9 Years on Wheelchair: Celebration of Life

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My whole life had been marked by pains that no word can describe. Today, being the 14th of April, 2021 makes it exactly 9 years of my reborn, 9 years of surviving and waking up from a near-death experience and I have chosen to in place of my birthday, celebrate my life day as they wouldn’t be need to celebrate a birthday if I hadn’t make it till now.

Upon waking up, I found myself in a world different from what I used to know. A world where I have to depend on wheelchairs for mobility. To me then, it was new, it was strange and it was looking like a world so much impossible. As days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years, my confidence about using wheelchairs began to grow exponentially. But being pushed in a manual Wheechair was something that left me wholly dependent on other people, as I’m not able to self-propel. While a wheelchair provided me with opportunities to go out, I still felt like I had little independence. Often I couldn’t even control where I looked when we were out.

The first – three years were physically and psychologically brutal. It felt like purgatory: I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live, either. It’s the worst feeling. It’s just blank. On top of that pain, I had physical pain you can’t describe with words in the dictionary. It felt like an alien was in my body. When I was in the India hospital, waking up every morning was like a nightmare. I was so depressed. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish even an enemy.

Every night, before I went to bed, I’d have an existential crisis. Up until this point. I always got hurt — I’d experienced my whole life through my body. That’s the lens I used to experience the world, and then it shattered. I was lost: Who am I? Who do people think I am? What can I do? What’s the point?

Things slowly but surely changed over time. It’s been a journey. I’m challenged every day. I never have a vacation from my body, but I’m also so proud to be a wheelchair user and be part of the community I’m in. I’ve chosen it as an identity.

My relationship also has been helpful a lot. I have built relationships with family and friends which are my joy today. But it is very rare to get an abled body lady that will like to get married to a Spinal Cord Injury Survival because of the feelings of complications and emotions. Rather, every lady want me to be their intimate friend.

Accepting I needed to use a wheelchair was a big obstacle to overcome. Not only was I coping with physical changes courtesy of the SCI but I also had to make a psychological shift that was just as hard, if not harder. There is the inevitable question “why me?” (to which the answer is “why not?”) and a growing sense of frustration. In the end I had a choice – take to my sofa and never go anywhere or use a wheelchair and get on with life. I opted for the latter but it certainly wasn’t easy. Sadly, there are many people who can’t bring themselves to use a wheelchair and miss out on the rest of their lives. As far as I am concerned, my wheelchair has become my legs but that doesn’t mean life is as it was before. Nothing like it.

Life is tolerable in a wheelchair (after all, what choice do I have?) but it could be so much better. It seems to me that a person in a wheelchair is rarely consulted about their needs and many people are guilty of not being bothered except of course, fellow disabled persons. Others don’t think things through – a classic examples are in the society we are, especially both private and public building which, for many years, has multiple staircases to its entrance and a prominent sign saying “For Disabled Access, Enquire Within”.

There is the occasional advantage to being in a wheelchair though. For instance, I am never without somewhere to sit. I am always amused when someone says “take a seat”, realises what they’ve said and starts to go.

On the 30th March, 2021 when I arrived Mom Orphanage Home Lokoja at a birthday celebration of my Sister, Phar. Ramat Molo, all the seats were taken before we got there. My colleague fetched two chairs. I asked him who the second one was for and he said “It’s for you – I forgot you’re in a wheelchair.” What a compliment. People who see the person beyond the chair are to be treasured.

So how does it feel to be disabled, to need to use a wheelchair? No proper life, no fun, right? What you need to understand is that it is not necessarily being disabled that prevents me from doing things. What limits me (apart from my day-to-day health) is, for instance, which buildings I can get into and which friends’ houses I can visit. Being disabled does not define my personality, it does not mean I am permanently miserable and I still have the same lively sense of humour and enjoyment of the ridiculous as I always have.

Last year, few weeks after the celebration of my life which I tagged “8 Years Agony of my Life”, I had a challenging experience which I deemed worthy of sharing so that both the disabled and able bodies alike may learn and take caution where and when necessary. On the 30th of May, 2020, at about 6:30a.m., taking advantage of my disability and being on a wheelchair, a young man which was later discovered to go by the name “Yekini Usman”, broke into my room and went away with the sum of #30,000 as well as my smartphone. As a man who believe strongly that once disability shouldn’t be taken as weakness, I immediately reported the case to the relevant authorities who got the criminal tracked down, apprehended and subsequently taken to court. Although, the case lingard for about 4 months, costing me a lot of time and resources but at the end of the day, Justice was served as Yekini Usman was found guilty and sentenced to a 4 and 15 months jail terms which is to run consecutively. The joy in all of this is that with the support of the relevant bodies, I was able to prove that being physically challenged doesn’t translate to being intellectually retarded neither does being disabled takes away the soundness of one’s mind. I have also been able to show that being on a wheelchair doesn’t stop me from knowing my rights and seeking for Justice whenever my rights are being violated and as such, I call on all the able bodies out there who are fond of taking advantage of persons with disabilities to desist henceforth just as I equally call on all persons with disabilities to always stand on their rights and employ all available legal means to seek for Justice whenever their rights are being violated.

Let me at this point state as a matter of emphasis that this write-up is not to attract your sympathy but for you reading it to join me in celebrating my life. Yes, I am a Physically Challenged Person but with many Abilities and by God’s grace, the owner of Hope Global Computer college Okengwe.

My sincere and in-depth appreciation goes to the following notable personalities who I can’t help but mention: Senator Nurudeen Abatemi, Rt. Hon Ahmed Tijani Damisa, Big Mummy Hajiya Habitat Onumoko, Mr. & Mrs. Alabi, Mallam AlHassan Aliyu Asir, Alhaji Haruna Salihu, Dr. Yahaya Akanali, Pharm Ramat Molo, Hon. Adams Kadoka, Mrs. Hassanat Abdulmalik, Mrs. Salma MuhammedSanni Mr. Hassan Ogembe, Daniya’s family, Okasime’s Family, Teddy, Yekini Steady, Mica, Zaika, and all my Assumed Daughters and Sons as well as all the Members of the Kogi Central Disabled Community.

Finally, I appreciate all my family members for their financial, physical, spiritual, and psychological support. You all are the reason I’m still alive.

I pray to Almighty Allah to forgive those who thought it’s because I have made money that I decided to travelled to India to remove my KYPHOSIS (Hunchback) to be normal human. If that is your thought, then the earlier you seek for forgiveness, the better for you. Haven’t I seen many people with Kyphosis that are doing pretty well in life? So why should my own be different? Never judge what you don’t know about.

I’m officially disabled, but my lack of limbs has truly brought out the many abilities inherent in me. My unique challenge has opened up unique opportunities to reach so many in need.

It was not easy to survived 10 hours major operation if not God’s will, so therefore, I wish Happy Life Day to Myself!

– Comrade Yakubu Nazir Abdulhakeem writes from Okene.

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