Tag Archive: uel maree


Many of you will know of No_bob, the world’s most famous stuffed dolphin. But you may not know the story.

In 2000 i flew to the UK to earn some money teaching [due to an unfortunate police clearance incident i only ended up doing five days of actual teaching which was a high-or-low-light of itself and mostly looked after old people or University professors, who were about equally competent] so that i could join Youth With A Mission in Holland and go and save the world, or something. Continue reading


Hi, my name is Uel and pre-December 2011 I was an avid rock climber, swam in the sea a lot, gymed, organized adventure camps and helped out at church.

But in December 2011 i dived into a river and well, i didn’t end up winning any medals for my attempt but did unfortunately break my neck leaving me paralyzed from the chest down…..

I was air lifted to hospital where I spent 100 days, eish. The doctors didn’t have much hope for me regaining any movement below my shoulders and classified me a quadraplegic.

2 and a half years later I can now move my arms and my wrists, i have sensation in some of my fingers and recently my stomach muscles started working… hey, gotta do some crunches for summer.

Life is obviously more difficult now. I can’t brush my own teeth, I can’t scratch my own shoulder, i can only feed myself certain foods if I’m in a specific position, I can’t hold a glass, I constantly fight with my duvets (and they win) if my arms get tangled, I can’t speak for too long without getting out of breath as my diaphragm is weaker, I can only swallow food with my head in a certain position as my throat muscles are stronger on 1 side (weird right?), I pee in a bag cause I can’t walk to the bathroom, I can’t fight off spiders, I can’t stop myself if I fall over, I can’t brush my hair…cause my head’s shaved so I ain’t got any! HA! And the list goes on…..

I’m 6ft2 and so getting me into a car is super tricky and we don’t have a wheelchair friendly car. Because of that, I don’t leave home often but even when I do, after a couple hours my body is tired and I need a bed.

Going out to familiar places and not being able to do familiar things is tough on the soul. Like flying to Hawaii and staying in the aeroplane while everyone else disembarks.

Though going out is good at times but my parents need to carry snacks to feed me regularly so my blood pressure doesn’t drop too much cause then I faint. Oops. I’m not some strange hybrid Transformer creature with wheels glued to my behind. I’m just a guy sitting down in a wheelchair….for now so I’m not quite sure why some people stare at me like I have coodies and they may catch it?

Perhaps in this performance based world where in many countries, if anyone has a disability; they are left to die as infants, or cast out, or put in homes, or even hidden from the public as I recently found out happens in my own back yard just outside Cape Town. But I come from a loving family with the most wonderful people in my life so luckily I’m allowed out into the open and don’t have to live in a bell tower.

In my current condition, when I go out, I’ve noticed 4 types of people:

1) those that try to ignore you so hard that it becomes awkward (like people trying so hard not to look at a beggar).

2) those that stare and gossip.

3) those that act over friendly as a type of over-compensation.

4) those that act normal.

Just to let you all know, number 4 is the winner, do that more and it boils down to education. Not the school/university type of education, but just people skills and realizing that this is what life dealt us. Some are paralyzed, some are born that way, some have an extra chromosome, some catch a disease, some have a chemical imbalance and for some it was an accident but NOBODY chose it so let’s have a little compassion….not pity but the greatest of all – Love.

I think that all kids/teens (and adults) should be exposed to orphanages, homes for mentally disabled people, old age centers, cancer wards etc etc and you know what, you may just be surprised at the wonder and beauty you find there. Let’s stop aiming at producing *celebrities and pro-athletes but start aiming at creating caring people.

Many people in the conditions mentioned above don’t have the most love and support because they often get labelled as outcasts. So be a light in their lives and add a little more shine to this world.

Much love – Uel

*Disclaimer: I don’t have anything against celebrities or pro-athletes and none of them were harmed in the making of this

[To meet Michelle Botha and hear some of her story of dealing with a degenerative sight condition, click here]

[To return to the Intro page and read stories of other people living with disability, click here]

I discovered that this week was the Global Week of Sharing [sharemydream.org] and the invitation was to be ‘sharing your website or blog this week with someone who’s dream you share and want to encourage. Ask them to write a guest post for your site about their dream.’ My South African friend Uel Maree was the first guy that came to mind and he agreed to share his story on my blog, for which i am eternally grateful… meet Uel Maree, the life of the party:uel


…and then i dived into the river & broke my neck.

Prior to that i “had it all”. 27 years old, a job i loved, living in beautiful Cape Town, beach on the weekends, outdoor adventures on the surrounding mountains, involved in my local church. Life was good.

However after my accident, being paralysed from the shoulders down, there was a definite spanner in the works. No more job, no more beach, no more mountains, no more church, no… more… movement.

100 days in hospital, operations, emergency procedures, tubes down my throat, purified foods, specialists telling me to accept my condition…. Why not just let it rain indoors as well? Hahaha.

I was an avid rock climber so people used to ask me, “Why do you climb the mountain & not use the cable car?” I always remembered then the bruises & cuts i received along the climbs, looking up from the base at what seemed like an impossibility but then i would forget its size but rather focus on the next step & the next handhold. Eventually i would look down from the peek & smile over the world. You see, mountaintop experiences are great but what makes them truly special is the work it took to get there. Generally free things are never as appreciated as earned things.

We stretch & work our body & senses more often than we do our mind & spirit, they need exercise too. For many of us, our cushy jobs, easy lifestyles & facebook addiction this fast world assaults our senses with, keeps us so busy floundering around the shallows that we never explore the deep recesses within ourselves. I know, i was there & at times still am. I was forced into having  a time-out from the world after my accident & i’m grateful that the experience taught me that the eternal things really worth putting effort into in life are friends, family, relationships, love & God. The flashing lights & latest gadgets can only satisfy for short periods until u need your next fix. Its taking half a day to sit without a phone, book or IPod & explore that dusty room in your mind, open its curtains, sweep its floors, rearrange its furniture & see who you really are. I pray that nobody ever has to physically go through what i am BUT, i do hope that everybody takes time out for self-discovery before ending up in a difficult situation (which you will) or before time runs out (which it will). The magic doesn’t happen in your comfort zone. Your career generates your salary, but its your calling that makes your life.

Forward thinking is great, future planning is wonderful.

Yes we’ve seen this day’s dawn but that doesn’t guarantee us this day’s dusk.

Stop living only for this coming weekend, stop living only for the next holiday,
but start living for the only moment that is truly ours, right here, right now. Make these seconds count more than the thoughts of a future that is not yet yours.

I know, i almost died… face down in a river.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

“2 farmers pray for rain but only 1 of them goes out to prepare His field. Which 1 do you think trusts God…. ” – Facing The Giants

Seems like im finding myself standing at my field, being reminded by God & my peers, to not turn away but to keep sowing with an expectant heart…

Though sometimes we get so fixated on staring at the ground or other people’s fields, waiting for the seed we want to grow, that we forget to look up at the rest of our field & see the endless sunflowers that we planted a while back but are now waist high 🙂

I’m convinced that seeds take longer to grow when we stare at them 😛

We cant bear fruit until our trees are grown.

So my outlook has changed. Sure i cant walk… yet 😉 but i have more now then before my accident & that’s thanks to having learnt (& still learning) how to reevaluate all i see & have through a different filter….. eternity.

We’re all different & there’s different ways to do things BUT its all built on a universal Truth & there’s no changing that.

Uel Maree 

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”
[You can join the Pray for Uel Maree group on Facebook to stay in touch with his progress and more importantly his wickedly good sense of humour]

instead i got to hang out with my buddy Uel Maree for about an hour, catching him up on my story for the last two years and getting to hear some of his.

Uel Maree

Just over a year ago now, Uel Maree, helping out a girls group on an adventure camp, dived into a river in a spot he knew well as one where they launched canoes regularly, but this time something was different. He has dived hands first, but whether it was a rock or a sand bar, something pushed his hands to the side and he took a direct impact to the head. Paralysed from the neck down and lying face down in the water, not able to do anything about it [but fortunately having taken a big breath] he told me he was filled with incredible peace as his friend who was a life guard was 20m away and would soon see what was wrong and come running. He did, and Uel was carefully taken out of the water and later helicoptered to the hospital where he was given a rather negative prognosis that there was like a 1% chance he would not be completely paralysed from the neck down. Uel and his family chose to think differently and with a huge network of support, much prayer and a fair number of miracles along the way, has physically come to a point far exceeding anything the doctors could imagine… and continues to push through for small breakthrough after small breakthrough.

i guess i was a little nervous arriving at the house and being ushered in by his dad [who first pretended i had arrived at the wrong house to really ease my nerves] as i didn’t really know how the visit was going to go. i had camped as a leader with Uel a couple of years before, but only really knew him through the facebook group that was set up after the accident and so had followed updates there and seen some of the progress and been so hugely encouraged by the amazing network and community that exists there. i had witnessed how the group and Uel had been an encouragement to so many other people besides Uel and a place where people and faith and needs had met up regularly.

so in some ways, i was anticipating hanging out with a crippled guy in a bed or maybe a wheelchair. but as i turned the corner, from the moment of laying eyes on Uel, what i encountered was life to the full. Uel was completely animated and positive and full of humour and just so much life, it really was such a joyful encounter. He started off all interested in my journey and what Val and i have been up to and it was a while before i was able to jump in and direct the conversation to him and his journey and some of what he had gone through.

and it was just completely encouraging and uplifting. having spent just an hour or so with Uel i walked away thinking that i know more crippled people than Uel who have full use of their bodies. i got to ask about the bad days and the times of frustration as well and there certainly are those, but for the most part it feels like Uel, faced with a potentially life-ending scenario, absolutely just chose to make the best out of every part of it and has stubbornly refused to accept any restrictions places upon his body by doctors and specialists as to how far he can go to recover.

what impressed me was how he spoke about God and how it took something like this to happen for him to really understand having a need for God and needing to rely on God and so his faith has increased immensely. a lot of people in a situation like this would no doubt end up feeling sorry for themselves, whereas Uel is going to be co-leading the home group that meets at his house every second week, he is working on pushing his wheelchair around [with specially enhanced door stopped bits added around the edges so he can grab hold of the wheels] and he is a machine on his iPad keeping up with his facebook group and the latest news and happenings.

what a legendary time and what an example of the ‘life to the full’ we are called to in Jesus. thank-you Uel Maree for fitting me into your busy schedule and for showing me a vibrant faith and attitude for really embracing life.

[If you want to read the piece Uel wrote on Sharing Dreams, click here]

[For Uel’s piece on Living with Disability where he shares some more of his story, click here]

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