5 years ago I had an accident that shattered my spine. It has been an interesting journey adjusting to spending my days in a wheelchair, and the journey has had its ups and downs. Find the beginning of my story here.
My late aunty Aisha, God bless her soul, would frequently tell me, “mgonjwa hana haya.” This was to put me at ease whenever my heart sank as the doctors stripped me naked to perform some kind of assessment in the presence of nurses and nosey onlookers. I would feel exposed and invaded upon. It was a terrible feeling but it is something I ultimately had to come to terms with.
It was at the break of dawn and the birds had already started chirping, “Oh happy day!!!”, they seemingly sang. So peaceful, so tranquil. I could feel the sweat on my face, every now and then a drop of it would roll down my cheeks to the back of my neck. It had been almost a week now of nursing a fever that wouldn’t end, the fever brought with it an unquenchable thirst for water or anything that resembled it. I was numb and not in the poetic or figurative way, my entire body literally felt like a log of wood placed on a bed and this made my life even more miserable.
Around 6:30 am every morning, I had learnt to expect the sound of four footsteps approaching my ward. One pair; heavier and with a thump, belonged to nurse Nancy who was uncomfortably flirty and a woman of sizeable stature. The other ones were lighter and more springy, those were Brenda’s, a nurse too, older and with expensive looking spectacles. As they got closer, their chatter would get more distinct, hot topics were mostly about soap operas and their colleague doctors who drank at work.
My bed was right at the entrance of the ward so I was always first on their list. “Sasa Brio?”, Nancy would religious say every time she pulled the curtains to my cubicle. As we continued to exchange pleasantries, Brenda would be taking off the light gown that I used to wear, in three seconds I would be naked as the day I was born. It was bathing time.
Nancy would lather the brown bathing towel given to me during admission with Imperial leather soap (fancy), squeeze most of the water out and wipe the sweat off my face…. Being clean again was my favourite time of the day. As all this went on, the hallway banter about drunk doctors would make a comeback with Brenda revealing that she had never tasted an ounce of alcohol all her life. A statement that Nancy approached with dramatic scepticism.
I would often lay there, motionless and speechless, not speaking unless I was spoken to. Nancy would tease me as she asked whether I had had a drink or I was a goody two-shoes like Brenda. Rather than make conversation, I would subtly chuckle her inquisitiveness away. I wasn’t in the mood for gossiping, they were about to change my diaper.
The way they snapped the sticky bits that held it together brought back memories of how I would change my little brother’s diaper. As it turned out, it was now my turn to be the baby and to do what babies do, get their diapers changed. Most times I just found myself tearing up, feeling sorry for what I had become.
I have always taken responsibility for the actions that led to my accident. It is I that put myself in that situation and therefore in my mind, the person responsible for me being in a diaper wasn’t the devil or a bad driver, it was me. I blamed myself.
Nancy and Brenda seemed to pick up on my sudden change of mood because the subject of conversation would normally take an inspirational/encouraging turn. I appreciated their goodwill, but my problems weren’t going to be solved that easily. I was a wounded man and the kind of wounds I had needed sometime before they could heal.
Soon the two nurses would say their goodbyes and proceed to attend to other patients. I, on the other hand, would return to my world of numbness and wistfulness.
Having zero control over most of your bodily functions can be a difficult thing to accept. Ever harder to accept, is the fact that you require help from some else to do things that people are supposed to do for themselves and by themselves. Just because it is hard to accept these things doesn’t mean it is impossible.
Other things like peace of mind are more important than ego or self-pity. Spine injury is mostly forever so I had an easy choice to make, pity myself for the remaining days of my life or understand that needing help doesn’t make you lesser of a person. “Mgonjwa hana haya”. Read the next post – From Stairs To Ramps: Facing Misconceptions About Disability And Intimacy