A year and a half ago, I started an intense rehabilitation program (Beyond Therapy). Although the program helped me get stronger, taught me new skills and made me healthier, it did not get me closer to potentially stand up and take at least one step. I knew from the beginning that the chances were very slim but I wanted to give it a try anyways. I knew that it would benefit me in many other ways as well. After a year in the program, I decided to stop. The program demanded a lot of me. 9 hours+ a week, time away from work and a lot more money (a lot!!!). I was extremely lucky that with my savings, the help of my parents, my sisters, my aunt and uncle, cousins and many friends and co-workers I was able to afford it. However, I just could not do it for much longer without risking areas of my life that were as important (my job, time with my family, my financial health, etc).
Everyday on my way back from Beyond Therapy, while reflecting back on the progress I was making, I could not stop smiling and thinking how fortunate I was. The words “thank you” continued to slowly and silently come out of my mouth.
1. During that same time, I met two wonderful persons: Father Thomas and Mary. Father Thomas is a priest from Uganda who is also in a wheelchair. His level of injury is very similar to mine. When Father Thomas had his motorcycle accident, he did not get any rehab. As a consequence, he spent the following two years in bed. He could not work, he could not use his great potential. He did not have an appropriate wheelchair, he lived in a place that was not wheelchair accessible, he did not count with the medical supplies he needed to have at a minimum a dignified existence. Thanks to the immense heart of an Angel called Mary and many others Angels that appeared in his path, mountains were moved to bring him to Shepherd Spinal Center. In less than a couple of months, he learned all the basic skills. He is now back in Uganda able to live, serve, be happy and provide happiness. (If you want to know more of Father Thomas story please go to these links: http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/17884416/fox-medical-team-unlikely-friendship and www.shepherdcentermagazine.org/q1_12/spinalcolumn_winter_2012.swf)
Meeting Father Thomas plus realizing how fortunate I am, an uncontrollable need to help, to pay forward is growing every second in my heart. For this reason, my wife and I are starting a non-profit organization to help victims of SCI in the underprivileged word. A class-mate of mine, Carlos helped me develop the idea even further. Although the idea is still hatching, “Happiness is a Choice” (HIAC) is ready to start helping.
I am happy to introduce 3 people in addition to Father Thomas that HIAC is committing to help this year:
· Jane Nagaddya: She is 26 years old. On 14th, June, 2006, she had a car accident and suffered a SCI. She was admitted to Mulago hospital (Uganda’s National Referral Hospital) for her operation and treatment. She stayed in that hospital for 5 months. She has had no therapy!!! She is 100% dependent on her grandmother! She has suffered from multiple bed sores, depression, accidents, UTIs, fevers, malaria, headaches, etc. Since she is not employed, she totally depends on the mercy and generosity of her community members.
· Julius Tumwesigye. He is 29 years old. His SCI was caused by a Road accident on August 2, 2009. He was admitted to Mulago Hospital in Uganda where he was diagnosed with a fracture dislocation of Thoracic Spine (T8 and T-9) with paraplegia. As is the case with SCI patients in Uganda, he was discharged without rehab or therapy!!! He too is 100% dependent and like Jane, has suffered with multiple sores, depressions, accidents, UTIs, fevers, malaria, headaches, etc. He has a progressive scoliosis. And like Jane, since he is not employed, he totally depends on the mercy and generosity of his community.
On behalf of “Happiness is a Choice”, I ask you to consider donating funds or supplies to send to Father Thomas, Julius and Jane. If you are interested in helping, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The fourth person is:
· Kennedy Ng’ang’a lives in Mombasa, Kenya. Kennedy used to be an avid swimmer until a diving accident in 1992 left him quadriplegic. Kennedy was told by doctors that he would never do anything productive again. Kennedy’s mother, his care giver, passed away a couple of years ago. He is alone without a caregiver and living in extreme poverty half a world away. Yet through this all, Kennedy has tapped into an amazing gift. He is a gifted painter/artist, which is truly amazing considering his physical limitations. If you want to help Kennedy, consider buying one (or more J) of his paintings. To see Kennedy’s work please go to his facebook page and explore his albums. You can even commission an original work by contacting him there. Once you receive the work in mail, then you will pay him. If you buy a painting from him, please let us know
I hope that with HIAC, we can help as many people as possible with this tough condition. This is the best way I have to thank GOD for the many gifts he constantly gives me…..
Happiness is a Choice is my way to pay forward for all the support I got from my family, friends, co-workers to help me pay my year at Beyond Therapy. It is done in your honor. I dedicate this blog to you and to all the people HIAC will be helping in the years to come…..