Life after the Accident
By Mercy Hill
I went back to school less than a year after the car accident – despite all odds – and I remember my first semester back to school was the hardest. I had a room to myself in the dorm – yes, no roommate – and I had the manual wheelchair. The first week of school, I fell from the wheelchair and smashed my face on hard concrete! Can you imagine? My car flipped over 4 times, I broke a spinal cord in a car accident, and my face wasn’t affected, but 1st week in school, the face got smashed on concrete! Shame on Satan! I had a swollen face, lips, and massive headache for days.
It’s strange but my outlook on life changed for the better. I realized that life was short, and we have to thank God for each day we are blessed with. Do the best you can do each day! Tell and show those whom you love that you genuinely and truthfully love them.
I know this sounds cliché like, but honestly, it’s the truth. Live your life right, and keep God first in your life. Remember that you won’t always get things right, but correct them whenever you realize you’re getting them wrong.
I feel happier and a lot more at ease with life now than I did before the accident. However, this doesn’t mean that “I have accepted my fate, and concluded to life on a wheelchair forever”. Oh no, it’s far from that. I am thankful for being alive and well, and one thing stays constant in my life, my faith in God.
I believe that I will walk again, but until that time, I will continue to conquer and live this life. The fact that I choose to live my life happy and grateful doesn’t mean I have lost hope/trust/faith in walking again.
I have been able, by the grace of God to go back to school, travel everywhere I want, and do the things I want to do, because I now have a deeper understanding of the phrase “Life is short”. I stay smiling because I genuinely know joy that is beyond comprehension. I came to realize that some things are not as serious as we take them to be.
Life on the wheelchair is not always perfect though. Recently I was looking for an apartment and I ran into a problem. Most of the apartments are easily accessible; but the wheelchair couldn’t fit in most of the restroom doors; this is the same for some houses and most residential places. I eventually found an apartment with complete accessibility. I’m telling this story because some unforeseen issues arise.
This “new life” is definitely different than what I was used to for 18 years. Almost everything one does has to be planned or done with additional time, and for someone like me who is spontaneous, it took some getting used to. I had to devise ways to do things faster, quicker and be creative.
For example, I enjoy being fashionable and wanted to continue to dress as I pleased, but after the accident I couldn’t wear jeans because they are really hard to wear. I found out that most maternity jeans have a flexibility to them that regular jeans don’t have, which makes them easier to wear.
I also don’t have to worry about buttons and zipper resulting into skin problems. High-heels are out of the question because I have to rest my foot on the wheelchair, so I pick out flat shoes that are comfortable but look good.
Wheel Chair Accessibility in Nigeria
I was in Nigeria the summer of year 2009, and that was pretty challenging. I really don’t think disabled people are adequately cared for in Nigeria.
During my visit, I realized that roads in Nigeria are not wheelchair accessible. Offices, buildings, shopping stores, markets, even schools are not accessible. I understand the aesthetics of stairs in a building, but SERIOUSLY?
Does every building need stairs? One day, while in Lagos, I wanted to go into a bank with my friend and her mother, but come to find out, the bank’s entry had about 4 tiers of stairs, and even if I was able to get past the stairs by some manner, the doors to the bank are so small that a wheelchair would not fit into it.
Also there was no back door to go in through! I was glad to see ATMs, but soon realized that someone on a wheelchair couldn’t even reach them! Where does this leave wheelchair users? No access to banks? Schools? Businesses? Companies?
I was even more heartbroken to see that the federal capital of Nigeria was not completely wheelchair accessible. I wanted to go into a popular shopping complex in Abuja but there was no ramp to easily take me into the complex.
My cousins and a few people around had to literally lift me and the wheelchair up about 10 steps of stairs just to get into the shopping complex. Good thing the shopping complex had elevators, so I was able to explore each floor, but who needs an elevator when you cannot get past the stairs outside on your own?
The Nigerian Government is NOT adequately caring for people with disability, in my opinion. If schools are not wheelchair accessible, what is life to become for a person who is disabled?
Without education, we know it’s hard to get a good job, and without access to most business places, a disabled individual is more susceptible to being poor, and having to beg for money and basic every day necessities.
I understand that it’s hard to make old buildings, old buses etc… wheelchair accessible, but what about the new things? A wheelchair user cannot get on BRT buses, or almost any other form of public transportation. I am not going to act like I know the bills that are passed in Nigeria, but if there is already a law on how every building, businesses, and schools ought to be wheelchair accessible, but people are not obeying, I think it’s time for the government to start fining and making sure people/businesses pay for not obeying the law.
I don’t want to blame the government alone though, a lot of schools in Nigeria are “private schools”, and a lot of businesses are built by regular people who have nothing to do with the government, so I urge everyone out there, , to also please, do their parts. It is easy to see a disabled person and pity them; however, pity does not bring change when no action follows it.
To the Disabled
Physical disability does not mean mental disability and it’s not a plague. That a person is disabled physically, does not make them less important or condemned.
You are the best person who understands what you’re going through, so let your voice be heard. Be presentable, look the best you can. Get rid of all bitterness – I agree that sometimes people “just don’t understand” what we’re going through. But please don’t make this an excuse to be a bitter, angry, or an unforgiving person.
My final message of hope for people experiencing a similar situation is
1st Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”. God Bless you all.