Injured acrobat lifted by donation of prosthetic arm
A chance meeting at Orange Grove School in Johannesburg inspired Gary Meyers, a South African architect now living in Australia, to raise enough money for a new prosthetic arm for Kerry-Lee Brandt Salamon who gave birth to a baby girl this week.
It took him six weeks and a GoFundMe page to reach the goal of 22 000 Australian dollars (almost R270 000) to change her life.
Brandt Salamon, who is an occupational therapist but also worked part-time as a pole acrobat and aerial dancer, had to have her arm amputated after a horrific accident in 2014.
She had been rehearsing for a show at Sun City in August of that year when she fell six metres headfirst because of a failed rigging system. She had been performing a trapeze sequence with another acrobat who was holding her from above when the rigging broke.
Brandt Salamon was in hospital for six months in a coma, and had to undergo several surgeries, including brain surgery and ultimately the amputation of her arm.
“They told me I’d never recover and would be a vegetable,” Brandt Salamon told the SA Jewish Report earlier this year. “The fact that I’ve recovered as much as I have and that I’m still recovering has shocked everyone – even my sister, who is a doctor herself.”
But Meyers took her recovery to another level.
He met Brandt Salamon on one of his numerous trips to South Africa in early 2023. Meyers was helping his friend, Barbara Novick, with a literacy and numeracy programme at Orange Grove School. “Kerry-Lee was helping the children in the cold school hall, and I noticed her,” Meyers told the SA Jewish Report.
“He approached me and talked to me about my arm,” she recalled. “I told him that I wanted to get a prosthetic arm to replace the one that I had already.” At this point, Meyers simply informed Brandt Salamon and her doctor that he would make sure she got her new prosthetic arm. “I told her doctor to order the parts for the new arm,” said Meyers.
“At first, I thought it was a joke,” said Brandt Salamon, “but clearly it wasn’t.”
Said Meyers, “I don’t believe money should stand between someone being able to have a limb.” He started the GoFundMe campaign at the end of May.
“It was a big risk for me. If I didn’t get any donations, I would have had to foot the bill. In any charity work I do, I’m always the first and last person to donate,” he said.
“I reached out to as many people I could think of to try and get them to donate.” As a King David Linksfield alumnus, he reached out to ex-Davidians far and wide.
“I didn’t know where the money would come from, so when it started to come, I was confused,” said Brandt Salamon.
Meyers is no stranger to charity work. “I’ve been involved in fundraising for organisations such as Animals For Australia since 2010,” he said. “After my heart attack in 2018, I decided I wanted to do even more charity work.”
Thereafter, he embarked on massive walking expeditions to raise money for the St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. Before coming to South Africa in May, Meyers had just completed a 330km walk from Sydney to Canberra.
“I arrived in Canberra on 2 March, where I was greeted by David Hurley, the governor-general of the Commonwealth of Australia, the highest-ranking person in the area,” he said.
The GoFundMe had a phenomenal response, and the goal was met within six weeks.
“I’m still in shock that I was able to have my arm fixed. It’s honestly insane,” said Brandt Salamon.
“I’ve donated because I feel this is one of the best causes Gary Meyers has ever been involved in, and he has done quite a few,” wrote a donor on the site.
Another said, “Because Kerry’s attitude is a contagious inspiration to anybody who would read her story. Giving back is contagious in a good way.”
Even former Springbok Rugby Captain Francois Pienaar reached out to Meyers and Brandt Salamon, writing, “Dear Kerry, what an incredible story of resilience. You have gone through so much and continue to fight. I can imagine that at times it must be difficult to keep up the fight, to keep spirits up, and push forward.
“With the love and support you have combined with your strength and determination, you cannot fail. Sometimes success doesn’t quite look like what we thought it would and at times, life hurdles you onto another path, as traumatic as that has been for you, reading your story,” Pienaar wrote.
“I commend you for this superhuman achievement against all odds. Stay strong Kerry, and may your story provide hope and inspiration to others facing life-changing traumas and challenges. You can be proud of your mind and body.”
Combined with the excitement of repairs to her prosthetic arm, Brandt Salamon found out she was expecting a baby girl, who she gave birth to earlier this week. “I was already six months along when I found out I was pregnant. It was a shock,” she said. Having her new arm made the pregnancy even more exciting. “I was practising picking her up. It’s honestly amazing that I was able to meet Gary, and I can now hold my perfect daughter with my new arm,” she said.