Joni Eareckson Tada dove into the murky waters of Chesapeake Bay and suffered a spinal injury that had left her tetraplegic. At one stage, she had hung upside down UNDER her bed, in traction, staring at the floor, for a prolonged period of time. I quite think she’d not even notice 21 days of lockdown. Now read on for more perspectives……
My Own Story
It started in 1994, maybe well before that. The pain under my left foot, in the hollow there. Over time, it became worse until I had to crawl where I wanted to be. The house was large, so getting to the bathroom was quite a challenge, given the runway length of the hallway.
By the time I got to the Doctor, he sent me down the highway on a three-hour drive to see an orthopaedic surgeon who sent me off to the provincial medical headquarters for a CAT scan and MRI. Upon my return, I was wheelchaired when he read the report from the radiologists and bundled into a hospital bed. I wasn’t allowed to walk (as if I could, anyhow!) and rode my wheelchair with gusto. At age 32, some testosterone was still in great supply and I practised wheelies and made skid marks on the hospital floor. That was until the Matron came in and pulled up my hand brake, berating me for being “reckless.” So, I told her, that I did have some amateur rally driving experience and also track racing, that I wasn’t going to wreck her wheelchair. That was when I learned that I was about to snap my spinal cord, that the “transformer fluid” already drained all by itself and that a permanent life in a wheelchair was about “98% guaranteed.”
So, they never found a neurosurgeon, as it was Easter and the orthopaedic surgeon went in on his own, saving me from being permanently crippled but leaving me with much-reduced mobility. That cost me my job, with a wife and two primary school kids, in a country where white men can’t even apply for jobs due to “affirmative action.”
This signalled in decades of hardship and our very kind churches helped us dispose of whatever we could salvage from our estate. Our entire legacy, home, and even paid-for (in cash) luxury German cars bit the bullet.
We were devastated. Then came hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and the old auto-immune diseases resurfaced. Sarcoidosis, asthma, intolerances of gluten, legumes, etc., and fibromyalgia, rheumatic arthritis and the like descended upon me. At one stage, I had an NDE (near-death experience) and things became hectic.
Over time, unstable angina and tachycardia rose their ugly heads.
This lot, quite understandably, resulted in 21 years of very limited mobility and it was only by March 2016 that a true miracle happened: I got up and WALKED on my own two hind feet, unassisted! Prior to this, my wife read me a Bible verse which she saw as a message from God that my back would be healed. The day that my lower spine became very warm and felt as if the bones in there moved, she couldn’t wait for me to tell her – as she heard it from about two metres away.
Without a job and after having been cleaned out by the church laundrymen, we had a very exciting life, of course. It meant severe hardship and a life of tremendous sacrifice and compromise.
To be stuck in one room for seven months on end, or to fear a bathroom visit, wasn’t easy, as I happened to be an adventurer who could be found on mountain tops or deep in the ocean, diving about. That suddenly came to an abrupt halt as my first stint of being bedridden lasted a full six months. The first heart attack and stroke followed by 1995; I suffered 12 strokes since, possibly a handful of TIA’s as well, but we were too far from medical help to know for sure. Doctors also diagnosed mild heart attacks upon a few occasions, six or seven times.
Forced to stay inside, living three storeys up in the sky, wasn’t very easy as I grew up in the wild, always out in nature. Now, the opposite happened. I was locked in, locked down, with no real hope for getting out.
It was only that 2016 miracle that freed me and we had undertaken fourteen long-distance journeys by rail by now, from the basic tourist class to the opulent The Blue Train.
From November 2018 to September 2019, I suffered four strokes in the basal ganglia area of the brain, permanently affecting my gait so that I now walk with my induku, or walking stick. In Afrikaans, we call that a kierie.
Experiencing austerity on top of restricted mobility is something we take in our stride. I cannot see how 21 days of coronavirus lockdown can ever really be a problem, other than that my wife can not earn and the food is running out. My meagre state disability allowance really is taxed beyond its spartan limits already. When fellow South Africans whine about their 21 days of hardship, I really sigh and wonder how loudly the shack dwellers must be laughing now. 54% Of our nation live on <US$55 per month.
Just last night, a famous adventurer opined on national television that “almost any South African can get into an SUV and drive up to Mapungubwe, more than a thousand miles from Cape Town. Such is the disconnectedness from the realities that the general population face.
Under these circumstances, we make “camping food” after we had two tins of tune and pretty little else to see us through the past weekend. And I still lobby for food aid for others in greater need than us without thinking of our welfare here in this mansion measuring a whopping 150 feet square. This is where we are holed up in for 21 days, on this piece of prime real estate that doesn’t come cheap. Not at all, but we pay our dues always.
So: to the whiners: don’t expose yourselves for being spoiled, privileged brats. Start experiencing how others live.