“A Debilitating Accident Taught Me Self-Love, How To Embrace Change And Give Back”

I spent most of my life partying too much, with my priorities all wrong... until I had a life-changing accident.


Nina Van Der Heever |

One random day Nina Van Der Heever’s life changed forever. Here, in her own words, how this carefree party girl ended up in a coma – and how her priorities radically changed when she came out of it.

The Accident

As the result of leaving my keys in a friend’s car and not being able to get into my apartment, I climbed down from the third story to get into my bedroom window on the second floor. I slipped and plummeted to the ground. I was left with a broken arm, broken ribs, torn spleen and an open wound to my head. I went into a coma.

Watch: “I Was In A Coma – But No One Knew I Was Actually ‘Awake'”

A New Life After The Coma

As a personal trainer, I couldn’t work for over four months. Spending that amount of time in your own head is challenging, but it also reveals many underlying issues you might not have dealt with. It brought along perspective and a sense of knowing. Once my body had healed enough for me to go back to work, my drive and ambition were stronger than ever before. My daily mantra was and still is: “I can and I will!”

After doubling my earnings and kick-starting my personal training business again, I could feel my body wasn’t the same. I had to sacrifice running and many other activities. But, being an extremely active person, I was determined to find an alternative… Swimming!

It was hard to accept that I was starting from scratch and would be sweeping the rear end of every race, but water has always been very healing and my go-to place for relaxation.

I’m also a competitive free diver and the ocean is my second home. I needed a goal to work towards and a challenge to push me out of my comfort zone again… Enter the Robben Island crossing.

Watch: 5 Simple Hacks That’ll Make You A Better Swimmer

The Robben Island Crossing

The notorious Robben Island crossing is an open water swim from Robben Island to Blouberg Beach – a distance of 7.5km in icy water with infamous currents and abundant wildlife. This will be my maiden voyage of the challenge, considered the “Everest” to most open water swimmers in South Africa.

Watch: Here’s What You Really Need To Know About Swimmer’s Ear

After my accident, the sense of gratitude at having an able body has been overwhelming. And to commemorate those who are not as privileged, I’m dedicating my swim to fund raise for those with multiple sclerosis in South Africa. As an organisation,  assists patients with funds for their medication (which can cost more than R25 000 per month!), as well as wheelchairs and many other gifts to ease the financial burden of MS.

What Exactly Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system, which interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person can’t yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS.

Watch: This Is What You Need To Know About Multiple Sclerosis

The Robben Island Crossing fundraiser is fitting for MS because it takes place in May, which also happens to be the official MS Awareness Month (in both Europe and SA). Doing things greater than yourself, giving your time and opening your heart to others cultivates self-love. Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.

You can support Nina by donating to the and making her journey meaningful to her and many others.

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