On December 21st of 2017, I was transferred by ambulance to Ruwa Rehabilitation Center accompanied by my sister Mufaro, my cousin Blessing and his wife Jane. I was scared and worried at the thought of how I would cope being away from my family. We were admitted by an unfriendly nurse which made my situation even harder. I was placed in a general female ward. I could not help but worry if my being in there was going to help me get better. Fortunately, a patient named Plaxedes, who was a quadriplegic, warmly welcomed me. She could probably see my discomfort and fear. She did her best to make me feel at home. We hit it off, and she made my stay there a lot more bearable. Sadly, Plaxedes passed away in April of this year from pressure sores due to lack of care at home. May her soul rest in peace!!
The next day was a Unity day holiday which meant the physiotherapists were not present. I had to wait. This waiting made me quite anxious because I thought it would slow down my healing process. I was so naïve. I didn’t quite understand what it meant to be a spinal cord patient. I thought a week of physiotherapy would get me back on my feet. I really wanted to believe that was possible. Now three years later, I laugh at myself. But a sister is allowed to dream right?
The hardest times were on Christmas day and New Year’s Eve. I was sorely missing home. Here I was in a strange place. I really missed my family. A visit from my cousin, relatives and a couple of friends made things a lot better. I remember getting so emotional that I couldn’t help but cry.
After the holidays, the physio team resumed work. They gave me a lovely welcome and made their assessment. They came to the conclusion that I had a complete injury which was different from the MRI report which had stated that my injury was incomplete. Confusion and anger filled inside my entire being. Allow me to describe what it means to have a spinal cord injury. Having a spinal cord injury means your motor and sensory nerves are damaged and it is either a complete injury or an incomplete injury. Complete injury means your chances of getting back to your feet are next to none because your spinal cord is completely severed. Incomplete injury means there is a chance you get back on your feet. That the less damaged nerves can recover function. Being told my injury was complete was seriously devastating.
After admission, they do what’s called goal setting. They call your family and employer to explain the situation and what it means to be a paraplegic. They convey what’s needed and prepare them on how to best help you live. They ask for adjustments to be made at home and at work. They inform you on which type of wheelchair to purchase. In all honesty, I wasn’t having any of it. In my mind, there was just no way I had a complete injury. I was in denial and disbelief. When I was admitted, I was highly motivated. I had the intent of leaving the place on my own feet. Being told I would not be able to walk was utterly demoralizing. I kept asking myself, what was the point of being there, if I was never going to walk. I remember, a few weeks later, asking one of the physiotherapists why they weren’t working much on recovery, but more on getting me to be independent. She said, “we work with what’s on the ground”. I really wanted more than that. Nobody was telling me what I wanted to hear, or help me believe that I would conquer my injury. I wanted someone to tell me I would walk again. I even had a playlist of songs I wanted to dance to when I recovered.
One important reason why people go to rehab is to be taught to be independent. I came to understand this later on. I was more determined on recovery. Whenever I went to the gym, I completely gave it my all. The first few things I was taught were rolling on a bed and doing press ups. I remember it being so difficult. I could not believe I was failing to do such simple things.
One day, out of nowhere, I burst into tears because I realised I was in a tight spot. It was in that moment that I realised that my life had changed. My physiotherapist was confused by my sudden switch. He quickly understood what was going on and asked me to let it all out. For the next few weeks, I fought through and did my best not to miss any physio sessions. One day, I had a fever. I had to miss a session and it broke my heart.
I had lost so much weight because I had trouble eating the hospital food. I dreaded seeing pictures of myself because of how thin I had become. I decided to challenge myself to eat. It was also fortunate that I had a good support system from my family and friends. They made sure to bring me good food, fruits and water. To this day, I am very grateful to them.
I had a great team of physiotherapists and each of them contributed to making me the person I am now. The first time I was asked to try and sit, I couldn’t believe I had no idea of how to do it. I felt like a baby learning to do everything. When I finally managed to sit, I had a blood rush. I felt so dizzy that I threw up afterwards. I was taught weight bearing exercises. The first session I could barely breathe. I didn’t have any endurance. But I was so resilient. I sometimes wonder what happened to that girl who didn’t let anything deter her from winning.
I believe I gave rehab my all. Relief came to me one day when a doctor did a visit. I was asked to wiggle my toes and three of them moved! The doctor said that it was just a matter of time for me to get back on my feet . Till this day, I’m still hopeful. Although, a dear friend has told me that “hope is a trap”. But who knows what God has in store for me?
I made friends in rehab and I no longer felt alone. I believe my rehab experience was great because of the ladies I met there. To this day, they are not just friends, but sisters. We challenged each other to work hard and to take good care of ourselves. It’s very unfortunate that some of them have passed on due to complications of their spinal cord injury.
My rehab story will not be complete if I didn’t mention a certain lad by the name of Benjamin who worked at the rehab center. I believe he was at my bedside more than his work station. I know I don’t say it enough, but I’m grateful for all the times he kept me company. He pushed me beyond my limit and helped me succeed.
Being in rehab is a really tough experience. Especially when you have to deal with unfriendly nurses who make you question the reason why they chose their profession in the first place. But there are pleasant ones who took good care of us. I could mention names, but the list is too long. I’m forever grateful. I will give a shout out to the Ruwa physio department. They gave their all to make us the women we are today.
I may not be where I really want to be right now, but I believe with GOD all things are possible. One day it shall be a testimony. Just you wait and see….