From Stairs To Ramps: Strong Spine – Why We Need To Join Together To Change The Lives Of Persons With Disabilities

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I have gone through a lot since I got into the accident that left me disabled 5 years ago. It hasn’t been easy navigating this new life I have. I have gotten really sick and recovered, had issues with depression, struggled with finding a job but I have also found love. Ever since I found out that I was disabled and it wouldn’t be as easy as I thought it would be to bounce back, I had been struggling with finding out what to do with my life. This is Why I Started The Strong Spine Foundation To Assist People With Disabilities.   Strong Spine is a chance for me to share the lessons, and love I have gotten over the last 5 years with others.

Allow me to briefly digress from my usual topic of spinal injury and focus on yet another sad affliction affecting humankind known as Cancer. Did you know that cancer is ranked third on the list of the diseases that cause most deaths in our country? This is behind pneumonia and malaria. Do you also know that people would rather contract HIV rather than get cancer? Cancer treatment is just as expensive in our country as it is rare.

A few years ago, patients had to make a very important decision; to commit to expensive treatment in privately owned institutions or head to Kenyatta hospital to queue long tedious hours for chemotherapy. Since then, however, Chemotherapy machines have been supplied to other major towns, which is a win. Either way, studies show that it costs around Ksh 800,000 to treat cervical Cancer without surgery. Should you opt for surgery, the price shoots to around Ksh 1.5million.

These are some of the facts I got to learn about when I followed a conversation during “Cancer Survivors day” last year. It’s sad to see how Kenyan families are one illness are away from poverty. I have seen people liquify all their assets just to afford the treatment that would otherwise be cheaper in other countries. That’s why we see medical appeals every other day on Facebook with families trying to take their loved ones to India. As a young man with a disability, I have a lot of empathy for struggling families that also have to contend with an illness they can’t afford. Health: Challenges Faced By Cancer Patient And Their Families

Just like cancer, spine injury and other related disabilities are chronic in nature which means that they go on for long periods of time and cause the patient a lot of physical, mental and financial strain. My own family experienced immense strain when I suffered the injury to my spine. The first major hurdle was affording an ambulance that was well equipped to transport someone with an injury as severe as mine. We parted with Ksh. 30,000 for a one-way drive to Nairobi and more on our way back. Then came the hospital bills and the medication, physiotherapy, assistive devices… It was all so overwhelming. To be honest, sometimes it still is.

Reminiscing about that part of my life fills me with so much energy to want to lend a helping hand to those that might be struggling to find their way. Goodwill is important once you set out to help someone but wishing a hungry man good fortune doesn’t fill his belly; food does. Therefore, goodwill without funds and the sense of community is futile. All these things need to work together for there to be real change in this world.

With this realization, I have tried to do what I can to mobilize not only funds but also get active participants to join me in this cause. My foundation is new, and we are not yet at the level of holding charity walks and sponsoring mass advertisements. #StrongSpine is just me and these words. These words, however, have moved mountains before and I wouldn’t bet against them doing wonderful things in the future.

It has been challenging to convince the masses to donate their hard-earned coins to a guy who writes inspirational notes on Facebook. There is a lot of paranoia in our society as we as a people have been forced to doubt people’s so called good deeds. This could be attributed to the Kamiti prison culture of con artists playing with minds to enrich themselves. Therefore, healthy scepticism seems like a necessity these days, we live in strange times.

As a foundation that seeks to help disabled people find everyday solutions, I would love Strong Spine to get to the point where our influence goes beyond just the people around us. Making people aware of our existence is imperative even though issues of disability are still regarded as taboo in some parts of the country. There is a small group of people that are consumed by the wrong cultural idea that states that disability is a curse and some kind of punishment from the gods. With this kind of thinking, we are treated as a stain on society and we are denied the benefits of inclusion. Disabled people are not cursed, they are people who have been a little unfortunate, but they still need the love and support of those that are around them.

To those that my words appeal to, we move together towards selflessness and charity. It’s amazing how much one man’s donation can be life changing to the next. During one of my projects, a friend of mine donated Ksh 5,000. He said that instead of going out that weekend only to please his body, he’d rather the money went and did some good. The 5k he blows off in a few hours was enough to buy packets of maize flour, wheat flour, 25kg of rice, and cooking oil. Provisions that lasted a little girl called Ida and her family three months. This is humanity that goes beyond the thrill of cash and excess. It is an opportunity to be a part of a community that cares about one another. A community that lifts those who cannot walk and feeds those who are hungry.

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