She broke both legs, both arms, her ribs and every bone in her face …

Gaynor Young underwent a painful six-hour operation, after which she remained in a deep coma for four weeks and a semi-coma for three weeks.

When she finally left the hospital two months after her fall, it was with extensive brain damage, no hearing whatsoever, and complete paralysis down the right side of her body. She could not walk, talk or swallow, and doctors’ prognoses were poor.

ABSA (then Volkskas) set up a trust account for public donations from those who wanted to help Gaynor. The funds gathered there played a small part in supporting Gaynor’s recovery, as she worked with therapists to piece her life back together.

“People said I should forget about my life as I knew it”

“People said I should forget about my life as I knew it. They even said I should be put into an institution. I didn’t listen to them because…I was deaf! With the help of my parents and therapists, I began my road to recovery. Slowly, over 26 years, I learnt to walk again and to talk again. I am a person again, and not just a burden,” says Gaynor, who shares her inspirational story of determination with others through writing, her blog and motivational speaking.

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But Gaynor’s astonishing story doesn’t end there

Recently, she decided to step back onto the very stage that changed her life forever.

Gaynor has always acknowledged the role ABSA played in supporting her recovery, and earlier this year approached the bank to become an ambassador for the ABSA brand, working together with ABSA to further spread her message of hope.

That kick-started a new relationship between ABSA and Gaynor that culminated this month in the release of a short film on Gaynor’s amazing story.

It was clear that her story would make the perfect Prosper film, and inspire other South Africans who felt they faced similar insurmountable odds. The team set out to capture Gaynor’s phenomenal story and track her amazing recovery, particularly the point at which she regained her hearing through receiving cochlear implants.

But along the way, Gaynor’s story changed

What started out as the story of her journey up to that point in her life, became a story about her finally getting closure on that tragic event 26 years ago. The film grew organically beyond the point of the original idea, and took both Gaynor and the production team to a place they never expected to find themselves – the stage at the State Theatre.

“We knew we wanted to see Gaynor on the stage again in the film, and suggested the State Theatre. At first Gaynor refused, understandably so. But then she contacted us and said that she would do it. She would go back to the place that shattered her world all those years ago,” explains Hennie van Deventer, Creative Director at T&W.

The production team travelled to the theatre with Gaynor, but no one was truly prepared for the events that unfolded there. The moment Gaynor stepped onto the stage and saw the spot where she fell, the gravitas of the moment came crashing down on her…and everyone else too.

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Gaynor was visibly upset, but stood her ground

After a moment of poignant reflection, and fighting back the tears, she declared: “I am bigger than what that stage took away from me. Today I rise again.”

“We could never have known where Gaynor’s story would take us, or her, for that matter,” adds Lauren Daniel, Brand Manager, ABSA. “We knew there was a story there of how she had prospered in the years following her accident, but in making the film, it changed the way her story ended. It was no more a story about her remarkable recovery, but about her staring down her oppressor and reclaiming her life. Of rising above what was taken away from her nearly three decades ago.

“Gaynor’s moving affirmation truly reflects the heartfelt sentiment behind our Prosper campaign. Because, as a bank, we are inspired by people who rise against all odds and prosper. And that’s exactly what Gaynor did.”

Gaynor’s story of hope bears testament to the power of the human spirit and the strength it takes to truly conquer fear.

Her journey through this process is documented in the ABSA Prosper video:

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