Saturday, April 10, 2010

Extraordinary Achievement

In an earlier post, I mentioned my old GP from Evander, Dr Neville Mills, who was shot during a burglary at his home. 

He has a son, also a Doctor, Cival Mills. Cival was driving home from a long period of duty in a hospital. He fell asleep at the wheel, and became a locked in quadriplegic. He could move only his eyelids and the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. He went on to invent a voice synthesiser he called the "thingy". He is working on new devices to help the severely disabled, and he started Quads for Quads - quad bike riding for quadriplegics. He lives independently now, with the aid of a manservant. He works for Discovery Health. You have to admit, this is an enormous triumph over adversity. His old college, Pretoria University, has devoted a special page to him, and I will copy it here because it is an incredible and inspiring story.

Dr Cival Mills

Cival Mills obtained an MBChB degree from the University of Pretoria in 1999. Complications during an operation following a motor accident during his medical intern year in 2000 left him with the dreaded locked-in syndrome (a neurological complication whereby a patient loses all voluntary muscle function except for the ability to move the eyelids). Long-term survival of this situation is not common, less so any degree of recovery. Cival Mills has managed to do both. Today, eight years later, he is a living example of a near medical miracle, brought about by his own immense determination and will to live and recover, assisted by a team of dedicated people: medical doctors, specialists in various health-care professions, friends and – last but by no means least – his parents and other members of his family. He is no longer dependent on life-supporting machines, can sit up straight in his electrical wheelchair, has regained full tonus of his facial muscles, communicates by means of a voice simulator and lives in his own house assisted by a personal assistant who comes in daily to attend to his needs.

Using only the limited movement of his left thumb and an adapted laptop, he wrote his first book detailing his struggle to recovery after the accident, entitled This too will pass, which took more than four years to write. In 2007, he was recognised as debut author of The Centre for the Book. He has just completed a second book, The truth about wheels, in which he shares the comical side of his wheelchair experiences.

Over the last three years, Dr Mills has worked as a researcher at both Momentum Health and Discovery Health. He developed an electronic voice simulator with which he communicates. This innovative, self-designed IT apparatus functions with controls that are activated with only the thumb and forefinger of his left hand (the only two fingers that he can currently move voluntarily), and which he has named thingy. He is now working full-time to develop two different IT devices that will make computers more user-friendly for other disabled people with (extreme) limited hand function. A patent has been registered on his first design, and a grant was approved by the Department of Trade and Industry for its development and marketing. He is currently registering and developing the second device, which he has called penpal.

The exceptional achievements of this alumnus of the University in the face of extreme adversity illustrate the power within a person through which the near impossible can be achieved if unleashed.

Cival Mills has proven that to be possible. He is a true reflection of the Innovation Generation that the University of Pretoria strives to produce.

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