“If anyone saw me, they would’ve thought I was insane, depressed or both,” I giggled into the night and took in the fresh humid air.
I was in the garden, in a wheelchair and it was raining softly. If someone had told me I would be in this position 6 months ago, I would have called them insane. Before, I was just an ordinary young lady living my life. I spent most of my time rehearsing or performing in different places in the country. I was a performing arts student. I breathed and lived acting. It would have been complete torture to imagine myself doing anything different.
I lived at the university residence and seldom visited my mother back in the township. She is the only family I have apart from relatives we visit once a year. My mother is a teacher and an usher at church. We spoke often on the phone.
“When are you coming home?” she would ask sweetly each time.
“Mom, I am busy. If I want to be the best and successful in this field, I need to work hard,” I would respond impatiently.
Today was like any other Saturday – so I thought – and as always I had rehearsals. I was in a taxi, on my way to the theater when it happened. My world became different and so did I. Nothing was ever going to be the same. It happened quickly; one minute I was scrolling down my face book newsfeed and the next I was opening my eyes to a different world. My head pounded and my body couldn’t move.
I was in hospital. I panicked. My head pounded heavily, it felt like it was dislodged. My initial reaction was to scream but I couldn’t find my voice. My heart was racing and I felt a painful lump in my throat. My mother and what looked like a doctor were in the room. The doctor explained that I was involved in an accident and as a result, suffered a traumatic brain injury. I stared at my mother as tears fought their way down my face.
I tried to ask, ‘What is going on? Why is all of this happening?’ but I couldn’t remember how to speak and I was overwhelmed with confusion. She looked into my pleading eyes, her eyes tearful yet hopeful.
“I am praying for you Tshepiso my girl, everything will be alright. Just hold on,” she squeezed my hand. I closed my eyes with hope that I would wake up to realise that this was just one terrible script, a nightmare I would soon forget about. It only got worse.
I could hear the doctor, who introduced himself as a Neurologist, explain to my mother how everything will never be the same.
“It will take a while for her to regain strength and movement in all her limbs. However, her left leg is severely injured and she may never be able to use it again. She will experience cognitive difficulties and may present a personality change.”
That was not the worst I heard.
“She is needs constant supervision from a care giver and will be dependent for the next few months. She can’t return to varsity or do the things that she was able to do before the accident. She has to relearn how to do everything,” the doctor explained.
If words had the power to kill, I would have died at that moment. When I regained consciousness again, it was quiet, apart from my mother’s silent sobs. Her heart bled for me. I was all she had.
I was in the middle of my last year. I had so many plans for my life. I was barely through my bucket list for the year. I wanted to travel the world, fall in love and change lives. I was passionate about touching lives as an artist and wanted to be known worldwide. Growing up, I was never noticed. I was neither an academic nor an athlete. I had a low self-esteem and spent most of my time dreaming of being famous. I wanted my presence in a room to demand attention.
Once I found my niche in performing, I never looked back. I gave it my all and lived for it. On stage I could be whatever I have always dreamed of being and people were forced to take notice of my presence, abilities and confidence. On stage I could be everything I could never be in real life.
But now all of that was taken away from me in a blink of an eye.
“Oh my child, you are going to be fine. I hope the scar on your head will not be a reminder of the accident but of how much of a conqueror you are,” my mother said. Life was never going to be as I had known it to be. For that moment I thought dying would’ve worked out better. There was nothing worth living for. I was wrong.
My condition improved within the next few weeks, but I felt even more depressed each day. Therapy helped a lot but it was confirmed that for me to walk again would be a miracle. My mother continued to pray and I continued to cry. Each day would start and end with ‘why me? I can’t take this anymore’.
I was discharged and felt like a burden to my mother who quit her job to look after me. We relied on handouts from relatives and church members. As I physically got better, I began to see light at the end of the tunnel. Mother was finally able to return to work but worked half days.
One night I had a dream. The storm was almost over.
A smile crossed my face and my heart filled with joy as I thought about the accident. I was overcome by a sense contentment and gratefulness. Not only do I appreciate and value my life now but I am glad of the difference I am making. A play I wrote about my story, with a few glitters of course, has gone international and I am finally doing what I always wanted to do – touching hearts and changing lives. Not so I could be famous or feel good about myself but to fulfill my purpose.
This purpose gives me a reason to wake up every morning and renews my strength each day. A purpose that gave my mother her dream house. She fell down on her knees and thanked the Lord for his grace yesterday when she received the keys.
Before the accident I was alive but now I am living.
My inner being is much stronger and greater than my physical being. What people may see as a disability is my ability. It has enabled me to perceive things differently. It has forced me to look deep down in my heart to find the abilities in me, to focus on what I am able to do. It has taught me what really matters in life. Each time I look at myself in the mirror, I see a fighter and a conqueror. The scar on my head is my testimony. I hate it when people look at me and feel sorry me. I may have a huge scar on my head and be in a wheelchair but I can still do anything I put my mind to, I draw strength from within me.
“Tshepiso, it is raining, do you want to catch a cold?” my mother walked towards me.
“No, I am just enjoying the fresh air and admiring the garden,” I smiled at her.
“It is a beautiful garden, we are truly blessed,” her eyes lit up. “Are you ready to travel to London tomorrow for the opening of your play?” She asked.
“I cannot wait,” I let out my excitement.
“I am so proud of you, you inspire me each day,” she put her hand on my shoulder and tears escaped my eyes.
The truth is that my mother is my inspiration. She works hard and serves with love. All through my recovery, when I complained and mourned about how unfair life is, not once was she negative. Not once did she complain. She always had such a beautiful smile on her face, always believed that I was going to be okay. When I was at my lowest, she was there. She held my hand through it and showed me love I never knew was possible. She was my strength and fought my battle with me. The love and compassion she showed me was a true reflection of God’s love.
“We better get back inside,” she shivered.
“I am right behind you,” I said. I started to make my way towards the house.
Before I went into the house, I took one final look up into the night and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving. Raindrops hit my face, reminding me of the beauty that is in me and around me.
Tshepiso – a promise has been fulfilled. My meaning and purpose in life has been fulfilled, tomorrow I fly off to new heights, literally.
Tell us what you think: Do you know of anyone like Tshepiso who has fought against disability and is doing great things?