Forty-something years on, the pain is still strong!
Actually, the pain grows stronger as the years roll on. If I have to tell you a story of a family with a brother living with disabilities, I would tell you a tale of an emotional curve that bends in all directions. This is my family story.
At forty-something, my elder brother who is paralyzed from waist down, to a disease called Poliomyelitis is active in his job as a laboratory technician, married, but all of these did not come easy at all. We always express our excitement and pride when we talk about his educational and career achievements. But we never stop cry when we look back at how he fought, like a soldier, in a battle front that was out rightly discriminatory, disability unfriendly, and stigma driven.
Explaining to you how Edmond, my brother, managed to bag a degree in Microbiology in the University of Buea and a Masters degree in Clinical Counseling from the Cameroon Christian University, is a difficult tale to tell. He himself cannot fully explain. Stuck in a tricycle and navigating the staircases to amphitheatres, lecture halls and administrative offices of the universities was a pain in the ass. He depended on passing students and friends who could lend him a lifting hand. Where he couldn’t get students with good hearts and intentions, he missed his classes. He missed one too many classes and tests which made life in the university not only hard but also discouraging to a man of his status. Sad to say university infrastructures in Cameroon are good examples of disability unfriendly infrastructure. Edmond, who always took prizes for excellent results in his secondary and high school days, ended up spending more than the required number of years for his first degree program.
Going back to explain how difficult gaining admission into mission boarding schools in Cameroon were because of his disability, is a story for another day. The truth is, they rejected him on grounds that they could not accommodate him because of his level of disability. Well, thank God he managed to beat the odds at government schools. And he courageously beat the bigger odds at university campuses.
In all of his achievements, have we ever been completely happy? I will be lying if I say YES. My brother is growing fatter and heavier as he grows old. We worry on a lot of issues. We worry about his strength of moving from his tricycle and wheel chair into public and private vehicles. As my other brothers grow old, we worry about their strength because they are the ones who back him to climb stair cases and navigate difficult buildings. They are the surest and most available vessels of transportation for him in times of difficulty – they have grown to accommodate his weight and accept his fate. We worry about his wife, who seem not be worried. She, like her husband has beaten all societal gossips of her marrying “a man who cannot walk.” She is such a strong soul. We worry about our mother, yes our mother, who has never stopped being worried about her son’s condition.
Yes, we worry a lot about our mum; Mum would cry whenever he is in difficulty, mum would cry whenever she stands by watching my brothers back him to climb stair cases. She would, at some point, close her eyes and turn away and then murmur silent but fast lines of prayers for safe climbing. And after every safe climbing, she would feel relieved and say a silent “thank you Jesus, in you alone I trust.” Meanwhile, she would never wait for occasions to get finished for her to pray for another save descending of the stairs.
Living with disability in Cameroon, for people with such magnitude of disabilities is a battle for those who have courage and family support to dare. If you can’t dare, you can’t win. Being a parent[s] of persons with disabilities in Cameroon is even harder – harder because the battle is a life long one. The pains come when the disability comes, and it never leaves you because of the discrimination, stigmatization, and disability unfriendly environment. So for our mum and us, in the midst of all Edmond has achieved so far, we are seeking for ways to take the pain away. That is why forty-something years on, the pain is still on!!!