15 March 2017 – On Sunday, 19 March, from 18:00 to 18:30, e.tv will broadcast a programme called “Wheeling and Dealing”, which focuses on Jared McIntyre, a member of the Saint Andrew’s matric class of 2002.
A top gymnast, he became a quadriplegic in 2007 after breaking two vertebrae in a diving accident, which left him unable to hold a knife and fork.
Since then he has made a huge impact on others by taking on life with zest. This has included him founding the Bloemfontein Mustangs Wheelchair Rugby Club. Last year, they became the national champions for the first time.
In 2016, the Bloemfontein Mustangs Wheelchair Rugby Club became national champions for the first time
“2016 was such an amazing year, so hectic. We did such a lot of groundwork [in making people aware of the sport]. It is so amazing to see how God took something small and everything has grown so rapidly,” McIntyre said in an interview this week.
The TV documentary, he shared, had taken many years to come to fruition. It had started through the Christian Revival Church (CRC), which he attends. The church’s senior pastor and his personal pastor used to see him every Saturday morning at Virgin Active when they worked out together, so for three or four weekends in a row they spoke about McIntyre in the church.
Then Ram Mahlohla, a producer who attended CRC, contacted him and said he wanted to film a short piece on McIntyre’s testimony. He was filmed at home and in the gym, but nothing came of that.
‘Let’s do it’
“Years passed and Ram and I kept in contact at church. During 2015, we talked about maybe going on with the project and possibly doing a documentary,” McIntyre said. “At the end of 2015, we went for coffee one day and he said ‘Let’s do it. We’re going to start now’.”
Talking every Wednesday at his home, they spent countless hours discussing the documentary. From a story about how he came to be a quadriplegic it evolved to also incorporate wheelchair rugby and the development that McIntyre’s club, Bloemfontein Mustangs, does with children. In addition, it also dealt with their work to create awareness about spinal cord injuries and the sport.
Since becoming a quadriplegic, Jared McIntyre has worked tirelessly to create awareness about the challenges that people with spinal cord injuries face
“All of the people we have shown it to, including some government departments, are really impressed with it. The Department of Social Development is on board now. We are hoping to have a meeting with the Department of Sport and Recreation soon,” McIntyre said.
The documentary is a wonderful achievement for Ram Mahlohla, he added: “e.tv, from the moment he introduced it to them, said they loved it. When he showed them the preview, he already spoke of what we have planned for the future and they are really looking forward to it.
“I am really happy for him, as an up-and-coming producer from Bloemfontein, to get this opportunity and exposure.”
Their aim now is to do a few more documentaries regarding the awareness of disabilities and the impact it has on families. Especially in the rural areas, people with spinal cord injuries have little support once they leave hospital.
Together, McIntyre and Mahlohla, with the support of government, business and rehabilitation institutions, hope to identify five to 10 people to undergo a short course on proper rehabilitation.
“While they are in rehab, we would like to get a DIY company or building company to make one or two small changes to their houses for accessibility to make their lives a little bit easier. We are also going to look at getting a company on board to assist with supplying assistance devices, like wheelchairs or whatever is needed,” McIntyre said.
The Bloemfontein Mustangs have proved to be a influence on the lives of many paraplegics
The Mustangs have developed a good relationship with the University of the Free State’s Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy Departments, which has proved a win-win situation for both, with many of the students doing community service with the club.
“They have a wonderful opportunity to learn what life is like post-spinal cord injury and post-rehabilitation, because they, as students, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, are confined to rehabilitation of stereotypical patients, who are just out of accidents. The patients don’t know their bodies and limitations and what they can do yet, whereas with the wheelchair rugby they are exposed to people who have been in this environment and have settled down into a lifestyle.
“These patients come to see people who have already started driving, who have made adaptations to their vehicles, who have years of experience. With that knowledge, they can see what is possible and what the impact of sport is. They can see how they can handle and manage situations.”
Giving others hope
McIntyre said the Mustangs also have a very good relationship with the Life Pasteur Hospital: “The occupational therapists contact us and ask if they can please bring people with spinal cord injuries to practice. That is fantastic because the patient gets the opportunity to come and meet people and talk to them and ask questions and see how we do things and learn from that.
“The impact that it has on the patients the first time they come to practice is phenomenal. The therapists contact us the next day and say ‘we cannot thank you enough for having the opportunity to bring this patient to you, because we have already seen today how much of a motivation it is to them’. Everything in their rehabilitation levels goes up.”
2017 Wheelchair Rugby season
The Mustangs recently played their first three matches of 2017 in Pretoria. They had trained hard for the contests but, with the students from UFS joining the team a little later than most, were unsure of their form. They needn’t have been as they won all three of their matches.
Against Mandeville, the team they beat to clinch the national title last year, the Mustangs had one or two hiccups, but controlled the game to emerge 51-41 winners.
Tuks were weakened by the departure of many players and were soundly beaten 55-5. Then came a match against Brits, a promoted team which included McIntyre’s sister’s fiancée and three national squad members. After falling behind by seven points after a “shocker” of a first quarter, they ran away to a 57-40 victory.
The next round of matches takes place in Stellenbosch in June. “Then we’re looking forward to July, on the 7th and 8th, when we will be playing here in Bloemfontein,” McIntyre concluded.