venturing into opening her own training facility to teach people who want to become beauty therapists, Joy Dufield’s disability became a challenge in having to teach the practical field of beauty therapy. She could no longer go back to full-time lecturing.

Joy Dufield recalls that on the eve of her accident, while lying on the ground, “I felt a tingling sensation all over my body and was unable to move. I had dislocated my elbow and broken 8 ribs. The worst pain I felt was when I landed on my head and shattered my vertebrae in my neck, which in turn damaged my spinal cord”, Joy Dufield said.

She spent a month in the intensive care unit (ICU) on a ventilator and a further 5 months in Aurora Rehabilitation centre in Port Elizabeth. “It was here that I learnt the true meaning of the word quadriplegias and dealt with the realities that my spinal cord could no longer send information from my brain to the rest of my body.”

With a history of low blood pressure, after the accident, Joy Dufield was unable to control her body temperature, feel the difference between hot and cold on her skin and feel pain. She says that the worst lifestyle changes was lack of bowel and bladder control and being unable to move her body, arms or legs. Joy Dufield laments that prior to her accident she had been contemplating a trip to climb Kilimanjaro, after realising that this would not happen because of her injuries, she decided to make her rehabilitation her psychological mountain.

“After having speech therapy coupled with physiotherapy and occupational therapy twice a day – I was eventually ready to go home and continue climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at home in East London.” Joy Dufield continued by saying “the reality of adapting to life was more difficult than I had ever anticipated. By this time I had already decided to accept my condition and adapt to positive thinking by appreciating what I had in comparison to others.” She invested in a motorised chair to enable her to get around as independently as possible.

Joy Dufield recalls how soon after arriving home, she encouraged her husband, Warren, to leave and get a better life. She felt as though she could not be a wife because of her physical disability and would not be able to run the day-to-day errands of her home. “I felt a burden on my shoulders and felt alone. My dignity was gone and I felt embarrassed, even though I was surrounded by people who loved and supported me.”

“Fortunately I’ve been blessed with a very committed husband who convinced me that this accident did not happen to me, but happened to us. I have learnt to include my close friends and family in my life without giving them the responsibility of caring for me full-time.” Joy Dufield took the step to get support from caregivers to take care of her daily. She notes that to care for the necessities of showering, going to the toilet as well as eating and dressing can take up to three hours; before being transferred into a motorised chair to get to work. Her husband takes care of her evening routine by undressing and transferring her to bed and turning her during the night to avoid pressure sores.

As a professional beauty therapist, Joy Dufield has “learnt and I is still learning the art of delegating the job I very much enjoyed.” Nowadays she spends more time focusing on the general running of the business. “I feel a great sense of pride from seeing our staff as well as students of the Academy do an outstanding job”, she said.

With the help of her husband, who joined in running the business, the business grew into an International Beauty Academy. As a finalist in the Entrepreneur category, in the Business Woman of the Year award, Joy Dufield concluded that she has “been acknowledged as a successful woman.”

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