Nomawethu Mpuntshe’s life changed in a flash when she was involved in a horrific car crash that resulted in her entire left leg detaching from her body.
The crash happened at the end of a fun girls’ night out at a popular Gqeberha establishment. The last thing Nomawethu remembers is walking to an Uber to take her home.
She was crossing the road when a suspected drunken driver crashed into her as well as three cars. A friend of the alleged drunken driver lost his life when his head smashed through the windscreen on the passenger side of the driver’s luxury Audi A4.
Noma’s left leg was severed at the scene and she briefly recalls looking down and seeing her limb was gone. The next thing she knew she was waking up in hospital.
“I saw again that I didn’t have a leg,” she tells you.
The accident happened in 2019 and Nomawethu, then 25 years old, struggled to come to terms with losing her limb.
“I felt so broken I couldn’t even touch my stump,” she says. “I hated myself; I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. I kept wishing I’d stayed at home that day.”
Nomawethu also sustained internal injuries and was informed by doctors her chances of conceiving and carrying a baby to full term were slim.
Her bowel was damaged and she now has a stoma bag to collect waste from her body.
“I questioned my existence,” she admits. “I’d ask myself, ‘Why am I still alive?’”
Noma stayed in the hospital for five months where she underwent physio and emotionally started the journey of healing.
“I learnt how to forgive myself and the person who was responsible for my accident so I can heal and move on,” she shared.
Nomawethu says the support of her family and friends also kept her going.
“I honestly wouldn’t have done it without them, especially my mom.”
But her challenges continued. She developed pelvic issues and still has difficulty sitting for long periods. “You can imagine sitting with one bum and dealing with severe back pain, not to mention phantom pain from my missing leg,” she adds.
“But I have grown used to the pain and I’ve even stopped taking medication. I’ve accepted the situation and changed my outlook on life. I know I’m unique.
“Healing comes when you get outside of yourself. As long as I stay focused on my pain, what I’ve lost, what didn’t work out – I’m going to get stuck. I now have something to give others which is comfort, especially for those going through something similar to what I’ve been through.”
Her greatest joy was discovering she was pregnant last year. She’d met someone and fallen in love but she and her boyfriend weren’t trying to conceive – so when she discovered she was expecting it was like a miracle.
The pregnancy wasn’t easy, though. Although she usually gets around with crutches and has a prosthetic leg, in her third trimester the weight of her tummy threw her off balance and she spent the rest of her pregnancy in a wheelchair.
Eight weeks ago, Noma was blessed with a beautiful baby boy, “His name is Iminathi, which loosely translated means, ‘God is with us’,” she adds.
“My son is now my motivation because regardless of everything I went through and what doctors were saying, God trusted me enough to make me a mother.”
As a mother to a healthy baby boy, she’s grateful for her second shot at life. “I won’t waste it and I’ll forever be grateful that I was spared,” she says.
Nomawethu is a full-time stay-at-home mom for now and is enjoying every minute of it. “It’s been a beautiful and a life-changing experience for me but sometimes overwhelming, I’m still learning to be the best mom to my baby.”
The alleged drunk driver, Kelvin Zirema, appeared in court but was acquitted in December 2020.
According to reports, the charges – which included culpable homicide, driving under the influence and fleeing the scene of an accident – were dropped as a result of the absence of key witnesses.
Noma admits she didn’t go to court to testify. “For my sanity I wanted nothing to do with that case,” she said.
She hopes her experience will remind people that “setbacks are not the end of life”.
“You can bounce back from anything.”