All I remember of that day in July 2001 is getting in my car to drive from Claremont to Cape Town . The next memory I have is of waking up in hospital and seeing a nurse standing at the bed. I had a tracheotomy and no recall of what had happened. Later I learned from the police reports that I had been driving on the M3 and near to Newlands Forest a jogger's dog had run into the road. Eye witnesses reported that I swerved to avoid hitting the dog. My car hit a tree and then ricocheted back onto the road and hit the barrier. I flew through the windscreen and landed on the side of the road. 3 months later I awoke from my coma having sustained a break to the C2 and C3 spinal vertebrae, my hip and pelvis crushed."
This was the beginning of Jason's long road back to recovery and a new life. What followed was 18 months of intensive physical rehabilitation learning first to sit, then to stand and slowly to progress from a wheelchair, to a walker and then to crutches and finally to a walking stick which he still uses. The physical rehabilitation was only the beginning-when Jason was ready to go back to work - he had been a chef for 18 years-he was told that he could no longer work in the industry and was considered a safety hazard in an industrial kitchen.
What could have been a tragedy turned out to be an unexpected gift for Sandler, who began to contemplate what his life actually meant in the larger scheme of things. Today Jason is a qualified Hypnotherapist and a recent graduate of the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). Graduating in June with a Diploma in Counselling and Communication, Jason's new philosophy is to "make the most of every opportunity to suck the marrow out of the bones of life".
Jason is currently working in private practice and is giving back to the community by facilitating Life skills workshops with young sports people; cricketers and golfers from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. These young sports people are part of the Macsteel Maestros programme at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. Macsteels, initiated in 2001 is an outreach programme that provides an environment wherein young, talented but disadvantaged athletes are trained and nurtured to reach their full potential.
The Life skills programme is all about preparing young athletes both psychologically and emotionally for the demands of a sporting lifestyle. Topics covered include personal growth and self-esteem, stress management, drug abuse, goal setting and self-management. "It is so rewarding to see the personal growth and development of these athletes; and their positive feedback about how the course has benefited them, not only on the sports field, but in every aspect of their lives, is encouraging".
Jason's involvement with the Macsteel Maestros Programme began as a part of the fieldwork component of his training at the South African College of Applied Psychology. "My studies at SACAP have facilitated not only my growth as an individual and have nurtured and developed my desire to help others, but have also given me the tools and skills needed to do so".
Jason plans to be involved with the Macsteel Maestros for as long as he can add value and believes that what sometimes seems like a loss can actually hold the potential for change and growth.