The road to recovery after losing a leg: Duane van Zyl shares his story


Discovery Life member Duane van Zyl explains how his state-of-the-art leg prosthesis has helped him live life to the fullest after losing his left leg.

“You have to learn to walk all over again, but practise makes perfect.”

These are the words of Duane van Zyl (34) – husband, father, business owner and athlete – who recently shared the inspiring story of his road to recovery from an above knee amputation with Discovery.

“I lost my leg to spontaneous collapse of the main arteries to my foot during a holiday to Zanzibar,” he says. When the Van Zyls returned from holiday, his left foot was in agony and the doctors couldn’t locate a pulse. They first tried a bypass but without any success. Eventually, they had to amputate his left leg – first under the knee and then, owing to an infection, above the knee. “I lost my leg on 27 December 2016.”

“The next day after my amputation I already started searching for different prosthetic solutions,” says the young man from Pretoria. “In the beginning you don’t know what to expect. I was fitted with various prostheses which left me to wonder if I will be able to do this. I quickly found out that this is a marathon and not a quick sprint. Constant training, physically and mentally is the key to the right attitude and posture.”

Van Zyl took out life cover with Discovery at the young age of 23. “Without my life cover I would have not been able to afford my-state-of-the-art prosthesis,” he said “and I would never have been able to live my life to the fullest as I do now.”

He found the Genium X3 prosthetic knee  from Otto bock– a  waterproof microprocessor knee that enables him to run, climb stairs, swim and do so much more. “The Genium X3 made it possible for me to get back to my life in all aspects. Nothing can replace a person’s actual leg but the Genium X3 comes pretty close,” he says. “It also has an app that you can download with different settings like running, golf, cycling, cross-country skiing and brake knee for lifting heavy objects.”

But the road to recovery wasn’t always easy: “In the beginning it was a very tough challenge. I frequently had doubts on whether I would be able to be the same person I used to be. Be a husband and father to my wife and children? Go back to being able to work in construction? Would I ever be able to compete in sports again?”

His family – wife Tanya and children, Cayla and Duane – saw him through: “As time went by I started challenging myself. I have an amazing support structure from my family and friends. All of this combined with many, many prayers got me out of the black hole and into a life that I never thought is possible without my leg.”

Van Zyl explains why he took out life insurance at such a young age. “It was the best option to suit my lifestyle and future security. Also I got engaged at that time so I wanted to start a future with a family,” he says. “My life cover has made it possible to do some changes to my new lifestyle whether it was around the house or to pay off debt. Without being able to settle debt or medical accounts, the road to recovery would have been much longer and harder.”

Learn more about Duane van Zyl’s Road 2 Recovery on his YouTube channel.

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