Gooikenaar Brent Van Der Kelen worked with his brothers in the father’s company and installed windows and doors. Until he was suddenly paralyzed at the end of the training and had to carry on in a wheelchair. But the young man does not give up, lives as independently as possible and even aspires to a sports career.
On February 24, 2019, nearly 4 years ago, things went wrong for Brent Crude. On a sunny Sunday he trained Haflinger at the old De Houtmann athletics track. “After an hour of training, I wanted to do the last lap. Suddenly the horse spun off and the cart began to sway. I think the animal was stung by a horsefly.” Brent helped his sister jump out of the carriage, but was thrown himself over the fence rail, trying to stop the horse.
I could not get up, and after a while I saw on the face of a doctor that it was serious. At first it was thought that after 6 months I would be back to my old self. They took me to the hospital in Halle, where after a while they sent me to Enckendal for rehabilitation. “It was only after I was transferred to the UZ in Ghent that the seriousness of my condition became fully apparent to me,” says Brent.
“At first I felt sorry that I couldn’t walk anymore, but I decided to fight. Rehabilitation was provided for 9 months and after 5 months I had already mapped out my plan. I wanted to be able to go on without help. My family, my friend Stephanie and a number of friends helped me a lot with that.” Brent continues.
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I can’t really complain
“During rehab I was hoping it would grow back together in my back, I kept saying it would be ok, but it didn’t happen. I’m a bit worried because I’ve seen more serious cases at Ghent University. That was a short while. But that’s the way it is.” I realize with it that I shouldn’t complain, they don’t complain either. Some even encouraged me to persevere.”
After 6 months, Brent was allowed to go home, where everything had to be adjusted. “I accepted that I could no longer climb, but I still wanted to move and was looking for a sport I could play. This is how I ended up at the BC Hearn tennis club, which was founded by Sven de Rom. I could play there with Kiki, who is an international athlete in Badminton. They motivated me to learn a sport, because the more I could move, the better,” says Brent.
Just forget everything
“Exercise and sports make me forget about everything for a while, not least the severe nerve pain that is located where I had the operation. It feels like a constant stabbing. I use a lot of medication and morphine patches for the pain. I try to limit it a bit because otherwise it doesn’t work.” I can do anything anymore. I can increase my pain doses, but I’d rather be outside all day and exercise.”
Brent would also like to work again, but this is not possible due to concentration problems. “I can’t speak in a group. Luckily, playing badminton is going well. In hindsight, I’m devastated again and I regret those efforts for a while, but I’m especially glad I got to play. When I get home, The misery begins again. Few know how much I suffer, but I don’t want pity. I even try to laugh it off a little bit, “Brent continues.
With the help of the Oetingse Jogging Club and the ACP, Brent was able to purchase a handy bike, among other things. “In bad weather I can practice on the rollers. When the weather is good, I go out on the track 2 to 3 times a week to ride a bike with my Uncle Rudy. It is a desire to gradually start competing with badminton and cycling. I would like to participate in the Olympics.” I’m only 27, and I’m still young enough to make something out of it, preferably in badminton. It’s going to be very hard to get there, you have to be really good for that. I’m going to work for it. We’ll see,” Brent smiles. “Sport is very important, it makes you feel so much better and you connect with other people. I got to know a lot of people, especially through the badminton club.”
Lots of help
As the parents’ home was not suitable, the family converted the workshop into a private air-conditioned apartment for Brent. Paths to lawns around the house have also been conditioned. Brent raises miniature horses as a hobby. “I let them out in the morning, feed them and let them in again at night. I soon had it again because horses are my life. We got off the wagon.”
Brent’s car has also been modified so he can operate everything manually. “I don’t want to be dependent and ‘go and park’ where I want. I do everything myself, like go shopping or drive for exercise, draw my plan. I’m thankful for the many people who helped me raise money for expensive mods, a DIY bike, a bed, And the sports wheelchair. The Oetingen running club got a benefit and the ACP on Warmaton. Before the accident I was even a good runner.”
All these conditioning materials cost a lot of money and the allowances are limited. “The wheelchair barely weighs 3 kilos, but it is important because some days I have to load and unload it up to 10 times. At first I was a little uncomfortable with all this help, but I am very grateful to all these people and I have a lot of respect for what they do.”
Swiffer and Igor
Two dogs wagging in and out of Brent’s apartment. “I signed up for a guide dog, but because it was taking too long, I bought a Swiffer, a German collie. In September of last year, I was approached by the non-profit HACHiKO, where I was going to get training to learn how to work with a guide dog. It is now 3-year-old Golden Retriver, Igor, of whom Astrid Stockmans was godmother. Igor opens and closes doors, picks up fallen things, retrieves the TV remote when I’m lying on the sofa, and helps me get the feed troughs for the horses.”
Brent still regularly disturbs businesses such as banks, convenience stores and catering establishments, which are not wheelchair accessible. “I want to be able to go in independently and even scoot if that’s not possible. It should be possible everywhere these days. But things often go wrong on bike paths too. Either they’re too narrow for a manual bike or there are poles in the The road. Then I have to drive on the street. I have the same rights as everyone else. A tourist riding a bicycle once shouted at me: “Don’t sleep!”. It hurts but I don’t care anymore, because I hear more and more encouragement these days!”