Life on one leg

Kitso Ramono
STRUGGLING: John Douglas

Driver dodges death in horror crash… but botched op stalls future hopes

Although John Douglas can’t remember the exact date his life changed forever – it was either 27th or 28th February, 2021, his memory is a little foggy – the details of that day remain etched in his brain like a slow-motion horror movie.

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Based in Francistown and employed as a driver by Indesign & Build, a physical planning company, the 38-year-old was transporting his boss back to Ghetto after a business meeting in Kasane when disaster struck roughly 60km out of Nata.

One of the tyres on the company car he was driving exploded, sending the black BMW 318i veering out of control.

“I saw everything happen before my eyes, my boss was snoozing in the passenger’s seat,” recalls the Gulubane native, speaking to The Voice from his mother’s place in Monarch where he now resides.

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With Douglas holding on for dear life, the car swerved off the road, plunging into the long grass that lines the side of the highway.

“I had no choice but to keep going straight. I was terrified the BMW would flip over; at the speed we were going, it would’ve killed us for sure,” he remembers, speaking in hushed tones.

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Although his natural instincts screamed at him to hit the brakes, Douglas knew this would cause the car to overturn and managed to resist.

Inevitably, he lost control of the steering wheel, and the vehicle slammed into two trees with devastating force.

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And then everything went black.

“I believe I was unconscious for about ten minutes. When I awoke, I began to wonder if I was dead or not. There was vomit on my top but I didn’t want to look too closely – I was worried it might have been my brains!” remembers Douglas, who is now able to chuckle wryly at the grim flashback.

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Worried the car might go up in flames, the tall, wiry man attempted to scramble out the vehicle.

As he tried to move, an intense, agonizing pain shot through the length of his body.

“It was unbearable, unlike anything I have ever felt before! I realised my thigh bone was fractured, leaving the femur exposed. I managed to rouse my employer, who was covered in blood from a head injury he sustained during the accident.”

The duo were quickly pulled to safety by Zambian truckers who had witnessed the crash.

Fortunately, a BDF truck was passing by at the same time and transported the wounded men to Nata Clinic.

Both were referred to Nyangabgwe Hospital, where Douglas underwent surgery, with doctors inserting a metal rod to save his shattered leg.

Sadly, his nightmare was just beginning.

“The physicians in Nyangabgwe botched the operation; they butchered me. Five months after the surgery, the screws in the rod came loose and the metal started rubbing away at my bone; the pain was awful! I was transferred to Tati River Private Hospital for further treatment,” reveals Douglas.
It was too late, the damage was already done.

“It’s been two years since the accident and I’ve lost hope of recovering. I’ve been going for check-ups and nothing positive is coming from Doctors; they always tell me the bone is not healing,” he says with the air of a man who has accepted his fate.

“I lost my job after the accident because the doctors declared me incapable of driving a car. I couldn’t find another job because no one wanted to hire a cripple. I also became a burden at home because I couldn’t do some of the things for myself,” reveals the former driver, who has a vivid scar that stretches the length of his thigh – a physical reminder of both the crash and the surgery that followed.

As well as breaking Douglas’ body and nearly his spirit, the life-changing crash has also taken its toll on his family.

“I used to be the family breadwinner if my mother didn’t get a job at ‘namola leuba,’ but after the accident, everything changed and I turned into a babe, I was bathed, I was taken to the toilet.”

For the first 18 months after the accident, Douglas was confined to a tattered, old wheelchair.

Although his leg shows no signs of mending, he is at least making some sort of progress, and is now able to limp with the aid of a crutch.

He even earns a bit of money by helping out at a local mechanics, carrying spare parts and assisting with other small jobs.

It’s not much, but it is something for a man who so nearly lost it all!

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