A car crash left me paralysed but I’m learning to live again

Wednesday July 19 2017

Brian Muchiri before and after the accident. He

Brian Muchiri before and after the accident. He was involved in a road accident in 2014 that left him paralysed. PHOTOS| COURTESY 

By MILLICENT MWOLOLO
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It was just before 6am on Saturday, February 8, 2014. I was travelling back home from a party in Nakuru with four friends, one of whom was driving. A truck in the climbing lane was approaching us dangerously fast from the opposite direction and before we knew it, there was a head-on collision. It happened within seconds. Two days later, when I regained consciousness, I found myself in a hospital bed.

My name is Brian Muchiri Waihenya. I am 23 and this is the story of how my life changed within seconds.

COULD NOT FEEL MY HANDS AND LEGS

Immediately after I woke up, I realised how strange it was that I could not feel my hands or legs, nor could I lift them. All I could feel was the pain in my shoulders. I was confused and scared at the same time.

My family and relatives were there for support, constantly assuring me that everything would be alright. As my memory slowly returned, it dawned on me that I was in a terrible accident, though I was reluctant to learn the details. When I was finally ready, I asked my parents about the accident but they seemed hesitant to divulge any information. They were more concerned about my recovery.

THREE FRIENDS DIED

A week later, a friend came to visit me in hospital. She informed me that she had just attended the burial ceremony for one of our mutual friends who also happened to be in the car that fateful day. As she continued to recount the aftermath of the accident to me, I found out that two of my other friends died while the fifth passenger survived with minor injuries.

She told me that that I had suffered a spinal injury. She added that I had been rescued from the accident scene by well-wishers, who then contacted my family. I was then taken to a private hospital in Nakuru but was later referred to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi for surgery. It was during the transfer to Aga Khan that I lost consciousness.

TOO WEAK TO SIT UP IN THE WHEELCHAIR

At Aga Khan, MRI scans showed that I had suffered a C5 and C7 fracture to the spine, meaning I lost control of anything below my armpits, including my hands. Doctors explained that the condition was incurable. They gave me painkillers to manage the pain from the fractures. By the time I was discharged a month later, I was too weak to even sit up in the wheelchair. I slept in an immobile posture and had to be turned over constantly throughout the day. It took a long time for my body to regain strength. I was helped by a physiotherapist, who came to our home three times a week before my parents took over after learning how to care for me.

FEELINGS OF DESPAIR

The instant change from being independent to completely dependent came with feelings of despair. I lacked the will to live, with only my parents’ hope and strength relieving me of the bitterness.

At the beginning, I couldn’t even use a phone.

I have been living as a paraplegic, as I lost power in both my legs and hands. Fortunately, I have been able to rehabilitate the use of my thumb and index fingers in both hands, something that was not there before. With the use of these fingers, I am able to blog with the use of a smartphone and share this information online on my blog . As people read this information, they draw encouragement from it and give feedback. This inspires me to write more and more, even if I struggle with my fingers to do it.

Writing is very important to me. It is a form of therapy. When I post something on the blog and get feedback, I feel encouraged. It is like I have started learning how to live again. The wheelchair also enables me to move around my neighbourhood. At the time of the accident, I was a student at the Nakuru campus of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), pursuing a bachelor’s degree in purchasing and supplies. I am now concentrating on my writing. I would want to study psychology once I recover.

Before the accident, I enjoyed driving, playing rugby and a few other things that I can no longer do. Regardless, I have learnt to accept this reality gradually. In the first few months after the accident, I felt as though I was trapped in my own body, like being disabled was worse than death. I even used to pray to God to take my life. After being alive for several months, I believed that He had a plan for me and that is when I embraced the disability.

I am the firstborn child in my family with two younger brothers. At the time of the accident, my youngest brother (now aged six) was barely three years old. Being young as he was when it happened, seeing me in a wheelchair is what he knows, making it hard for him to believe or understand that I ever walked. At times he gets confused when he sees my earlier photos, which is understandable

ACCEPTANCE DOES NOT MEAN GIVING UP

Though I have accepted my current state, acceptance is not giving up. I have not written off the possibility that I will walk again. It’s all part of the healing process.

I still enjoy the company of my wonderful and supportive friends, who still visit even after the accident. On my birthday, one of them usually takes me somewhere different from my everyday environment for a few days and then brings me back home. I go camping with my other friends close to home and spend the night. It is this support from a wonderful family and loving friends that has built my strength this far.

Before the accident, I had never been out partying for an entire night. A friend had called me and told me that he had a good place we could go to. I‘m not telling young people not to have fun but just to be careful and in troubled times, try to rise above their adversities. This, in turn, should teach them to help other young people overcome their tribulations.  

 

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