Gabriel and His Wheelchair

I did something of my time last Friday. I went out and met (again) the community I wanted to give some of the wheelchairs I sourced from an organization in Australia and I went to visit Gab and had someone with me to check him and his wheelchair two years after we gave it to him.

(Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)
I am with a colleague adjusting Gab’s chair. On my feet half the time … I was tired but went home happy! (Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)

Gab is 8 years old last Thursday. I met him in 2014 together with his mom when I joined the local disabled people’s organization in my city. I offered my skills to help but my work does not allow me to fully commit to it. His mom and I continue to communicate. She contacts me when she has questions about Gabs condition and for some other pieces of advice.

He was born with cerebral palsy. He has spasticity on all of his extremities and he has difficulty to communicate. All his 8 years have been supported by therapy whenever money and professionals are available but he still cannot walk but he loves to be around people. So a wheelchair would be very good to have for him to be mobile and social and wheelchair he got two years ago!

(Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)
Gab and his chair of 2 years were recently adjusted. He’s happy to fit well in his chair and to be outside (Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)

When he was 6-years old, I managed to get ten wheelchairs I was hoping to give to children like Gab. At that age, his parents are already complaining that it’s becoming difficult to move him around and the DIY chairs they built him doesn’t offer much support.

He is lucky because his family makes time for him, you can feel a happy family around him when you visit, they seek help and save up for some therapy, while other children have no opportunity to access health and rehabilitation services, no caregivers and often no knowledge of their human rights. I saw many with deformities that cannot be improved anymore, let alone sit in the chair. Some, there’s hope if parents can be given the training on how to manage their child’s conditions if they cannot afford therapy and transport.

(Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2015)
Immediately after he received a new chair, Gab was able to participate in different activities for children with disabilities that summer. (Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2015)

What has changed?

When I met Gab, he was smaller. My colleague who made most of the technical adjustment had to adjust his seat depth and more to accommodate his long legs. I also noticed how talkative he has become, although he was talkative then, this time I can understand them more and being able to carry more conversation with the small vocabulary he has. But he also has a shorter temper, which I think was because of the weather (summer temperature reached 35C that day) and being cooped in the house instead of going to the park.

Gab even has his own facebook page!

He follows instructions better. When we asked him to sit straight and put his neck straight, he can do it. He has better trunk control, I guess the time he can have the straight posture would determine his progress together with other activities. With the table attached to the chair, he interacts more with the people around the house, increasing his ability to use his hands. Feeding too has improved, and I noticed no drooling compared to the first times I met him. He will need continuous therapy, but I am happy with what I saw.

I even saw photos of him playing badminton with his siblings and had gone swimming with the family this summer.

What’s next for Gab and for the remaining chairs?

Experts say he needs to be re-evaluated together with his wheelchair. A 3-wheel type chairs that have hip, trunk and head control (depending on the design). The Wheelchair For Kids, Inc. produces these type of wheelchair. The organization is made up of a group of retired volunteer members of the Perth metropolitan community in Western Australia, and they donate these type of chair all over the world.

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Gab is featured in WFK website collage and see how small he was back in 2014 (Screen grabbed from WFK website)

I don’t exactly remember how I got to know WFK, but I remember it was during the time I was in East Timor. Later, when I returned home, I contacted WFK, Inc. and inquired whether they have links with a local organization here in the Philippines where I could get access to their wheelchairs and distribute to the children in San Pedro City.

No, they don’t have specific local partners in the Philippines, but they have better links – the RSL Angeles City, a sub-branch of Returned and Services League of Australia. They send wheelchairs to them and distribute them to children in Angeles City and neighboring province (which is in the north part of the Philippines). They suggested I contact them and request the 10 chairs I was asking them.

I made contact with RSL, after some negotiations, they agreed, and I picked up the chairs. Unfortunately, I only managed to give out 1 out of 10 chairs. For many reasons but one of them was me being called off to join an emergency mission in Nepal. Partly I am to blame for the delay, but I have a pretty good excuse why the delay but don’t worry, I already arranged with someone with technical knowledge on the wheelchair and good network in the disability sector, we hope to give out those chairs in the next three months.

This time, being ambulatory, I tried to revive the project and give the remaining 9 chairs to the rightful owners. I made contact again with experts in the field, and with their help, I would be able to reach out to those kids that could use this type of chair for their everyday lives.

So I ended the day tired, with a swollen ankle but went home happy. The feeling of not being able to do anything worthwhile had faded over the weekend knowing that I will have something to look forward to in the coming days. For now, I will focus on Gab and see how much more we can still improve his chair and until when we can keep him using them until we need to find him a new one.

Postscript:

If you want to know more about disability and how you can help get children appropriate wheelchair send me a message here! Thank you in advance.

Look for the Glitter

Every day, every morning I receive an email from one religious organization – a message designed to be from God and they called it God Whispers. Telling me his thoughts about me and about my life, my dreams, my past and what could be my future.

They are encouraging words at times when I am confused or at a lost for words to describe my day. Or they can be random that I cannot relate to it until after days and there are times I completely forget them.

Yesterday God whispered these words to me

Dear Dhidhak

In a gold mine, you’re surrounded by gold. The problem is that you can’t see the gold because it’s covered by darkness, dirt, and danger.

Look for the glitter,
God

P.S. Dhidhak,  do you have a lot of problems today? The more problems you have, the more gold you have. 

But couldn’t relate it to my life at that moment until after I reviewed how my day was before going to sleep.

Towards the end of the day yesterday I received a letter of rejection from the fellowship I applied last January.  

The application was hanging over my head even before the accident. I didn’t give it much thought because I was busy moving between Turkey and Tunisia and continuing my remote technical support to people in the field until I had the accident.

When it happened, I felt I needed to do something to keep me relevant because I know how long it will take to recover. I decided to finish the application, asking friends and colleagues to give me a reference to help propel it and waited to know if I will have a future with them. My focus changed and applying for the fellowship and hopefully getting it would be a good plan at the time when I was not certain what my future would be.

So yesterday afternoon, for a brief moment I was stunned by the letter.  I will be a hypocrite if I say I didn’t felt bad, and a bit insulted having been told my life’s work is not impressive to a group of people who decides who can join the program and be the best leader after the training. Of course, I did, rejection fuels different emotions – hurt, pain, it lower self-esteem and it is one reason we have a very confused world now. But then the more I think about it, I am more challenged than rejected. Challenged to strive harder.

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Once the initial reaction subsided, which didn’t take long, I sent messages to my friends who sent me the invitation. If not for him, I wouldn’t know about it and to those who gave me professional references. I regret a little bit not getting in the program because it could be a good platform to promote my advocacy and put disability in the forefront rather than an afterthought in so many global discussions that affect our society now.

I also left a message with my sister telling her the news and what I think it means to me. As always she has the right words to say at the right time, putting me in my place, placated my feelings of rejection and any other negative thoughts that formed around it and went to bed at peace.

This morning, reading what had God whispered re-affirmed my reaction to the letter yesterday.

I realized that there is so much gold around us, around me, and in me. But gold doesn’t come from the ground glittering and glowing the moment you see them.  Like any gems and precious metals, you don’t know them unless you know what you are looking for — they come covered in dirt, in between rocks or found in the darkest part of the earth.  It takes time to get to the part where it glitters, and value appreciates.

Maybe that is how I came across to those that reviewed my application among the hundreds of applicants. It didn’t glitter to the luster that attracts attention enough to offer me the opportunity. But its’ okay, I don’t need to be glowing and glittering to serve and to lead. I may not have a fancy title attached to my name, but I know that at the end of the day your title doesn’t earn you the feeling of fulfillment knowing that you found gold in others and that they see the gold in me.

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It’s Time to Get Those Feet on the Sand

Yesterday I talked to my so-called boyfriend and revealed to him my emotional state. He told me that I would feel much better if my leg completely healed and I completely recovered. I cannot complain on his answers or what was lacking in the way he said it. But he is telling the truth because I am slowly getting out of the rut every time I notice something different, focusing on the positive.

He didn’t reveal anything similar happening to him when he had his ankle accident. He very much knew my physical condition; he also had ankle injury when he was serving in the Turkish military back in the days. But I guess that’s where the similarity of our condition ends. His accident happened when he was very young, and from what he told me when he got better he continues to be sporty and changed careers. He used to be a boxing champion for his weight division until ten years ago, and he kept his form up to this day while honing his creative genius in fashion design.

Similar advise given to me by my sister. She also broke her ankle bone (medial malleolus), and a wire was also used to fix it.  It was from climbing Mt. Banahaw* with her students. I was out of the country when it happened so I didn’t know what happened during her recovery. It took her three months to 6 months to fully recover.

She told me she was using the wheelchair all the time and wheeled herself to her classroom. She didn’t use a walker, crutches, and cane nor wore plaster or used a boot to keep the ankle stable – she didn’t get out of her chair unless she needed to, like showering and going to bed. But I guess she was occupied, busy and had a purpose – which was teaching that there was no space to be emotional. I am also sure; she offered her pain and any problem she had with God and continued to be her good natured self.

But my disability journey was different.

When I thought I was recovering faster than usual, I was pulled back by pain in my foot, and my emotion went down with it (My Road to Recovery Is Bumpy, Now that I Am Thinking of It). Hearing what Hajj has to say about it made me realized that there is truth to what he told me. And since I am not my sister, my take on my emotion is very different but knowing she’s there ready to catch me gave me assurance enough to stop whining and complaining.

**

Right now I busy myself with writing and catching up on some online courses that I can use when I am ready to find work again.

I am reaching out to more friends whom I haven’t heard for years. I am sorting my photos and trying to see which ones good to showcase here and which ones worth keeping. With all the travels I’ve made and all the parties I attended imagine how much digital photos I had accumulated in my hard disk and sorting them out requires full attention.

Looking at my photos made me laugh out loud, made me remember people and places and good old times. Of course the array of food photos dictates that I entered a new decade, it means the millennials had all grown up and dictated a new trend that I was happily subscribing to.

**

I guess there’s no more room for drama in my life now. I am almost ready to go back out there. Find new adventures with my new scars.

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It’s time to get up now and see the bigger picture (I am with my friend in the balloon overlooking Goreme Valley at sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey/2017)

I am not wearing a boot around the house and not anymore using any of the assistive devices I accumulated over the 3-months and if you didn’t know you will not anymore notice the swelling that accumulates in my foot when I sit here too long.

I’ve repeated this track of post for a while now, and I think its time to let go and see what this month would bring me … a looser ankle, a sexier ankle, a better gait or all of the above.

When I Tried to Get To Know Myself

This write up about me appeared in my other blog. It was an introduction to who I am. In fact it was a self-promotion.

A summary of who I think I am and how I think others perceived of me when I tried to describe me to myself. It happened one weekend at the time I am taking my break from the last long term missions in 2014.

It was never validated. My friends, those I can count with my fingers and toes, are far apart and those I encounter during my sojourn never stay that long to tell me who they think I am. But I am pretty sure all of them have met the me I described below at the time we were together.

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My afternoon shadows while waiting for the sunset at the French side of the Pyrenees

I am considered to be good-natured, one who enjoys getting along with others. My friends consider me helpful and generous, and considerate. Striving to be friendly in social situations and empathetic in interpersonal ones. Because of my tendency see good in people, others generally like me.

When in conflict, I prefer to use effective tactics. Because sometimes it is better to preserve the friendly situation than the actual winning.

I also tend to believe that most people are honest, decent, and trustworthy but doesn’t get surprised when the unkind nature of others becomes evident. We’re human after all.

I tend to be more responsive to other’s needs than my own, so not to be overwhelmed I try to balance others needs with my own from time to time.

I am the type of person that likes to ask questions and equally interested in others inner feelings.

I have an appreciation for the arts, as an evening listing to music, going to the museum, movies or talking about poetry intrigues me. I have a wide variety of interests, driven by the fact that I incline to try new activities, visit new places, and try new foods. I may even appear to be unconventional to some! This also makes me appreciate diversity, as discussing others’ religious or political views rarely threaten my own.

Sometimes I like to be involved in large group activities and get energized by a crowd, and other times I would prefer a quiet evening alone. I have my own personal threshold for sociability, and the time I spend alone makes me feel more ready to conquer the world.

I am generally comfortable around others and good at adapting to social situations. I can find myself being contemplative one day, or in the mood to be more adventurous the next. Some situations call for watching before taking action, and others call for being more outspoken. I don’t mind being a leader, but I don’t seek the position. When part of a couple, it’s important for me to balance time spent alone with time spent together.

I am considered a person of character. My actions follow my conscience and are rarely impulsive (except in shopping). When working on something, I tend to be careful and deliberate. In fact, I work best with a schedule and due dates, I can be reliable that way.

At times, I have to watch myself, or I may become a perfectionist. I enjoy being organized, a trait that helps me to reach the goals I set for myself.

My friend consider me to be highly dependable. I am focused when there is a task at hand because it allows me to consider others before making decisions or taking action. Although sometimes situation requires me taking calculated risks.

I navigate the waters of my emotional lives, and some days I feel in control while other days they get the best me. This is most likely dependent on the situation, as I know how to make a good day last and I have learned how to tolerate my negative ones.

I don’t like feeling angry, so I try to be tolerant and learn to accept moderate frustrations. Friends would consider me to be stable and content. In general, I consider myself well-adjusted to the ups and downs of life.

And lastly, I consider myself to be religious, and my faith is essential to me. My relationship with Christ and His Church is paramount in my life, as a source of healing and strength for me. My faith is important part of my life, my relationships, and my journey.

The Heat is On

Ah, the end of the month … it means that in two weeks it would be the fourth month since I broke my bones and third month since I started my physical rehabilitation treatments.

**

My bones had set well and good. I was already given a full-weight bearing go signal by my doctor, and my therapist had been wearing me out trying to work more on my gait quality and endurance. Strength is not a problem for me, but I still have residual tightness and numbness which as I was told is usual with ankle injuries.

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Although, my therapists been telling me that I recover fast and is able to do active exercises faster than most patients they see in similar condition. And my doctor also said the same and mentioned that some patients love their injuries so much they don’t want to be moving on their own, I am the opposite.

I challenged the norm pushing myself hard before it’s time, and it fought back putting me in my place by letting me feel pain.

**

The weather in the Philippines been rising. I was still happy until the summer officially kicked in because the heat is also kicking us all indoors.

My doctor was right when he said “let’s not put you on full leg cast” when he saw me the first time in January. Instead, he prescribed for me to use an Air Cast, a type of boots that I put on myself with help at first, and adjust the pressure on both sides to control the movement of the ankle as I start putting weight on my foot while keeping the ankle secured and stable.

 

He said I will thank him come March knowing that the temperature will continue to rise, and I am thankful indeed. Since 4 weeks, after wearing the boots at least 12 hours per day, I am almost not wearing it at all. I walk around the compound in shorts, without an appendage and only has one when I go to the hospital or attend a meeting like I did last week.

Wearing the boots outdoors now is more a precaution and protection from bumps in high traffic area like hospitals and malls. Otherwise, I almost don’t need it anymore, soon it will have to be shelved until I need it when my wires are removed.

**
In spite of the positive remarks from my treatment team, I still feel I am not doing enough, and I still feel sad and depressed sometimes with my condition. That was one of the reasons I had by set-back that I wrote all about here Happy Scar, trying hard to fast track my recovery that I almost re-injured myself, at least in my mind.
I am counting the days within the time frame I set for myself which is by mid-June to see if my physical and emotional self will be attuned. For the meantime, I am trying to fight off the heat playing in the garden with my niece and the garden hose.

Cooling Off
Cooling Off

Happy Scar

Must be wondering what happened to me since my last post Am I Lucky at 7?.

Well, my doctor gave me more thumbs up.👍👍👍👍👍👌 It means my bones have completely healed and I graduated from partial weight to full weight bearing when standing, walking and even climbing stairs. It was a natural high, I was elated until I crawled back under the rock and stopped doing exercises at home.

While my physical healing is improving every day, my emotions are like a roller coaster. Most of the time I stay at the base than up there looking at the blue skies and happily shouting coming down.

I am still trying to figure out why I am having delayed psychological reaction to my accident … maybe it’s not even delayed, it is just manifesting now. I have no answers yet.

When I do I will let you in my discoveries … watch out!

For the meantime, I am taking advantage of the high and blogging and taking a cue from my smiley scar.

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At least my scar is always smiling

I went to bed happy.

The last thing I did was publish my last post and turned off the lights. I guess I was tired because most nights I don’t sleep before the witching hour of 3 am the following day so sleeping before midnight was a real treat! But whatever time I went to la la land I always wake up the same time, before the rooster even which tells me I must be getting old 😄. Who cares anyway? Definitely not me!

Anyway, fully awake now I checked my phone and saw the little WordPress, WhatsApp and Facebook icon giving notice that people actually read my post. Well the WhatsApp message was something else but I am pleased with who I saw, and read and I liked them. Especially in Facebook because these are people that I personally know and knows me back.

The first three women who liked my FB post are the three women that I admire myself.

We encountered life and work together and actually a fourth even reached out to me privately when I posted my poem Falling In The Cracks. She offered to listen but all I could reply was “Thanks Amel” because I know even without telling she knows what I am feeling.

Then I saw this quote fitting tribute to the friends I made over the years.

It is not really the number of friend you have that matters its the quality and the bonds you made together.

It doesn’t matter how often you see or talk to each other its the feeling that you know they are there no matter what.

There is always that invisible tie that binds friends together and its truly great to know that the binds are made of gold thread that is priceless like that of families.

Shout out to my friends 🔊 You know who you are!

Lets to friendship! Even virtually