FALLING in love has never had more meaning.
SILKE PAN was accustomed to flying high. She wasn’t nervous standing on her husband’s hand as he dangled from a trapeze four metres in the air without a safety net. She flipped from his hand and he caught her left leg just in time for her to curl the other one around her lovely torso. It was their signature ‘Jungle Joke’ act , and spectators at the amusement park in Rimini, Italy were wowed by their every move.
Outfitted in a glittery silver lamé, Silke glanced at her husband, Didier Dvorak. She smiled to herself as she saw how strong and convincing he looked clad in a gorilla outfit they’d designed together. She was dressed as Queen of the Jungle. As he hung one foot on a rope meant to simulate a tree branch, she did the flip. Somehow, Didier missed her leg and she fell, head first. The crowd gasped. Her mangled body lay like a motionless doll on the dirt ground. She fractured her skull and broke her back. At age 34, at the height of her career she learnt that she’d never walk again.
“My life was shattered from one moment to the next,” explains Silke, now 45.
She can’t remember the moment she plunged to the ground or the weeks after the accident in a coma. All she recalls is a splitting headache and seeing her mother and Didier next to her. Silke tried to get up from bed. “Please, don’t move,” the doctor warned, as he gently held her down by the shoulders. When he left, Silke cried; her legs wouldn’t move.
Fearful that the life she’d known – that all her years of training were in vain, Silke lay in bed for days in shock. No one actually spelled out that she was paralysed.
“It was terrible at first,” she recalls. “There were seven months of rehab and I’ve been in a wheelchair ever since.”
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April 5, 2019