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Update Nov 2004..

It's 4 and a bit years since that fateful day on the 19th April 2000, and a lot has happened since we last put finger to keyboard to talk about Mandy's story.

Mandy has achieved two of her long term goals (Long term planning for a TBI patient is no mean feat). The first one was, after seeing Jo in her matric farewell dress in 2000, to get to look as beautiful as Jo and attend her own matric farewell. (She was in a wheelchair at the time) This she achieved as you can see by the stunning photos attached. Here we want to add a note to Nicholas Davies. Nic when you and Mandy played together from the age of 6 months we never thought that this friendship would last into your 17th year we thank you for you love and for being a wonderful addition to our family.

Her second goal was to pass matric despite the fact that she had missed out on her school career from April 2000 - July 2001, lost her entire vocabulary and was having great difficulty concentrating for more than 10 minutes at a time. For this achievement we can not thank Jo or Dawn Le Fort enough. We await her matric results due to come out on 27 Dec 2004. Her and Jo will be going to Varsity college to study BA Ed and we look forward to this new chapter in our lives.

The reason for telling the story "Mandy's Story - An Angel returns" is both for our healing process and to share the story of never loosing hope, and most importantly to other families out there, that are groping their way in the dark through a similar experience looking for answers and advice.

Mandy is now finished her matric finals, and has maintained an above class average despite the fact that she only attended school from 08:00 to 11:00 or 12:00 most days. This still mystifies the medical fraternity and the rest of us… based on the brain scans and medical evidence Mandy should have no short term memory… but her memory retention is better than the rest of the family! She gets very tired when doing "brain work" like school and she is pretty attentive for 2-3 hours but then needs to take a break and have a sleep… the result is that she normally leaves school half way through the school day… Kloof High School have continued to be amazing and have done everything they can to accommodate Mandy and make allowances for her along with giving work to Mandy's Care Givers to take home so that she can continue learning after she has woken up from her nap. The result is that Mandy is passing all her school subjects!

Joanne Mills is back as Mandy's care giver after being away for a year and we are so happy about this because Jo is part of the family and she not only is good for Mandy but she is good for Anthea and I as well… Jo has been around Mandy since the very beginning and she has a heart of gold (and most certainly an Angel) and she knows Mandy very well and knows when to be soft and when to be stern.

This brings me to some very good advice… choose your care giver well… it's a massive part of the rehabilitation for the whole family! While it might not be too easy for families that do not have the financial means (remember that you will get back your payments from the Third Party Claim eventually and I'll cover this further on in the story) it's really critical for everyone to have a care giver that has that something special to give.

For those that know me they will know that I have never been spiritual and have always been a total sceptic of religion and things esoteric. But… so much has happened in the last four years that can't be explained that I have started to believe that there has to be more… I still have a LONG way to go but have started opening my eyes to other possibilities. For one… we didn't choose Jo… she chose us… she just arrived in our lives when we needed her… she left us when it was time to move on and she returned within 24 hours of us needing her again! Read part one of an Angel returns for the prayer at Mary's statue… I still get goose bumps when I remember this.

One thing that you will do when going through an experience like this is you will read tons of books and do a lot of research on the internet looking for definitive answers… there are no definitive answers… what has happened has just happened… these things happen… there is no why… it's not a test… it just happens… it's how you handle it and the future that is important.. Both Anthea and I have finally accepted the fact that this has happened to us and we are very grateful because it could have been much worse. Yes we still get angry with the cards that have been dealt us and yes we sometimes get depressed and yes we worry about what the future holds for Mandy (especially once we have gone) but Mandy is a very special person and brings us great joy!

Four years on our youngest daughter Kelsey has also started to accept what has happened and in the last few months I have seen a positive change in her with regards to Mandy and this has helped Anthea and I big time! I can't put my finger on the defining moment but just thinking about and putting finger to keyboard now I realise that my little baby has grown up into a wonderful mature and very capable little women at the age of 14. She has always been a sweetie but she took immense strain in the last 4 years and never underestimates the needs of the other siblings. Kesley may not realise how important her role has been but there has been many an occasion that she has stepped up to the plate to run things when Anthea and I have needed her… a big role for a 14 year old to play. "Thank you my little Baby… we wouldn't have coped without you"!

The Third Party claim… here comes some more good advice… record everything... take photos of everything... while it is very difficult to take photo's at the time please do it for two reasons… firstly you will want to look back and see how far you have progressed and the third party lawyers will want and need them. Keep a dairy and as soon as the TBI patient can write get them to keep a diary as well. Open files for all the medical and TBI related costs and start making a duplicate copy of everything for the lawyers. Write your story and update it every 3-6 months… not only is it therapeutic putting it to paper but you will forget the very difficult times (that's human nature) and important issues that the lawyers may need.

Here comes a critical tip… get a real Third Party Lawyer! Watch out for the lemons… there are a lot of lemons in this game. You are in no position to think about these issues during the first weeks and months of the trauma but FORCE yourself to do this… it could be the difference in financial stability for the future! If you are in Durban then contact Mike Friedman. If you are not in Durban contact Mike Friedman and ask him for a real lawyer in your town that he can recommend.

Getting to court will take anywhere from 3-6 years but if you have your ducks in a row with the paperwork and a real lawyer you will be able to get interim financial relief from the Third Party.

We are now in November 2004 and Xmas is about to arrive and we are off to Mauritius for two weeks in December… we have a lot to be grateful for! The Angels are with us.

Rob and Anthea!