Man on top of mountain. Conceptual scene.

AJ Swanepoel was a fit, strong personal trainer who maintained an extremely healthy lifestyle… at the age of 33, he suffered an unexpected severe brain Aneurysm which changed his life completely.

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He was visiting family, in a small town, on a weekend away for his High School reunion.

AJ was busy training late in the evening when he felt sever weakness in the left side of his body… he collapsed & was suddenly unable to move.

He used the last dialled option on his phone to call his spouse but couldn’t talk… he slowly dragged himself to where his sister was sleeping to try get help.

“We were married for 5 months when the aneurysm happened.  I managed to phone him because he was last on received calls list but I couldn’t also not speak. When my sister saw me she got a fright. She froze and didn’t know what to do – this happens to many people. I gave my phone to her to speak to my husband. He then asked her what was going, when he realised I was in serious trouble he asked my sister to phone my Mom and they tried to get somebody to come and help me ASAP. My brother in law came and I was loaded into the car.”

The closest hospital was over 50km away… the drive was incredibly painful for AJ & heart breaking for his family as they didn’t understand what was happening. The evening didn’t get any easier as they were told that the small hospital couldn’t assist once they had arrived.

A transfer via ambulance was arranged to take him to a bigger hospital over 3 hours away.

By this time, AJ had been suffering for over 6 hours. Normally the first hour is the most crucial to get medical attention, this is the most critical point to assist in rehabilitation.

On diagnosis… the doctors believed that AJ would never be able to walk or talk again. They said that he would face severe mental impairment.

After months of rehabilitation & therapy, on a long road to recovery… he is able to eat, talk and walk again. To this day, he is still working hard to improve as much as possible.

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“Our lives were turned upside down. It didn’t just happen to me, but it affected everybody in my life – my family, spouse and friends. Even strangers whom we just met, as it not a common thing they deal with every day.”

AJ has made it his life mission to spread awareness about brain injuries & how quickly they can happen.

“We as experienced brain injured people must make it our duty to spread awareness.  We have to be ambassadors. Because we are a support system that is very important.  I actually think that children should be educated regarding this topic from a young age. This will make them feel more comfortable around people with brain injury and really any disabled person. By just explaining to them in simple terms why we walk and talk and maybe behave funny.”

A brain injury can happen at any age no matter how healthy you might consider yourself to be. Quick treatment means less brain damage. Eating healthy foods that feeds the brain is also very important. This includes things like avo, fish rich in Omega 3 oils, nuts, low fat dairy products, beans, wholegrain foods, and food high in fibre, lean skinless meat, fruit and veg.

Also, always remember the word FAST when trying to spot a stroke or aneurism… look out for Face Drooping and Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and then you know it is Time to call Emergency Services.

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“I consider myself to be a survivor. I haven’t let this slow me down in what I still want to achieve in my life. I believe that I am still here because my journey on earth is not done. And that the Lord, God empowered me with another special gift which I intend to explore as much as possible.”

“God didn’t take my abilities away, He just gave me even more extraordinary abilities to share with the world.”

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Brent Lindeque
About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and man in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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