Dr Cival Mills

About Dr Cival Mills

Almost ten years ago a young medical doctor, Dr Cival Mills did something that not many people have done before; In December of 2000, he survived a rare physical condition known as Locked-In Syndrome.

“Locked in syndrome is a catastrophic condition that prevents an individual form voluntarily moving any muscles of the body, other than those that control eye movement. As a result, the individual cannot move or speak, although some communication is possible through blinking or eye movements.  Despite the devastating loss of function, an individual with Locked-In Syndrome is completely conscious and aware, able to think and reason normally.  Luckily, Locked-In syndrome is exceedingly rare. About 40% - 70% of people suffering from Locked-In Syndrome die within a short time of suffering the causative injury. “

Dr Cival Mills had a challenge for the medical fraternity and himself. He challenged his many therapists, his neurologists and scientists working on stem cell research to bring him back to life again; to release him from the prison of his own body.

He challenged himself to reach the unreachable. The race to meet his goal would require one of the greatest medical and personal achievements ever.
In an ICU there is no day and no night; only the sound of people and machines trying to make the impossible possible. Cival knew that with his intellect intact, he would one day be ready to live life again.
People from all walks of life were holding their breath as Cival slowly started climbing the ladder back to life – away from the constant darkness of the unconscious mind. He started climbing up…  In an effort to do the impossible… he started to breathe on his own, he started to swallow…

Cival spent 22 months in hospital; he was one of only a few patients suffering from this syndrome around the world to make it out of the hospital. He brought back with him many memories of deadly anxiety, of suicidal despair, of indescribable frustration, suffocating sadness and utter loneliness – of a weight he could not describe nor measure.
Cival was piloted back to life by the many people who loved and cared for him, orbiting around him for almost 2 years in an effort to bring him safely back. He arrived back with the knowledge that nothing in life “happens by accident.”  Speechless, without any movement in his body except for some movement in his left hand, he never lost direction; he never gave up.  Cival has today grown into a man on the move and is living testimony to his motto: “never… never… never give up.”

Cival started writing his first book when the only movement in his body was a flickering of movement in his left thumb… he called his book “This Too Will Pass,” a “short autobiography of events.”  The book begins on the night of the accident and continues through the many emotional and physical experiences during hospitalisation and thereafter; it is the story of a fully alert and intelligent man, trying to make sense of life in an unresponsive body and the frustration of being unable to communicate without the help of various devices.

It took Cival more than 4 years to write the book. He wrote it with a specially designed program on his laptop, clicking the mouse with his left thumb lying flat on his back.

This Too will Pass was awarded by the Fundza for Fun Project as best Debut Author and the printing of the first edition of the book was subsequently sponsored by Centre for the Book, Cape Town.  
The title of the second book is The Truth about Wheels; covering the funny and sometimes hilarious experiences in his life since being in a wheelchair.

Cival has also worked, for short periods of time, at both Momentum Health and Discovery Health as a researcher.

Currently, Cival is focusing all of his energy on the development of his second IT device.  When Cival found it almost impossible to find an affordable, disabled user-friendly mouse and keyboard to assist him in his communication with the world around him he decided to design his own.

His first device, called Thingy has been registered and a grant has been approved by the Department of Trade and Industry towards the development and marketing thereof.  Some parts of his second book, “The Truth About Wheels” were written using this device. Thingy is also being used as a communication device attached to a sound program on his computer to be used in normal conversation situations and/or the addressing of audiences.

Despite being unable to speak, Cival has become a popular motivational speaker, speaking on average once a week, with the aid of his computer and his spokesperson, Sarie Odendaal. They have delivered speeches at the  Occupational Therapy, Alternative Communication and Physiology Departments of the University of Pretoria. Cival has also had the honour of a private visit with President Nelson Mandela and has delivered papers and motivational talks at Bandhulp vir Blindes, the Paraplegic Society of South Africa, First National Bank, book clubs and various Rotary Clubs.

Cival received a Laureate Award as designer and author from the University of Pretoria in November 2008. He has participated in two Quads4Quads trips from Johannesburg to Ballito and has recently qualified as a level C scuba diver with the Handicapped Scuba Association.

He still goes for different kinds of therapy each day; he has had two stem cell treatments, two vocalchord prosthesis implants as well as other operations and treatments in an effort to better his situation.

Cival is making a study of stemcell research and has been in contact with different universities and research institutions worldwide over the last couple of years; he wants to get more involved in stemcell research and still believes that this too will pass - that he will be able to live a reasonably normal life one day.