From Stairs To Ramps: Overwhelming Loss


My name is Brian and I had an accident in 2014 that changed my life. I was a university student when it happened. Find part one of my story here. Most of my memories from five years ago are blurry and misplaced. Everything feels like a sketchy puzzle with missing parts; unsolvable. What I remember vividly, however, is that Friday morning. It was supposed to be a good day, it had all the indications that it would be. I was a commuting student so as was my routine, I left home for campus that day not knowing that this was going to be the last day I would ever run, dance or simply just have a walk.

At the time, I was a third-year student at the Jomo Kenyatta University Nakuru Town campus. It was, and I suspect still is, a fairly boring place to be. I should have been elsewhere in an interesting and stimulating environment pursuing something related to literature and the arts, but there I was. Doing math and failing. Despite its dullness, my campus was home to a certain fine girl in the BBIT class. I was mostly awkward around her, I would sweat and embarrass myself whenever she looked in my general direction. But this I believed, was a testament that I truly liked her.

Surprisingly, I was extra smooth with her that day. I was leaning on the wall outside the lecture hall, she was standing a few centimetres from me; just close enough for me to be lured by her beautiful scent. I was ecstatic. I reminisced about her that night, how she smiled and giggled at my rehearsed jokes. It was a good thought to sleep on, so I did. My premature sleep was interrupted by the buzzing of my Tecno phone. The caller was “Njugush”.

Njuguna was a buddy of mine. He was a soft-spoken and gentle guy who was quite popular in our village. His popularity coming from his line of work; he was the only barber in the village. Everyone liked him and I was no exception. So Njuguna tells me he has plans for the weekend and I should make my way to the shopping centre. It was past 10 pm at night but I did what any excitable university student does, I followed the party.

That night we indulged in drinking and clubbing. It was actually the first time I had experienced club hopping; This was the life and I was above the moon with excitement. I am not one to brag but that night I danced with the prettiest girls in the club without even having to try. The night was that good, It was also the calm before the storm. Tragedy struck as we went back home.

I was in a car with four other people including Njuguna. The car belonged to Njuguna’s friend. A few kilometres from home, we were on a climbing lane and a trailer overtaking from the other side of the road hit us. I wasn’t scared at the time when we saw the trailer because I thought the trailer would swerve or we would be able to swerve. We have had close calls before so I didn’t take it seriously. Its when I saw the trailer lights come directly in front of us that I started to panic.  Three of the guys in the car including Njugush died. The guys who died, died in a lot of pain because from the little I remember before I blacked out they were crying. I wasn’t in pain at the time, even when being transported to the hospital. The pain, the excruciating pain came later.  I sustained a severe injury to my spine and that became the end of Brian and the beginning of “Brian wa Wheelchair”.

I might have survived but there was no life left in me. I was angry at myself and partly at Njugush for making that call. I struggled to come to terms with the ramifications of my own decisions. I was in denial and it was easier to blame my misfortunes on someone else. In the beginning, I didn’t feel lucky to be a survivor, it felt like an unwanted burden which was only delaying my inevitable end. I was blinded by my own ignorance. An ignorance that could only be rectified by acceptance.

In high school, the guys gave me the nickname “bolt”. This was in reference to two things; my name is “Waihenya” which is Kikuyu for ” the fast one”. The second reference was the position I played in rugby. I was one of the fast wingers whose intended purpose was to run really fast with the ball and score. I wasn’t a breathtaking player so I didn’t score too often but I was a great athlete.

Fast forward to some years after finishing high school and I was faced with my greatest challenge yet. In front of me stood two slender men in white coats, they were men I had gotten used to seeing but I was never too interested in knowing them or even remembering their faces. All I knew is that every day after lunch, these men would come to my ward and attempt to put me on a wheelchair…they always failed. Bolt was gone.

I was in a ward because I had been involved in a grisly accident that had left me paralyzed from my shoulders downwards. I know it sounds scary, that’s because it was. I suffered a dislocation and fracture to my cerebral vertebrae which severed my spinal cord. All this led to what we call a complete injury which basically puts my chances of recovery at zero. It sounds strange to say, but I have accepted that I might never walk again, it was a bitter pill to swallow but again, it was the only pill.

I am a proactive man that doesn’t sit around to complain thus, it didn’t take too process the details of my new reality. Some people speak about denial in the initial stages of traumatic events but in my case, I took it all in, in its rawest form. I believed with surety that my life had come to a halting stop. I was stuck in bed for two months and the nurses had to literally help me with everything from bathing, changing my diapers, eating, drinking… I was a broken man. I had waved my white flag of surrender before the war had even begun.

The spine is a complex part of our body that links the brain to different organs and muscles. Once that link is interfered with, the body ceases to function normally. The higher up the spine an injury occurs, the more severe it is. For instance, if an injury were to affect the lower part of the spine, the affected would lose feeling and control from the waist down. My injury was at the level of my neck hence the loss of feeling and control anywhere below my chest.

Its worse for me because I have no sensation in some parts of my hands and zero control over my fingers. To put it all into perspective, I only have feelings in my head, neck and parts of my hands. The rest of my body is for show; I have no control over it and neither am I responsible for its actions; So next time you are seated next to me and I ” pass some air”, know that it’s not me that farted, it’s my body.

Such has been my reality for the last five years, I’ve learnt to live in a body that won’t be told what to do. I might be seated somewhere minding my own business and pee starts to come out. That’s not even the worst part, because I have no sensation, I don’t feel myself getting wet. I will probably carry on with whatever I am doing until someone points out that I have susud myself. Life is tough out here. Find the next part of my story here – From Stairs To Ramps: Going Home A Broken Man After The Accident

Let’s meet next Monday for me to tell you more about my story. If you would like to interact with me, you can find me on Facebook.

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