I am sure many of you have been victims of your body`s disobedience to the law of gravity and motion as discovered by one Isaac Newton. Your body refused to carry the weight within it and thus resting it on the ground with a sound lacking English words for its description, but in Swahili, one would say you fell like a burukenge!
These falls can be caused by different prevailing circumstances of the surfaces one has stepped on unknowingly. For example, a peeled ripe banana, slippery and tiled floor, muddy ground, a steep edge etc unknown to you while walking in a hurry. I have seen these falls from everywhere and even from people who you might have thought they have their stuff together and cannot dare fall like one “Burukenge!” I am not talking of those “soft life” falls, a story for another day but let’s get to it.
I wanted to give you a preview of what a fall means to someone with a disability, and not from a movie story but through a lived experience of yours truly and a few of my friends who have narrated to me about their “burukenge” falls that led me to writing this piece. Disobedience to the law of gravity is a constant phenomenon in the lives of persons with disabilities so much so that we don’t care falling that much but often want to know when we are falling so that we can avoid hitting the vital organs of our bodies that protect and sustain life.
One day I came home from work, and it had heavily rained, the veranda of my house was made of tiles and thus a catastrophe in waiting having any element of water on it. In my mind it didn’t occur to me that there was water on the floor, so I came in confidently ready to relax after a day`s work at the office. Few seconds towards my door, I didn’t know how my elbow crutch was in the air-my car`s key was on the other end, and I was lying down the floor looking up like someone who had come from heaven! That hit was hard and painful and my son then 4 years, was there watching not knowing how to help, he ran away crying. It took me a few minutes to recollect and summon the courage to wake up from this fall, took the initiative of explaining to my son why I fell and upto date, my son is the house-police on any spilled water on the floor. He cannot allow anyone to spill water because he witnessed what water can do to his dad. Am sure you want to know what had to happen to that floor, your guess is as good as mine.
The other day, a friend of mine was boarding a public transport home and it had started raining (Kanairo can be something else with rains!), he was very sure his crutches were into the bus so were his legs- but unknown to him; he had missed one important step while getting into often inaccessible buses and there he was lying down instead of getting into the bus. Everyone was spectating, many not knowing what to do to help but the gentleman managed to summon courage, picked up his crutches and made another trial that got him into the bus -off they went! But for sure, you can imagine what was going on in his mind this one time that he fell in public, yet he has been getting onto this bus without falling previously.
Another close friend of mine went shopping with his wife as he was preparing to pay me a visit as we had just welcomed our daughter. He had finished shopping and, on their way out of the shopping mall, unknown to him, the cleaners had put soapy water on the floor without indicating cleaning was in progress. My friend heading out with his wife found himself down the floor, his two crutches running away from him! He nearly cancelled the visit which was to happen the next day but managed to come and we were laughing about the incidence because at the same shopping mall, I fell due to the same reasons while going to a restaurant that I broke my phone`s screen two years ago!
These falls can appear usual, but they are not, one that hit me severely was with my close friend. We had gone to a pub to have two for the road on a weekend, everything was going on well until when I was about to leave for home, and I told him to allow me to use the toilet before getting into traffic. I had done my thing and was leaving the toilet before finding myself on the floor sitting on my left leg which had no support! The floor was splashed with water that people carelessly spill after washing their hands unknown to them that this is hazard to some of us who use walking aids to navigate around. I came back to where we were seated, told my friend what had happened and assured him that I was okay, unknown to me- I had strained some nerves on my leg and it became so painful that I could not lift it. The following morning, with the pain; I had to drive to the hospital accompanied by a heavily pregnant wife that when we arrived at the hospital, the medic didn’t know who they needed to take care of in the first place!! It is one of the memories that always reminds me of how these falls can be dangerous to a level of giving someone a second disability or potentially loss of a body part or life.
If you witness someone with a disability fall “a good one!” and you are close to them, the first thing is not trying to lift them up- that might aggravate the harm they got from the fall or make them fall a second time. In this state, they are tense and still unstable and thus good to allow them one to two minutes to take a deep breath and they will eventually ask for help if they need it or pull up themselves because falling is something that happens to anyone. You can also ask them if indeed they need any help before offering it so that they can lead you on exactly how to help them.
To comrades, since we know slippery floors are everywhere, unreasonable people who spill water on the floor or make no considerations while building even when the building code requires accessibility measures to be taken into consideration while making construction plans; we have to arm ourselves with information around surviving those dangerous falls like having a first aid kit in our homes, offices and seeing a doctor to check us when we have one of those “good falls!” Let’s educate our loved ones, friends, allies, and the public on importance of keeping all surfaces dry and clean, accessible, clearly marked so that we minimize some of the fatal falls that can be avoided if we made everyone dare to care. I fear tiled and slippery floors, you now know the reason?