Kershan Naidoo, a 35 year old pilot, was admitted to a hospital in the Umhlanga area on 4 January 2017 to undergo a straight-forward procedure to fix his broken arm. While in theatre and after anaesthetic had been administered to him, his brain was starved of oxygen for approximately 12 minutes. Kershan remained in a semi-vegetative state for months; the prognosis did not look good as doctors could not say, if, or when he would wake up and what his neurological condition would be like. Yet his story is one of faith, hope and courage in facing one of the most difficult battles any person would ever have to. Here is Kershan’s story. It was always Kershan’s dream to become a commercial pilot and he has spent years working towards obtaining his qualifications and ratings. Kershan surpassed expectations and in addition to being a pilot, he was also a much loved flight instructor who has trained students to become pilots at both Virginia Air School in Durban and at Superior Flight Academy in Johannesburg. Kershan was based in Mali and one of the most amazing aspects of Kershan’s career is that he was serving humanity through his work in Africa. He was involved with the United Nations in flying their Peace-Keeping Forces throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. He also flew the National Geographic team in Sub-Saharan African while documenting climate change. Anyone who knows Kershan can vouch for the fact that he is a genuinely nice guy and caring person. He would often buy food for children in the poorest parts of Africa with his own money or take bags full of chocolates and toiletries back with him from Durban to give to people in need. As one person who knew Kershan said ‘he was doing God’s work in Africa’.
On the day of the procedure, Kershan waved goodbye to his mother and father as he was wheeled into theatre and joked with the nurses that his mother was afraid but that he was not. His last whatsapp text to his three sisters was jokingly about the ‘stupid hospital gown’ that left little to the imagination. That was Kershan – someone with an infectious zest for life. What happened in theatre on that day haunts Kershan’s family to this day. Their fit, active, healthy son and brother was reduced to a semi-vegetative state with tubes and machines all on him. He was unresponsive for months apart from erratic movements due to the effect on his brain. It was heartbreaking to watch the family in Kershan’s ICU room: talking to him, praying, playing music and snippets from his favourite movies. Anything that would wake him up. It was around Easter that Kershan started becoming responsive; first his eyes slowly started focusing, the family would show him photos because nobody knew what Kershan may or may not remember, then the use of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ cards to see if he could understand basic questions; then waiting for his cough reflex to come back so that the trache tube could be removed from his throat and trying to get him to swallow by giving him honey. Things that seem insignificant in everyday ife, became huge strides in his recovery. But waking up was only half the battle: Kershan could not talk, walk or move by himself. His arms remained in a folded contracted position. He would have to re-learn everything. At the end of May, Kershan was moved to the Entabeni Life Rehabilitation Centre and has already won the hearts of everybody who has met him. His rehabiltation started slowly as his condition is complex. But it is Kershan’s spirit and mental attitude that is most surprising. While many other people would have given up, Kershan continues to push himself everyday in rehab. From not being able to sit in a wheel chair, he now sits and tries to move himself slowly with his feet. His voice is getting stronger and he can now say phrases. From not being able to use his legs, he now cycles on a stationary bicycle. It takes tremendous effort to tell his mind to keep his arms straight but he forces himself to do it. He tells the physiotherapist that he will walk and that he wants to stand. It is both heartwarming and inspirational to witness this amazing person fight a battle every day that many of us take for granted. He epitomises the very best of the human spirit and shows us the power of faith, hope and love. Kershan has come a long way but he has a long road ahead of him. Due to the nature of his job and the fact that he is based outside South Africa, he is not on medical aid. He therefore went in for this procedure as a cash patient. His parents – both pensioners – have had to foot the bill for his exorbitant medical costs. His family have used up their life savings to pay for his treatment both while in hosital and now at Rehab. The latter costs approximately R120 000 for three weeks in rehab. Kershan continues to need extensive rehabilitation to get back on his feet, in addition, to expensive equipment such as a wheelchair and bath facilities.
It is likely that Kershan may never fly again but as his sister tells him ‘You ARE a pilot; not WAS a pilot’. Who knows, with Kershan’s tenacity, he may show us that the impossible is not really impossible after all. Please pray for Kershan on his journey and help him continue his fight through financial contributions toward his rehabilitation.