One evening in April 2006 Table View’s Deon van Zyl made a decision that would change his life forever.
He was on his way to a karaoke bar in West Palm Beach, Florida, when a drunken driver shattered his dreams.
“Obviously I don’t remember what happened that night, but whenever I went to this place I either went over the bridge or under the bridge. That night I decided to go over the bridge,” says Deon.
Some 21 days later and he woke up in a hospital bed.
Deon was told he was in a motorcycle accident and that he broke his spine.
His dream of becoming a chef slowly evaporated before his eyes.
From that day on his optimistic goals were replaced by simply staying optimistic.
Full of apprehension he returned to South Africa with a string of if-only nightmares on his trail.
Deon rebuilt his life, met his wife and fathered two children, but the desire to become a chef still burned silently within. A dream he believes is still within his reach.
“My friends and family will tell you that my signature dish is my lamb shank,” laughs Deon.
TygerBurger interviewed him this weekend to hear how he manages to stay focused on the silver lining while the cloud of lifelong paralysis hangs over him.
“I want to be successful in whatever I pursue, but now my family comes first. Being able to support them and keep them happy is enough!”
He now thrives in his job in the office automation industry and doesn’t let his disability stand between him and happiness.
He originally travelled to the USA via Workaway International and in his short time there as a chef he quickly established himself as an extraordinary talent.
Were it not for that one night in 2006 when he chose to drive across the bridge and not under it, he might have pursued his dream.
But he would not have met his wife, Lee-Ann, and fathered his two beautiful, amazing children.
Deon has an infectious lust for life and is clearly a born optimist.
He may also have missed the chance to be such an inspiration to others.
Says Charlotte Quenet-Meintjes, Head of Workaway International South Africa: “I have never met anyone quite like Deon before. He is one of the most fantastic individuals and its clear that he never lets anything get him down.”
It was so unfortunate and dreadful to hear about Deon’s accident, but the way he has come out on the other side by taking everything in his stride is phenomenal, Charlotte adds.
“We wish him all the best in his future endeavours and find it absolutely heart-warming that he has not let his disability define who he is and what he can do.”
Deon spoke for a long time about his adventure in America at five star country clubs and how he eventually triumphed over unexpected challenges.
It isn’t always easy, but a positive outlook is serving him well.
Yet, sometimes, just for a moment, he wonders how things would be today if he chose to take the road leading under the bridge instead of across it that night in 2006.