It was the first thing I saw.
She lay in agony, on the bed, under an unusual roof. Because that’s not where she had planned to be that day. Our eyes met. The second thing I saw was a shrewd teardrop running fast down from her left eye. It must have trickled all the way down to her chest wall beneath which sat a broken heart. She turned her face a way, and even turned her back on the ‘world’ (that’s how I interpreted her change of position to face the wall). But the side of her midriff gave her away. I didn’t need to be convinced that she was crying. Almost like a revelation, I recognized her mother sitting in a little plastic chair on the side of the bed, snivelling.

Sandra* had been well until a day prior to her admission to the hospital where I met her. The young lady —I would later learn she was only 24— had been working with a Chinese factory which deals in production and processing of certain paper material. Her job might have been menial, but it enabled her to fend for her three children and her mother. Even on the day of her admission she had happily, I suppose, waved bye to her children, and even promised to return with some treats in the evening. Little did she know…

Little did she know that her right hand, the hand she used to bid the children good day, her very hand of dexterity, would be chopped off by a machine she had been operating for a good two and a half years. Now, on this public bed, Sandra was lost for thoughts. She knew life would never be the same again. The health workers had so far been able to manage her pain, but it was evident there was more and worse pain deep inside her heart —a pain morphine couldn’t palliate.

There is still much stigma surrounding physical disability. It probably comes from a fact stated by someone I am yet to name; that the worst thing about disability is that people see it before they see you. Very few look beyond your disability to see your potential. I am talking about you because every living person is a candidate for physical disability. You can never tell when a boda-boda rider will crush your femur, or when a robber or that brutal police officer might maim you. A number of people have even slid their way into lameness in their expensive houses. Anything can happen. And when it does, as it did in Sandra’s case, your life might go through very dynamic turns. You’ll feel deserted by whichever supreme powers you believe in.

Sandra confided that she had no idea what she could now do to earn a living. She was even worried about how her friends would receive her once she was discharged. And I imagined her children asking where her hand had left to. But she had already assured herself that was not an issue. She was rather weary of the foreseeable scenarios where stupid children in the neighborhood or at school would refer to her lack of one hand every time they chose to make her children feel small. She needed the world to assure her they wouldn’t judge her by her lack of the second hand. She wanted the world to promise her that her children wouldn’t be despised because of her misfortune. And that they (the world) wouldn’t forget all her determination to work before the unhappy hour around which we all blindly totter. She needed hope that she would be respected. That’s what you and I might need at some point in life. We owe it to them just as much as everyone will, God forbid, owe it to us.

P.S. I am happy Sandra’s employer footed her hospital bills. I just have more wishes.

Zeddekia Ssekyonda
MBChB3, Uganda Christian University