logo.gif spacer.gif

The TBI Chatroom
and Homepage

chatroom menu message boards member pages tbi info misc. pages home
Sylvia Di Cillio

My life changed entirely on 25 March 1995, but let me tell you a little about my life prior to that, near fatal, car accident, which changed my entire life in a matter of seconds.

I qualified as a Quantity Surveyor in 1990 and received the "Gold medal" award as the top QS student in my country (South Africa) for that year. I got married to the man of my dreams, but no-one else's cup of tea, in October 1993. I was a very busy lady, because I worked from 7H30 to 16h30 every day, lectured part time at the University of Pretoria once a week, in one of the subjects I had studied, attended aerobics classes or gymnasium training sessions with weights about 5 times per week, played tennis twice a week, bought groceries, washed washing, cooked dinner each evening for myself and my husband and I generally tried to be as good a career woman/wife as I could. You can just imagine how devastated I was to discover that this man, whom I was so much in love with that I had basically sacrificed my family for, had been sleeping around with other women, almost from day one of our marriage. My sister in law mentioned this fact to my mom, with the words "surely Sylvia must have known that he has been sleeping around behind her back for absolute ages", when my mom phoned her - an interior decorator - to get a price for the curtains that were hanging in our home, seeing as everything had to be split in half at the time of our divorce, because we had been married in community of property. How did all this happen ?

My husband used to play golf on a Saturday afternoon and I used to attend a sewing lesson. On Saturday 25 March 1995 it was raining 'cats and dogs' and my husband 'suggested' that I cancel my sewing class and we go to a fancy shopping centre in Johannesburg - a city about an hour's drive from our home - together, seeing as he couldn't play golf, due to the rain.

Apparently - I don't remember that entire day - we went shopping in the centre, had lunch, and on our way back home, our car aquaplaned on the wet road, and we hit a large concrete pylon on the side of the freeway. He never wore a seat belt, so he flew right out of the driver's window, and cut his right arm quite badly. I always wore a seat belt, but hit my head against something on the left hand side, and dislocated my right elbow. I was unconscious and was not breathing, but luckily a man with a cell phone stopped and called the paramedics. They got me breathing again, but I remained in a coma for three weeks. I was on a catheter, while in the intensive care unit of the hospital, for a period of a month. When I went home, I wet my bed, like a two year old, couldn't remember names, didn't know how to make tea, cook or anything like that, was not at all interested in sexual intercourse, closed one eye, so that I could see more clearly, since I had a blank spot on the right hand side of both eyes (seeing as I was hit on the left hand side of my head). My mom re-taught me how to cook, clean, dress etc and re-taught me common courtesies, which used to come about naturally through the practice of tact, which I no longer seemed to possess. My mom and dad also drove me around in my car, seeing as my husband had written off his car in the accident, and I was not permitted to drive, seeing as I had one epileptic fit a couple of months after the accident. My husband stuck around for six months to try to help me to recover, and then he began to talk to me about his wish to go overseas. When I mentioned this to my mom, she immediately wished to know what would happen to me if he left for overseas. My dad went to speak to a lawyer friend of his, who sent my husband a letter, telling him that if he is merely going overseas for a holiday, that's fine, but if he is considering going for longer, he must make provision for someone to take care of his wife, while he's gone. Upon receiving the lawyer's letter, he instantly refused to send the worker from the garage business, run by his mom, at which he worked as a manager, to give me a lift home from the work he had arranged for me. I said "fine" and phoned my Mom as soon as I had put the phone down. I wouldn't give my mom much detail other than that I had no lift today, or any other day. My Mom arrived at 12h30 and took me to my house. She instructed me to pack a suitcase, took me to her house, and said that she could cart me around but not from my house in Garsfontein, but from her house, which happened to be down the road from the husband's garage workplace. Living with my parents solved my transport problem and fulfilled the legal requirement for divorce, namely that you have to be separated for at least three months, in order to get divorced. We were divorced in a fairly short court procedure on 6 October 1997. I then continued to live with my parents for about 2 years, because I was unable to cope on my own. My Mom then began looking for a flat for me, since I was arguing and fighting with my dad, like I did when I was a teenager, and she couldn't stand going through that all over again. She eventually found a flat that I was willing to live in, which was on the ground floor - not up in the sky somewhere - had a patio, around which I could have a bit of a garden, had a swimming pool in the complex, so that I could have somewhere to cool off after lying in the sun - my ex-husband's house had a pool - and it was close to all the places I went to regularly, like the gymnasium, my hairdresser and a very large shopping centre, that had movie theatres restaurants and a whole myriad of shops. I had become as difficult as I had been as a teenager, if not more difficult. It was no wonder that my mom wanted me out of her house, so that she could have some peace and quiet, like she had when I was married and living far away. Half of the furniture that had been in my house had been stored in my parent's garage up until now, and now this was moved to my flat. My ex had sold our house and thus I was able to put down a deposit on the flat and furnish it with the furniture that had been in our home. I only had to buy a couple of things, since I had most to furnish a flat, that was much smaller than our home had been, and since my mom had been clever in choosing which items of furniture I should demand from my lawyer, who of course demanded same from the ex's lawyer. When I moved into my flat it was the very first time in my life that I had ever lived alone, since I had move straight out of my parents' home into my ex's home, without ever living alone in a flat. At first, I used to spend every weekend with the folks and phoned my mom very often. My grandmother's old age home is also right next to my flat complex, and often my mom would come and pick me up to take me to their home, because I was constantly complaining about my boredom and loneliness. All my lady friends were married and most were having their first or second babies, and I was totally anti men, in general, at that stage. I didn't trust any man further than I could see him. I began to work very hard at being allowed to drive again, since my neurologist seemed to think that I was fine to drive, but the Provincial Administration of the province I lived in - Gauteng - said "no way." I told them telephonically what my neurologist had said , and they said that specific neurologist had actually been largely responsible for the ruling that was applied strictly in our country - South Africa - that after even one epileptic fit a person has to be 'fit free' for at least 5 years before they are allowed to drive a motor vehicle. According to this rule I had another 3 years to wait before I would be allowed to drive. After phoning my neurologist to explain the situation to him, he told me to leave it to him, which I gladly did. He then went to a lot of trouble to do research in countries like America and England about how epilepsy is handled in those countries. He then compiled a report, which I posted to the Gautteng Provincial Administration, who, after many phone calls and some pleading gave me written permission to drive. That did a tremendous amount to help me to become a little more independent and get a little bit of self confidence back. I did, of course need to get used to driving in traffic again, and to learn routes again. I still had a problem, which a psychologist I was seeing called the swinging pendulum syndrome, namely that one minute everything would be absolutely wonderful and the next minute things would be quite the reverse, with me being so depressed that I didn't wish to get out of bed in the mornings, and refused to wear anything except T-shirts and tracksuit pants. I put on 18 kg, which pushed up my weight from 53 kg to close to 70 kg and pushed up my clothing size from an 8 to a 12. I am very short and I became quite obese. Later, when I realised what I looked like, I had to go on a very strict diet for 4 months, to lose all that weight. Now the weight is gone, I am studying Accountancy correspondence, to try to qualify myself for a new career, but have basically given up on the idea of a husband and children. I feel that I had the chance , but messed up by marrying the wrong guy. Now I can dream about giving my mom a grandchild, but it remains a dream, since having babies is the wrong reason to get married. Right now I am concentrating on studying towards a diploma in Accountancy, so that I can do small companies' books for them at home, on my PC. The pendulum syndrome still causes me problems, since I recently recovered from my depression so well that I went into a reverse state of 'hypermania' for which my psychiatrist has prescribed totally different medication. All these tablets are expensive, but at least they are keeping me from being committed to a mental hospital. I am lucky enough to have inherited a tremendous amount of resilience from my grandmother, so I will never give up, but will keep fighting this TBI thing until the very end. I am hoping to keep improving so that I can be classed pretty normal. Seeing as I have no physical injuries, most people that meet me are totally unaware that I have any problems. When they get to know me better they realise that this lady has more problems than their effort is worth. My dad once told me that when life hands you a lemon you should try to make some lemonade, and that is exactly what I am doing. I'm trying to make the best of my situation and keep hoping that one day I might get a few strawberries instead of a constant supply of totally unneeded lemons.

Email Sylvia