Excellent results ‘a miracle’ for Simoné

Henry

For Simoné Swart from Midstream College, a private school in Centurion, her excellent matric results are an extra-great joy for her and her loved ones. She was diagnosed with a rare condition at a very young age. “The fact that I celebrate nine distinctions is a miracle.”

She also celebrates her 19th birthday today. “I am incredibly proud of myself. Everything was worth it: Twelve years of pain, tears and joy were all worth it.”

Simoné was diagnosed with ataxia when she was two years old. “Ataxia is when your brain is so damaged that you experience problems with balance, coordination and your speech.” She was born with fluid on her lungs and it took several minutes to remove – minutes in which Simoné had no oxygen. “It damaged my brain and specifically affected my coordination, balance and reaction time,” says the girl who can only write nine words per minute.

Her mother noticed that Simoné was not achieving her main milestones as a baby.

“Messages from my brain take longer to reach my muscles.”

“My biggest challenge has always been to finish papers and in matric it became even more difficult to keep up with the rest.” Simoné usually gets more time than the rest of her classmates to write a paper. “A three hour paper turns into four hours.” Sometimes she even writes in a separate room. “Exams sometimes get very lonely because I almost never see my friends. They are soon finished writing and I can’t talk about the paper together after the time.”

She says she had to train her brain to read the next question while she was still writing the last sentence of the previous question, just to finish in time. “I don’t know how, but it works.”

“All my life, but especially this year, I had to fight for my place in the sun. I have to fight for extra time in class, fight against people who mock me or complain because I get extra time and they don’t.”
However, she tells how privileged she is to be in a loving environment where people support her.

BCom Accounting at the University of Pretoria is now waiting for Simoné. “I only decided what I wanted to do in the second half of last year.”

Her message for people with similar conditions is that your problems are not your identity. “It all depends on your attitude. Some doctors thought that I would never achieve if I went to a normal school one day, but here I am!”