A Van For Martin Brown
Posted November 12, 2003 Watch 3.5 minute video
On October 4, 2003 I met Martin Brown for the first time. Bill Jahns who is his pastor and my good friend in Johannesburg, South Africa told me last year of a quadriplegic in his church who in desperate of need of decent transportation. He has been paralyzed since a 1997 diving accident. Currently his mother Louise drives him around in a Chevy van that has left steering that does not work well in South Africa where people drive on the left. As big as the Chevy van is, the headroom is low and Martin cannot sit upright. He has to uncomfortably lean back at a 45 degree angle. In that position he has to help his mother navigate the unwieldy van by looking into the side mirror and telling his mother when it is "safe" to pass.
Also, the access to current van is difficult and the way Martin is strapped in is very dangerous.
There is a van on the market, the Peugeot Boxer that would properly provide for his needs.
There is no government assistance of any sort available. Martin has appeared on a popular nationwide television program in South Africa about disabled people. While people felt compassion towards him, not one penny of assistance has come forth.
Martin is active in his congregation. He is computer savvy and manages his congregation's website. He will never walk again in this life, but we can help Martin in a country that provides no support for severely disabled but mentally and spiritually capable people.
Martin working on the website using mouth device
LifeNets has committed to raise the money necessary to purchase a used Peugeot Boxer van. The cost will be about $15,000. We got a start in South Africa where we started the fund and collected nearly $2500 with the support of Andre van Belkum and Bill Jahns.
For those who would like to help, you can make a tax-deductible donation to
LifeNets - The Martin Brown Fund
P.O. Box 88165
Indianapolis, IN 46208-0165
We will be letting you know how the fund stands and how close we are to getting Martin the transportation he needs. If we don't do this for Martin, no one will. Every cent of your donation will go towards helping Martin Brown.
Here is a more detailed report from his mother, Louise Steyn:
Martin Brown with Victor Kubik and mother Louise Steyn taken October 4, 2003 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Martin Brown was left paralysed from the neck down when he dived off a jetty and into a submerged sand bank at the Vaal River on 26 December 1997, while visiting with his girlfriend and her parents at a holiday resort. Martin was rushed to Garden City Clinic where he spent three months in ICU, attached to machines and a ventilator. On 9 March 1998, he was moved to the High Care Unit, where he spent one month trying desperately to manage breathing without the help of the ventilator. Doctors warned his mother to make provision for a ventilator at home, as Martin would not be able to breathe on his own. A world-wide prayer request was sent out and on 9 April 1998, Martin was transferred to the Brenthurst Rehabilitation Clinic–with the help of additional oxygen only–for one month, where his mother was trained for twelve hours per day, to cope with Martin’s situation. While at Garden City Clinic and long after, Martin received over 200 cards from people around the world.
Before his accident, Martin was an “adrenaline junkie.” He enjoyed scuba diving, free climbing and many other sports activities he had learned at the Summer Educational Program. He was super-fit and well built. He served 2 years and 6 months in Community Service, where he became interested in the medical field.
Martin endeavoured for three succeeding years to be accepted at Wits Technicon in order to study Advanced Life Support. On the third attempt, he was accepted and he passed his first year with flying colours. He nursed at Flora Clinic and also spent many hours doing voluntary service at Roodepoort Fire Department, on the road with emergency response units, and assisting at Flora Clinic’s Trauma Unit.
He was a professional Ballroom and Latin American dancer and teacher, as well as an Acrobatic dancer and teacher, having obtained South African Championships for six consecutive years in acrobatic dancing.
After being “weaned” from the ventilator, he was, with God’s help and a great deal of determination, discharged from Brenthurst Rehabilitation Clinic, Then his new life at home began…
It was an enormous task to transfer Martin from his wheelchair into a car. He avoided leaving the house because of the pain it caused him. With the help of friends and donors, a 1980 model left-hand-drive Chevy Sports van was bought. Martin and a friend designed and constructed a ramp, and a donated winch was installed in the van. Martin could now be pulled up the ramp and into the van, without having to be transferred out of his wheelchair. However, half-way up the ramp, his chair has to be adjusted to a semi-reclined position, and he has to be transported in that position, as Martin is 6’ 2” tall, and there is no head room while he is in his chair. While being transported, he can only see a bit of the (tarred) road ahead, as he stares straight into the visor of the van. His mother is his only caregiver and she transports him in the left-hand-drive van. It is difficult and dangerous to pass vehicles on the road in a country with right-hand driving conditions.
Martin’s stepfather, Dave Steyn, worked outside the country in order to earn U.S. Dollars, and saved up to buy him a very special wheelchair, which he steers with his chin. The Extreme 4 x 4 Magic Mobility Wheelchair was imported from Australia. This opened up a brand-new world to Martin, as he can now move around the house and drive out into the sun. He can tilt the chair and take a nap whenever he so chooses, without having to wait on Mom to push him around.
One major problem presented itself with the inner space of the Chevy! Whereas Martin was already travelling in a semi-reclined position in the manual chair, he now had to lie almost flat in his new chair in order to fit into the van and then he only just fits in, his head tilted to one side and his feet touching the side door. It is not possible to transport him for long distances in this position. Every time they travel the 7½-hours’ drive to the Feast site, both chairs have to go along.
Martin has to transfer each time we return from Services, from the manual chair to the motorised chair. This causes him much discomfort, not to mention the strain it puts on his 5’ 3” mother’s joints! But it is the only way he can enjoy his drives along the beach, etc.
At home, he avoids going out during the week (mainly to spare his mother). If conditions were better, he would move outside the house much more and have a social life. It is just too much to expect friends to remember every step of the whole routine of winching Martin half-way up the ramp, adjusting the chair to semi-reclining position, securing the chair to the floor in the van, going slowly through potholes and over speed humps, and avoiding sudden stops and starts.
It would make life so much easier if Martin could drive himself up the ramp into a lower van with more head room, without having to tilt and recline. He could then park himself in an upright position in the front next to his mother, and be able to see where he is going, while enjoying the scenery.
Another enormous consideration is the excessive fuel consumption of the Chevy with its V8 engine.
Martin & Estelle Gittleson doing Bronze Intermediate Exam
Stopping to lower Martin’s chair
Martin, baptism on 14 February 1999
Acrobatic Trio (Martin, right)
Martin in Flora Clinic Trauma unit, posing for clinic pamphlet
Getting Martin into the Chevy
Martin’s medic friends taking him out of ICU, ventilator and all, for a birthday flip in the rescue helicopter
Martin taking student through Exam. (His cousin, Vicky)
Martin, after 3 months in ICU, weighing approximately 40kgs (88 pounds)