Deaf Life18th November 2013

Gaynor Young - Delightful and Determined

Gaynor Young suffered an horrific fall during a stage performance. The story of her life since is enthralling and truly inspirational.

by Sarah Lawrence

We have been featuring a couple of blogs from South African based Gaynor Young. Gaynor writes a highly successful blog 'ear ear', which attracts thousands of readers from across the globe. Whilst Gaynor is an excellent writer, her life is a story in it's own right. It is a story that has inspired many others and we think it's worth telling here. 

Gaynor Young was a beautiful and talented opera singer and actress, but on 9th December 1989 she nearly lost her life during a performance and things changed irrevocably!

On that fateful day in 1989 Gaynor had been asked to step in to play Guinevere in a stage show of the musical Camelot at the State Theatre in Pretoria after the lead actress fell ill. Gaynor was to take over for both the afternoon and evening performances and went on stage in the afternoon without a dress or technical rehearsal. A confident actress Gaynor knew that she could play the part, and could play it well. "I knew I would be amazing, and indeed, I was FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC!," Gaynor recalls.

Sadly, during the scene before the interval, disaster struck! During a change in scenery on stage, Gaynor took one false step and found herself tumbling off the stage, and ultimately down 5 floors to the basement level. It was a terrifying fall of 18 metres onto a concrete floor.

Lying seriously injured, Gaynor was fortunate that a Doctor and Nursing Sister were in the audience and they were able to stabilize her until the emergency services arrived. Suffering a brain haemorrhage and multiple fractures Gaynor lay in a coma for an agonising seven weeks. Gaynor had suffered extensive brain damage, she had lost her hearing, 60% of her eyesight and was paralysed down her right side. This was a life-changing accident! Gaynor remained in hospital a further two months before she returned home to begin her recuperation.

Whilst suffering life changing injuries, Gaynor still felt able to celebrate one thing - she was alive! 

A beautiful lady, Gaynor is also fiercely determined, and a mere four years after her accident, in April 1994, Gaynor opened in her one woman show,  ‘My Plunge to Fame’. The show received rave reviews which resulted in Gaynor taking the show across South Africa, playing at the Civic Theatre in Gauteng, the Natal Playhouse and the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town. The show also caught the imagination of the international community, with Gaynor going on to performed in both Washington and London.

A testament to the success and appeal of the show came from Adrienne Sichel, one of the most astute and toughest critics around: ‘Gaynor Young’s hour-long tete-a-tete with the audience which was greeted by an opening night standing ovation, is about rediscovering the rainbow. That might sound corny but it’s anything but. She confidently strides the stage, commanding the moment! The skilled performer takes over as she mimics her agent, sings a line from The Sound of Music, illustrates the return on a beach of her tactile memory… It is tempting to equate Gaynor Young with a latter day Helen Keller. ‘My Plunge to Fame’ is devoid of mawkish sentiment. It isn’t a litany of woes but an uplifting theatrical experience, a golden affirmation of life and faith. The individual and the artist’s triumph over adversity and tragedy is so moving and so real.'

In 2000 Gaynor's autobiography entitled, 'My Plunge to Fame' was published, with her story again receiving widespread acclaim. In recognition of her epic story South African playwright, Athol Fugard wrote about her book, ‘If you have lately been doubting the capacity of the human spirit to overcome calamitous misfortune, I urge you to read Gaynor Young’s story. It will restore your faith’.

Uplifted by the success of 'My Plunge to Fame', Gaynor turned her book into another show and in 2004 opened in her second show 'Gaynor Rising'  in Durban, with the show then moving to the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town.

With a truly inspirational story of guts, determination and desire, Gaynor was able to use her experience to give up lifting talks to blue chip companies throughout South Africa. Gaynor's pleasures in life involve writing and looking after her 'children', Perdita, a beautiful wire haired Dachshund and Spencer, a grey Cockateil with a great sense of humour!

In 2007, Gaynor took the decision to have a Cochlear Implant. For Gaynor, the joy of once again being able to hear is considerable. She delights in being able to listen to the birds singing, not least because it is something she never thought she would experience again. Gaynor had her second Cochlear Implant fitted in May this year and it has made a remarkable difference to her hearing.

Gaynor regularly writes a reflective and experiential blog and if you would like to enjoy her observations on life, please subscribe to her blog at

You might also like to visit Gaynor's website where you can find out more about her and about her writing. It is at 

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Deaf Life

18th November 2013