Have you ever seen a glow stick?
A glow stick is a plastic tube with a glass vial inside it. For the glow stick to work, you have to snap the stick. When you snap the stick you break the glass vial inside. This action allows the chemicals that are inside the glass to react with the ones outside of it, and makes the glow stick… glow. Once broken, people sometimes put glow sticks in the freezer to enable them last longer, but with reduced brightness. It doesn’t matter what you do to the glow stick once it is broken, it will glow.
I am a glow stick; I had to be broken in order to glow; overcoming disability.
I am a second born child who arrived on a very bright Friday the 13th in the month of March. I have cheekily wondered about my birth date. I was a meek and quiet child hardly noticed by the neighbours. As I grew older and got a brother and sister, I grew fierce and bolder. I was a unique child with unique needs and growing up with three siblings was not easy. You see, I loved playing all the boy games you could imagine!
There was however, a setback…….. I was born with a calcium deficiency and I ‘bruised easily’ and often. The number of times I visited the emergency room with fractured bones….well I stopped counting when I got to fracture number five.
One fateful day when I was eight, I had the mother of all falls and was completely broken. I broke both my legs around my knees while playing at home and was rushed to hospital.
After about 6 months of hospitalization and physiotherapy, I was able to walk on crutches. The surgeon however had unfortunately messed up, and a year later I couldn’t walk straight anymore. It was sad, but there was still more breaking to come.
I got rejected from different schools because I was a ‘disabled person’ as the school heads put it to my down trodden parents. I was no longer the playful girl or even meek girl, I was the little girl living with a disability. I was now a statistic. My spirits grew darker as time passed by and the rejection list grew. I got discouraged and felt sorry for myself.
I loved school and could not believe that my friends were continuing with their studies, while I was stuck at home. I lost a number of friends along the way and I cried myself to sleep on several occasions. I didn’t understand how God could put in me these chemicals of wonder and curiosity and at the same time not give me the bones to go with it.
But God had a plan for me. I joined a ‘special school’ for the physically handicapped. And it was there during a visit by foreign doctors, that I met the doctor who would make it possible for me to stand again and glow! Boy was it hard work! I had to undergo several corrective surgeries and counseling sessions. But the school had worse cases than mine and what amazed me was how these students always had a cheery disposition. They inspired me and I made a conscious decision to also look at the positive side of things.
I might have been on a wheel chair or on crutches at the time, but my mind and hands weren’t. It was my time in the freezer; I would go for my surgeries and in two weeks would be back in class studying hard despite my cast and wheelchair, working on my glow.
After several years of surgeries and physiotherapy I could finally walk again unaided, but not everything was back to normal. I was determined to go back to a normal school and I did. I was willing to do whatever it took. I studied hard and even managed to jump a class and catch up with my friends!
I passed my primary school exams and was admitted to a great high school. But temperatures at the school would get brutally low, as low as 4 degrees, and my legs would swell and ache. I often found myself in hospital as a result. My dad wanted to have me change schools but I refused. I was not going to break again. I was determined to glow, to prove to myself and to the world I could make it anywhere regardless of my situation.
By the time I finished secondary school, I was no longer the meek girl or the girl with a disability, or the broken girl. I was bold, glowing and with the will to take on the world. I had learned invaluable lessons along the way that made me stronger than my age mates – I could be anything I wanted to be as long as I had the right attitude.
I got admitted to The Nairobi University and quickly took up Actuarial science after convincing my dad that it was the course for me and that he needed to support me. It is a course that very few complete, but I wanted to challenge myself with the biggest and best brains. After all, you remember that I’d told myself that I could be anything I wanted to be right?
I am glad I chose the path that I did then as it led me to where I am now. I have had gainful employment in various industries including investment and banking. I am now a leader in the field of health supply chain management and I enjoy my job immensely as I contribute to society and to the nation.
My encouragement to everyone living with disability is that you can do anything you want to and be anyone you want to be. You are great just the way you are and the potential to live out your greatness lies within you. Do not let you physical circumstances get you down. You are beautiful from within and you need to let your light shine!
The journey of my life still continues and I’d love to share out loud that – it is ok to be a glow stick.
Sometimes we need to break before we can shine. Thereby overcoming disability.