From the outside, the Taxi 4 U taxi looks like any other vehicle.
But its interior, and the man driving, set this taxi apart.
In December of 2013, Jeffrey Reynolds of Longwood was sent to Cape Town on medical for the second time that year: This time, he returned without his left leg.
“I was so strong, and I always thought I wouldn’t have gone down so early,” he said. “I was a very energetic kind of person, but in 2013 I had an attack in my lower part of my legs, which was very severe and it never did go away.”
Jeffrey had a blockage in his legs, which had been causing him excruciating pain for months. The severity of the blockage meant his left leg had to be amputated in early 2014. Jeffrey said the surgery, which was carried out at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town, was similar to heart surgery because it dealt with major arteries.
“It was such a blow to me, because getting your leg cut off – you could say it’s your life, it’s over,” Jeffrey said. “Loads of people thought that I would never make it. Even myself, I thought that was it for me. But I had the surgery, and I came out with my hands up and I remember saying to Louise, ‘I made it.’ And the pain was gone.”
Despite the regular exercise Jeffrey got from his private-sector work on HV power lines, his constant fishing expeditions and his beekeeping efforts, a lifetime of smoking and not keeping a healthy enough diet led Jeffrey to become an amputee.
Jeffrey returned to St Helena with only his right leg. For a few months, Jeffrey waited for the swelling to go down and the wound to heal. Jeffrey’s spirits weren’t perfect: While the immense pain he had felt in his left leg was now gone, Jeffrey had to adjust his entire life.
“At times, it was still like ‘I’m better, but I’m still short of one leg,’” he said. “But all the encouragement and the aftercare from my partner and her daughter, I had a good mind, you know?”
And then in August of 2015, Jeffrey returned to Cape Town to receive a prosthetic leg.
“When I walked into the clinic, and I saw the patients with no legs, some had one leg... I said to myself, ‘no, I can do the same. When I get this leg now, I can walk just like anybody. I just have to do this,’” Jeffrey said. “After that, it was all about rebuilding. Day by day, it just got better and better.”
Jeffrey’s partner, Louise Williams, said being in a clinic with other amputee patients had a hugely positive impact.
“I think by going into rehab [for four-six weeks] and mixing with all the same patients learning to walk with these prosthetic legs, I think that really boosted Jeffrey up – and a good team they were working with,” she said. “I also did some training there as well, so I could bring that back home and look after Jeffrey.”
When heading back home from Cape Town, Louise had been worried Jeffrey would feel odd with his new limb.
“For me, I thought after we got back to St Helena it would affect Jeffrey because on St Helena you don’t get to see this – I thought he would feel odd,” she said. “Even coming down on the ship, there were a lot of people who hadn’t seen this kind of leg before and we were introducing the leg all the way coming – because people were wanting to know how you take it off, how you put it on.”
But Louise’s fear was quickly squashed: Jeffrey took it all in his half-metallic stride.
“I look at things today as how I’ve come back from the dead, it seems,” he said. “I don’t feel odd no more. I feel just like you all. I may be a bit slow in certain things, but it doesn’t matter to me. I can walk now and it feels so great.”
While Jeffrey’s new leg prevented him from driving a motorbike as he used to love doing, he took inspiration from the friends he’d made in Cape Town and began thinking about what news activities he could get interested in.
“Back in Cape Town, there was this guy; he only had one arm, and he had no legs,” Jeffrey said. “And on his left arm, he had a little hook. He’d come to the hospital in his vehicle – he’s got a little bus almost like I’ve got – and he’s got his wheelchair. He’s got no other help at all. He gets from his bus to his wheelchair and goes into the hospital in his wheelchair, and he does everything with one hand.”
So on Aug. 14, 2017, Jeffrey opened his own taxi service: His new automatic taxi would serve as the next-best thing to his motorbike.
Jeffrey and partner Louise would not say from where, but the two secured the funding to import a high-quality disabled-friendly taxi.
While Jeffrey’s taxi is not the first disabled-friendly taxi on the island (for instance, SHAPE has a van, with a retractable ramp for wheelchair access and space for wheelchairs to fold up), Jeffrey’s service is the first 7-day-a-week, 24-hours-a-day taxi service “by the disabled, for the disabled (and for all).”
The taxi is automatic, so Jeffrey can easily drive without having to control a clutch with his prosthetic leg.
The Taxi 4 U taxi features one motorised seat (the one behind the passenger seat). At the command of a remote control, the seat slides out and down so those in wheelchairs can slide on to the seat, which will then lift them up into the taxi. However, to fill up the six-seat taxi, passengers will then have to move back into the row behind, or into the seat behind the driver’s seat.
Taxi 4 U is “serving all areas, local taxi/tours, airport transfers, seaport transfers, hospital runs etc.”
Taxi 4 U can be reached on mobile number (+290) 62662, or on home number (+290) 22558.