In 1999, when Patrick was 12 years old he fell out of a mango tree. He was only about six feet off of the ground, but he suffered a dislocation of his spinal cord and fell into a coma that lasted for ten days. When he woke up, he couldn’t move his legs. He spent more than a year in the hospital and saw little improvement in his condition. He told me “Life was not easy at the start, but I was still hopeful.”
As the months and years went on, and he wasn’t able to make much progress in healing, Patrick began to lose his grip on the hope that he once had. “People were seeing me like a burden to them, they were neglecting me. I wasn’t going to school. Life was meaningless and I began to think of suicide.”
Patrick just wasn’t able to believe the doctors and counselors that were telling him that he was going to be okay. They weren’t paralyzed and they didn’t understand what he was feeling. One day, though, the doctors allowed him to participate in a Peer Group Training that was happening at his hospital. The training was being led by Fred Semakulu, an Advocacy Trainer who was himself paralyzed from the waist down after a fall from a tree.
Being supported by a fellow survivor changed Patrick’s outlook. He remembers, “I realized I had to think twice. Now I’m not the only one in this condition. There are others and they are still living.” He made a promise that day to choose to live as well. He met with Fred after the program and began on the path to get certified as a Peer Group Trainer as soon as he was out of the hospital.
Now, Patrick is a trainer of trainers for the Peer Group Trainers Project. “My testimony is to inspire. I need people to know that ‘You’re not useless.’ I want to share my experience. I’ve gone through the same thing and I’m still living. The sharing of the stories always helps to build self-esteem.”
In the future, Patrick has plans of joining local politics so that he can expand his influence and further advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. PWDs, he explained, “are still seen as being a burden, there is a lot of sensitization that needs to be done.”
Patrick is grateful to those who helped him pull through some very difficult times, and he’s grateful that he can help others through that process now. The testimony of survivors is extremely profound to someone struggling with similar circumstances. “It helped me to change,” Patrick says, “and if I do it with other people then they can also change. It will improve their quality of life.”
Posted By Bryan Lupton
Posted Jul 12th, 2009