Have you ever had a near-death experience? How did you feel afterward? Did it change your perspective on life? Did it make you kinder? Or did it make you want to live each day to the fullest?
Longevity LIVE created Wellness Wednesdays. It is a weekly Instagram interview at 19h00 SAST hosted by the founder of the World of Longevity, Gisèle Wertheim Aymés. Joined by a different expert each week on @longevity_live. Gisèle and her guests will help you take baby steps with facts and points. The series reminds you to take care of your health. It also reminds you that tomorrow is not promised and that you should live life to the fullest.
Kelvin van Baalen: Live Life To The Fullest
On a June afternoon in 2018, Kelvin van Baalen went paragliding. Unfortunately, he missed a power line, and he was flung from the sky. He hit an electric pylon, which immediately electrocuted him, before hitting the ground. However, the horror didn’t stop there. Having been electrocuted, his body set light to the surrounding grass, and he immediately started burning. Yet somehow, depsite the shock, Kelvin managed to scramble his thoughts together and found enough strength to climb up a tree. This is where his father and the rescue team found him, before rushing him to ICU.
Kelvin had 62% burns in and outside his body and from that point, he’s had 33 operations, spent 413 days in the hospital, and been resuscitated 9 times. The fact of the matter is that Kelvin is a walking miracle, a blessing during these uncertain and traumatic times.
It’s hard to take an optimistic approach in life when you’re dealing with a pandemic on one side, and the realities of an unjust and unequal society on the other. However, it’s also hard to think positively when you’ve been electrocuted after falling from the sky – yet somehow Kelvin did it.
Growing up, Kelvin always adopted an optimistic approach, and this mentality came in handy during his road to recovery.
“The most frequent question asked is, “Did you think you were going to die?” and I never had one negative thought ever,” he says, “Even a year down the line, not being able to walk and being on a ventilator., I still thought ‘it’s going to be okay. I’m going to get out, and I’m going to learn how to walk again”.
Kelvin adds that even when he started rehab and realized the true extent of his serious injuries, he still maintained a positive mindset. He believed that he was going to get better, he was going to walk again, and he was going to fly again.
“If someone says I can’t do it, I’m going to show them that I can”
Burn victims matter
Now, while Kelvin is an optimist, it would be naive to think that he doesn’t have his off days. After all, burns are such an under-discussed subject, despite the high amounts of burn cases hospitals face in South Africa on a day-to-day basis. People really should be more educated about fire hazards and burn victims. Doing so will help teach the public how to be more sympathetic towards burn victims.
“When I came out of ICU, I was in a wheelchair, going to rehab, and I had to keep my head shaved so there I was – 6 ft 4, weighing 60 kg and I shaved a mullet, yet I didn’t care about the constant stares and attention” explains Kelvin, who credits growing up in a strong household helping him to realize that other people’s opinions were invalid.
A humbling experience
If you ask Kelvin what his biggest struggle was, it definitely has to be the loss of independence. He’s now become dependent on others for a number of things,
“The never-ending struggle of constantly needing assistance with the smallest or simplest things, such as filling medication forms or medical operation forms, really gets to me,” he says. However, in times like these, he encourages himself to shift his mindset and stay positive as he firmly believes that he will get better.
The bottom line
“How often are we grateful for just walking around? Not once in my twenty-one years before my accident did I ever think I’d be grateful to be able to walk, let alone be grateful for the food on my plate” shares Kelvin, who also mentions that he witnessed hospital patients who spent almost 200 days or more in hospital, yet they only received 2 or 3 visits throughout that time. This heartbreaking reality made Kelvin even more thankful for his family,
“I would definitely not have survived my accident if it had not been for my support system.”
WATCH THE INTERVIEW
The video interview with Kelvin van Baalen contains the entire dialogue of this interview, and you can watch it below.
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