Paralyzed Rugby Player Heading Home

Six months after being hit by a car in Fort Lauderdale, Wikus Botha is heading back to South Africa with movement in his legs

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Six months after being paralyzed in a near-deadly accident while vacationing in South Florida, Wikus Botha is heading home -- with movement to boot.

    Wikus Botha is moving forward.

    Six months after paralyzed when hit by a car in Fort Lauderdale, the once-aspiring South African rugby player is not only going home, he's taking some new abilities with him.

    "My left leg, I can pick it up put it down," he announced from his room at North Broward Medical Center. "We're waiting for the other [leg]. It will come, and i'm going to get there. I'll come back to America sometime and I'll walk back in and show everyone my progress."

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    NBMC has been Botha's home for half a year to the day, ever since the 20-year-old was struck while walking on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale and lost all movement from his neck down.

    Botha had been a member of the Tuks University under-21 rugby team and was on his way to fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing professional rugby by joining the farm team for the Blue Bulls, one of 15 teams in the "Super Rugby" league that includes Australia and New Zealand.

    Despite being told he'll never play rugby or walk again, Botha has made progress. Already, he can move himself from his wheelchair to a couch or bed, hold himself up in a seated position, and bend over to pick things up.

    He can even play catch -- something longtime nurse Lucy Robleto calls "tremendous progress."

    "I'm so proud of him, to see all the improvement ," she said, tears streaming down her face. "My God, when he came here he couldn't move anything but his eyes. It's amazing."

    Botha will finally fly home to South Africa Tuesday morning.

    "I'm very glad," said his brother Loekie, who'll accompany Botha home. "I can't wait for him to get to see his mom and dad."

    What is Botha looking forward to most? 

    "Drinking Black Label. It's a beer," he said to much laughter in his hospital room. "No, I'm joking. Just to see my dad, my mom, my family, my friends. Just to be in my environment. I think it'll be great...

    "I'm gonna get better soon. It's gonna take a while, but baby steps."

    Robleto, among others, will be sad to see him go.

    "I tell him he's my adopted grandson."

    A therapy trust fund has been set up to help Botha with lifetime medical expenses. To donate, enter WikusBothaTrust@hotmail.com as the recipient of a payment on PayPal.com.