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Paralympic ace Moller’s battle against the odds
- Updated: October 24, 2012
By Mark Etheridge
Our top equestrian competitor at the Paralympics in London earlier this year, Wendy Moller faces an uphill struggle if she is to saddle up for an international competition early next year.
Moller was responsible for Team South Africa’s best ride in London with a return of 69% in her final ride of competition. And that was despite having to contend with a badly injured left shoulder.
Since her return to South Africa the Benoni based rider has already undergone surgery to remove a lipoma from her left shoulder. That was shortly before the Paralympic team were hosted by Parliament in Cape Town.
Born with spina bifida the 40-year-old is extremely reliable on her shoulders for general every day movement, let along the intricacies of maneuvering a large horse around the dressage arena. Now she needs a second major operation to repair the damage caused by various dislocations in the last few months.
She’s dislocated the troublesome joint on no less than three occasions and remarkably, two of them came before her competition in London.
The first came while training in Belgium. “I was sitting on my hotel bed and had to fling my suitcase on to the bed, holding on with my arm not to fall over and then my left shoulder dislocated. I was alone and managed to wedge myself between the bed and the floor and used my good arm to pull my shoulder back. It popped back but was extremely painful.”
Moller then underwent physiotherapy on four separate occasions, although the actual shoulder was too painful to be worked on properly and she needed to train ahead of the Paralympics.
The next setback came the day after checking in at the Paralympic village.┬á “A few of us went down to the international zone, I went in my wheelchair and the road was downhill and when I tried to break, my wheelchair tipped back and when I tried to brace myself my left shoulder dislocated again.”
Luckily help was at hand in the form of the French team doctor who popped the shoulder back in. “Our own team doctor, Professor Wayne Derman advised me that I would have to go for surgery when I got back to South Africa and he gave me some anti-inflammatories and the team physics strapped my shoulder and gave me physio.”
But Lady Luck wasn’t done with Moller yet and on the last day of the Paralympics there was more misfortune for her. “I went to the shopping mall in my wheelchair and as I went into the lift my wheelchair tipped back again and as I braced the fall my shoulder dislocated again.”
This time the Paralympic Village Polyclinic came to her aid ÔÇô she had a sonar and MRI scan and was once again advised to have an operation.
Prof Derman put Moller in touch with a specialist at Linksfield Clinic in Gauteng. There it was confirmed by Dr Kastinos that she’d need two separate operations, one to remove the lipoma and the other to fix the damage down by the repeated dislocations.
But herein lies the rub. It took three weeks of tough negotiating before her medical aid authorised the operation to remove the lipoma, still costing Moller R2000 from her own pocket.
Now she has to take up the struggle again and attempt to get the authorisation for the second surgery. That is tentatively set down for 21 November but she’s yet to get a second green light from medical aid and already the doctor’s estimate is more than R13,000. Without authorisation she’ll be in trouble as she says she can’t afford to cover any more out of her own pocket.
And with her savings fund for the year already depleted, any rehabilitation (let alone the operation) has to be at her own expense.
She’s desperate to compete internationally in April already (the FEI3 competition in Moorsele, Belgium and then another FEI3 event in Manheim, Germany) but unless her shoulder is restored to full function (Dr Kastinos reckons the rehab can take between three and six months) that will remain but a dream for this brave 2012 Paralympian.