If you happened to read my last blog post, A Personal Health Update, then you will have seen just how much I have been through. At the point of even writing that post, it was already A LOT for barely half a year. I skimmed over the serious aspects because breaking them down is intense and there are so many incidents. The sheer number of traumatic incidents is also unfathomable. What I wasn’t expecting to happen next was a fire. One that burnt our entire house down.
The night of my last surgery, I was in the surgical ward. Although that evening I was still slowly coming out of the anaesthetic haze. It is vividly stuck in my head forever. It was around 7 pm and I was chatting with my boyfriend. He had said that he was going to finish up some work and had just ordered takeaways for supper. He then planned to jump into bed with the dogs and unwind with a Netflix binge. This isn’t out of the ordinary for us. Winter plus the set curfew, thanks to lockdowns, often means our evenings are leisurely spent in bed with our two furkids. Yes, the dogs are always clean and lie on our bed.
April the 19th 2021 turned out to have far more in store…
I had drifted off and had woken up at about 10 pm experiencing strange nausea. One immediately thinks “oh it’s just a side-effect from the anaesthetic”. It was also a different type of nausea and so deep in the pit of my stomach. I was about to ring the bell for a nurse to administer some more anti-nausea medication into my drip, but instead, I messaged my boyfriend, “You okay?“
Not our typical dialogue and is just so random. The message only showed two ticks, so even though it had been delivered, the message ticks never went blue meaning the message hadn’t been read. I knew it was too early for him to be sleeping and it was already past curfew. The feeling became more intense so I called his phone. It was off. Seconds later hundreds of messages were flooding in from our complex group. Our neighbour had messaged saying her neighbour’s house was on fire and sent an image. I just knew it was our house! The messages were piling up with several people trying to get hold of a fire station, they were trying any police station too. Any emergency service. The flames were massive…
Not the words anyone ever wants to hear…
Voicenotes and videos and more voice notes with crying and screaming filled the group. Neighbours were shouting that there were “people” inside and they had vaguely heard a scream. I of course sent messages begging to know if it was our house. But no one responded. Between 22:00 and 22:15, my whole world was shaking. Someone then said, “No and that it is number 43, we are 42″. Or we were number 42… I had asked if anyone could try to hose down the side of our place and yard in case the fire jumped and the same on the other side. Of course, the firefighters who had arrived on the scene were focused on the actual house on fire.
At 22:15 a neighbour who is a good friend too and an all-around incredible person called me. She calmly informed me that it was in fact our house and that the house is completely engulfed by fire. She emphasised though that Richard and the dogs were safely out and everyone was alive and kept saying how even though everything has been lost they are just things and my boyfriend and the dogs are fine. Together with her words and then scrolling back through all of the images it really hit just how bad the fire was.
I of course still couldn’t get hold of him but had actually phoned his mum to say our neighbour’s house was on fire and if it was possible for her to get to him and the dogs. An emergency surely justifies breaking the curfew law. She managed to get to the complex quickly and then he had been saved and the paramedics “caught” him. Apparently, he was only in boxers and even though dripping in blood, he suffered from several burns on his arms and torso as well as multiple cuts on his hands from trying to break the glass and get out. He was running down the road chasing our dogs to make sure they were safe. Hence, the paramedics tried to catch him.
Aside from the burns and cuts, he suffered from smoke inhalation. He has very little recollection of the night and apparently didn’t recognise anyone including his own mother. Richard only “came too” when he was in the hospital and already bandaged etc. He even barely recalls the ambulance taking him there.
A strange smell “in the air“…
According to the complex Whatsapp group at around 21:00 several neighbours in our street smelled strong burning rubber. Some thought maybe nearby protests and tyres were burning. Sadly an obvious assumption in South Africa… But the area likely to be protesting was far away and no one at the front of the complex could pick up the rubber scent at first. By roughly 21.30/21:45 several neighbours decided to try and decipher where it was coming from. It was established that the odour was at the back-end/last road however it was more so “in the air”. So high up. Now an electrical fire starts to slowly burn and easily takes an hour before the massive ignition and 2-metre size flames can appear.
According to our investigators, it started as an electrical fault in the ceiling. I know this is a very long post and some may find it interesting while others may not. However, this information could be very helpful to someone. We moved into this house in March 2020, two weeks before the major lockdown.
We had been planning to purchase a place and sell our apartment but just couldn’t find the right place. As we were adamant about getting another rescue dog and a larger one. In most cases, it’s the puppies that are usually adopted first. So a bigger place, a house with a yard area was important. We chose to rent a place in the interim. We adopted Rocco (below) a week before the major lockdown. In February, we were contemplating buying the house, but due to its constant electrical issues, we chose to extend our lease for another year. The fire happened on the 19th of April…
Due to several factors, including the owner living overseas and them using an inferior insurance party, causing also our insurance and our financial recovery process to be a long one. Thankfully, my boyfriend is a fantastic financial advisor and made sure we were covered by a great insurance company.
So I may just have to add in a slight “plug”…
If you need an Independent Financial Advisor then give Richard Joffe a call/WhatsApp/email (Facebook page and contact details are over here). He works under the esteemed broker group Oracle Brokers but is fully independent as a financial advisor. This means he isn’t tied to nor does he receive incentives to push particular companies. Since dating him I have been horrified to discover how advantageous insurance company brokers actually are in South Africa.
For instance, did you know you are assigned to a particular financial advisor and that advisor is meant to perform an in-depth financial needs analysis on you? Not only when you sign-up but annually. That never happened to me with my other “financial advisors”. Also, I feel this needs to be shared too as it is a misconception. By signing up yourself with an insurance company online. That assigned broker is paid the same fees by the insurance company as an independent broker is. So you don’t pay extra.
Plus your in-depth financial analysis with Richard Joffe is free. He reviews your needs and gets quotes from several companies then advises you on which is best and why. Your choice and it saves you time. I think the time-saver is a big reason why many professionals use him. He is fully qualified and also does handle investments and off-shore investments.
However, another misconception about having an independent financial broker is that it is only for those with lots of money. You don’t need to be part of the 10% income bracket to have an independent financial broker like Richard Joffe. If you need any type of insurance or want to start with a small investment or retirement plan. He does all of that. I’m always so proud when I hear feedback from his long-term clients or just, in general, see how caring he is with every single client of his. After working for several years at two of the leading insurance companies one of the driving factors that he became an Independent Financial Advisor is because he could see that a “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t actually benefit the individuals only the companies.
Okay enough promoting him…I’m just a really proud girlfriend okay?
One who is so grateful to have him in my life still, and that he made it out of that house. The incredibly esteemed (Ford international used him in the Kuga’s catching on fire cases) Fire & Disaster Forensic Investigator handling the case, made me go into the house, up the stairs. Post-op with a massive healing wound and in a very fragile state already. Seeing the level of destruction was already so intense.
Yet, the man told me to stand in our main bedroom, see below how indistinguishable the stuff in it was, and stand facing the bottom of “where your bed used to be“, he then looked at me and said these mentally cutting words, “I have seen thousands of cases like this, thousands and I can only count on one hand how many cases there were where there wasn’t a charred corpse lying there…” and then pointed to the area our bed was. What a cruel person.
Escaping the fire…
The fumes from the chemicals burning in the fire knocked my boyfriend out and he somehow happened to wake up and get downstairs, along with Rocco. Richard has said the thing he feels guilty about, which is no fault of his own, is that we could have lost Candi. He however was extremely disorientated. When he was escaping the flames were already so high and filled the spare room doorway and the study already, and said that the closed door of the study was already half gone. He fully believed that he saw both Rocco and Candi get out of the house with him. This is probably also why he was chasing “them” down the road to make sure they didn’t get knocked over and were safe. Candi (below) didn’t though. She was somehow trapped in the spare room. A room which Richard could have sworn was closed and that the curtains were drawn closed.
He said while I was in hospital he didn’t use the office, which was mostly my space anyway, and he used his office at Oracle Brokers. He also cannot understand how it was possible for Candi to have gotten into the spare room AND that the curtains happened to be open. Our neighbours were amazing and were doing their best to make sure the dogs were found and safely captured and that they hadn’t been injured.
Did I not say the series of events is somewhat unbelievable…
By a complete miracle our one neighbour spotted Candi sitting not barking just staring out the spare bedroom window, the curtains were drawn open, there were apparently massive flames behind her and the roof above was burning with the large tiles falling down the side of the building. When I went in the house, that entire spare bedroom’s roof was gone but the curtains were untouched. I am tearing up while typing this.
A true superhero appeared in time though!
A neighbour who had recently moved in and no one knew anything about him, not even his name. He also wished to not be named afterwards. I mentally thank him every time I look at Candi though. According to the neighbours who spotted Candi, this brave man swiftly jumped over our neighbour’s walls, managing to miss the falling debris. I mean even the washing line underneath was on fire! He scaled the wall to the second floor, smashed the window in and grabbed her. Managed to get down with both him and her completely unscathed. Handed her to a neighbour who bundled her up in a wet towel just in case and then he disappeared.
Where things are at the moment…
Where things are at the moment isn’t exactly the best, but far from the worst. Medically the extreme circumstances caused by the fire has added to my stress levels. It has also hindered my physical recovery. My medical diagnosis of a serious and rare illness, Fowler’s Syndrome, is not curable. The recovery process from the operation has already been a challenge. And having an InterStim device to help with my illness is lifelong. Fortunately, it has not rendered me incapable of working again. I just have to work remotely, with no 8-5 in-office position being possible for the foreseeable future.
I had just started a new position and was so excited before the first emergency operation happened. The company actually refused to at first accept the entire team of medical professionals’ diagnosis and that it was an emergency unplanned operation. The disease occurs “spontaneously” even though it is lifelong thereafter. It’s extremely rare and overseas professionals were even involved in my case. My employer actually even refused to believe I was in a hospital! I was finally able to resign in June under Constructive Dismissal. They refused to allow me to work remotely, the position was initially remote in any case, so it didn’t make sense.
I could have easily taken them to a court or the CCMA for several reasons but the added stress just wasn’t worth it. Sometimes for one’s own mental and physical health one has to let things go. Not because I don’t have a solid case but I was still experiencing dangerous uncontrolled hypertension putting me at risk for a stroke. So basically I have been employed yet have not been deriving any income for the past 5, going on 6 months.
Fowler’s Syndrome is incurable but incredible, and incredibly challenging to adjust to, Interstim Device has saved my life. Improving my illness by 65-70%. I do have to be a “half-robot” though and it isn’t easy!
Financially the strain has been tough. I know the economic climate is far from easy in South Africa at the moment. Everyone is struggling, or at least most of us are. When something so unexpected occurs even if one has an emergency fund, it gets depleted quickly. As I was still employed, with false promises of a flexible position after physical post-op recovery, I didn’t resign immediately. Zero benefits and they had a full monopoly over my, contractually completely allowed, freelance clients. So I lost them too.
This is why the amazing Liezel van der Westhuizen set up a Back-a-Buddy campaign for me over here. I am, however, ready to get back into Social Media Management and remote Digital Marketing Manager roles. I miss the industries, creating communities for brands and driving marketing results. So if you are looking for someone to handle your business’s social media management or a remote digital marketing position available. Then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can see a brief overview of my skills here and further details and experience on my Linkedin profile.