About 22 years ago an estate agent in Durban had an appointment at a property that was coming up for sale. The meeting was set 10 minutes before arriving late afternoon on Friday and the homeowner told Charmaine her 3 dogs would be locked away, so it was safe to enter the premises. Charmaine was an efficient professional and arrived within 10 minutes of the call making the appointment. As the house numbers were not presented clearly, Charmaine ended up passing the house. She reversed at the drive of the neighbouring property and returned to the right one.
Everything seemed all right. But that would soon change.
Charmaine parked her car, got her paperwork, opened the gate and trotted up the steep driveway.
A few seconds later hell broke loose.
Charmaine walked about 8 steps into the property and she wouldn’t get any further.
Two dogs ran to meet Charmaine. The owner’s mother (afterwards this was found out) shouted ‘get out, get out’. The third dog came running hell for leather. With snarling and groaning, three aggressive guard dogs – trained to kill – had noticed her presence and were ready to sort her out. Unfortunately, the lady had let the dogs loose from the pool area where they were locked in, because there was a suspicious looking character walking down the road. That was a bit inconsiderate, wasn’t it?
With three aggressive dogs attacking her, Charmaine got into her fighting stance and tried her best to take them off her. She managed to take them off her face, throat and breast. They were in a frenzy now, tearing at different parts of her body, tearing off flesh from legs, body and even her head. Charmaine shouted for help, while she was continuing to fight back.
The man who came to her rescue was the neighbour, who had noticed her earlier when she was reversing in his drive. On a Friday afternoon he was usually in the pub after work, but this particular day he was home to get himself ready to get to the stadium to watch an important rugby match: South Africa versus New Zealand. He jumped over the fence and started to fight the dogs on Charmaine’s behalf. A passerby broke off a branch of a tree and helped to hit the dogs, as well as another neighbour who had a plank, also hitting the dog and eventually they managed to get them off Charmaine.
Covered in blood, having wounds over her whole body from head to toe and only left wearing her panties, with the rest of her clothes shredded like rags, Charmaine was cradled by the neighbour and was in and out of consciousness. She was taken to hospital, where she ended up in theatre for 3 and a half hours and was given 4 pints of blood.
What would have happened if there hadn’t been a rugby match on that day?
Would Charmaine have lived to tell the tale? Definitely not.
She survived and returned to ‘life’. After all the medical care her body was more or less recovered, but her mind was struggling. Coming to terms with a trauma like this, finding a way forward in life and creating normality is a huge job. And it took a lot of hard work and time. Especially as she had lost a lot of normal abilities like using utensils and she even had to learn to read again.
One of the biggest challenges for Charmaine was that most people didn’t allow her to talk about it. In the beginning they loved to hear the drama of the events, but when it came to her psychological and emotional wounds, it became too challenging for most others.
What is happening after a traumatic event?
- You retreat into the waiting room – the place where you ‘act’ as if you participate in life, but where you feel detached and lost
- The waiting room is the place where you process the shock and it is necessary to spend some time there – accept that
- Processing means usually going over the event again and again – chewing it over – but it helps if you can talk to someone else about it. Look for friends who are able to lend you an ear or find a coach or professional who will listen and guide you through the process.
- Journal about your emotions and experiences. It is a way of emptying your mind and ultimately stopping the ‘round and round in circles’ thinking
- Accept you need time. And that time is not set in stone. It will be different for everybody
Charmaine has recovered and is not even afraid of dogs. She has tapped into her incredible strength.
Her lessons about her experience are:
- How strong one can be when you need to
- The fitter and healthier you are, the quicker you recover
- Always listen when someone wants/needs to talk – you may be saving them!
Charmaine has left South Africa and after being an estate agent in the UK she has now set up with her husband, Durban Street Food. Home cooked wholesome high quality South African food, which you can get delivered to your home (freshly frozen). Ideal for day-to-day meals, but also great for dinner parties and events. Check the website or visit Facebook for more information or to order.
Most weeks I reserve a few spots for a free coaching call. It offers a confidential space to explore your issues and get some advice on how to move forward. If you would like to book one of those slots, click here and choose your time.