Sheila Belcher’s chilling screams of anguish pierced the air. Her four-year-old son, who was riding on his plastic motorbike just moments before, was now drifting motionless near the bottom of the pool.

Sheila’s screams continued while her daughter pulled out the cold blue body of Ruan, and she continued screaming while her husband, Herman, administered CPR.

Ten years ago on Easter Monday, Ruan was miraculously revived after he fell into their pool.

He did, however, suffer significant brain damage that day and the Belchers have ever since been grappling with guilt, regret, lack of finance and other people’s ignorance.

TygerBurger spoke to Sheila (52) and Herman (57) from Edgemead to hear how they have been coping during the past decade.

The day their lives changed still lingers in their subconscious and haunts their dreams.

“I just screamed when I saw Ruan in the pool. I screamed so loud I couldn’t even talk for two weeks,” says Sheila.

Herman continues: “If I saw somebody fall down in the road, then CPR would be easier, but on your own child… At that point in time everything just comes to a standstill. You go into slow-motion… Eventually, my sister-in-law took over.”

Sheila vividly remembers Herman’s sister-in-law – an ex-nurse – looking at her on two occasions and just shaking her head.

Every second lasted an eternity.

One second Ruan was “dead”, then he had a heartbeat again, then the ambulance arrived, and then the Belcher family agitated for an update while they waited at Netcare N1 City Hospital.

Finally a doctor called them into another room and told them that Ruan was stabilised, but that he probably suffered brain damage.

Ruan was in a coma for several days and the brain scans did indeed reveal significant damage.

The Belchers heard that their son would probably be blind for the rest of his life and would never be able to communicate again.

A few weeks before he was running around like a mischievous four-year-old and now Ruan had cerebral palsy.

When the blind boy came out of the hospital he was as “stiff as a plank”, but a few months later he regained his sight and loosened up.

At first he couldn’t swallow food, but infinite determination and patience by his parents reaped rewards later in his life.

Today Ruan can swallow, move a little better, communicate through gestures and react to a woman’s shapely legs.

He laughs when he watches Top Gear and cries at the end of Free Willy.

In many ways he is just a normal boy, stuck in a frustratingly unresponsive body.

“No child is unteachable,” emphasises the adamant Sheila.

She has taken up the fight to provide a better life for Ruan, and she is convinced that new technology on the market could be just what Ruan needs to learn and communicate better.

It is called the iControl, a communications platform that requires only eye movement.

If Ruan could somehow get one of these expensive platforms, then he would be able to tell his parents a great variety of things without using stop-start gestures.

With training he could even switch on the lights or even the television.

It costs R160 000, but the Belchers do not let this stand in their way.

They would approach the whole of South Africa if they needed to.

Caring for Ruan has become their life.

“Sheila and I get two nights a month to go for dinner or something. Sue van der Linde from the charity, Iris House, comes over completely free of charge and looks after Ruan,” concludes Herman.

Iris House will be donating R5 000 to the iControl Tobii 2 for Ruan and challenges anyone else to match that.

The Belchers will need everyone who sympathises with their plight to pull together and help them afford the iControl.

Contact Sheila on 021 558 9871 and go to to read more about the benefits of the iControl.