I am moving to my own space …

My dear friends,

I’ve finally succumbed to the lure of owning my domain name (www.dhidhak.com). Since going back home to recover from my accident, writing had kept me company and got me through overthinking about my situation.

It was not a natural phase for me, I’ve never been home sick this long. It was made worse by being stuck at home with limited opportunity to move until very recently. But having something to do like writing kept me sane and out of bed most days.  Now that everything is getting back to normal (and in shape) I decided to be more serious with this hobby and share more of my adventures to the world.

I am still debating in my head how to shape my new virtual space, what trend and train of thoughts I should follow as you know the world is changing and it’s changing fast. I want to be braver in putting my thoughts in writing. I want to engage more people in issues that matter. At the same time, I have lots of memories to remember, reminisce and share.

So maybe I will let time help me shape it.

downloadPlease visit http://www.dhidhak.com to read on my new posts. It is a personal blog space. I use my name and share more of me and my thoughts as Dhidhak rather than Coolasas. But I am not altogether abandoning this blog. There will be a link to this site under Dee Old Blog to keep all my old posts intact; you can continue to visit this site. Some of my old posts would be re-blogged in the new site when I feel like they needed another day in the sun.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for putting up with my random thoughts in the last five years. You don’t know how much you kept me well-balanced while in my adventures overseas. In places where not many may have the opportunity to thread. You kept me company when I don’t have anyone to even speak to, to share my frustrations and my crazy thoughts. For looking at my photos and reading my poetry. Maraming Salamat!

I hope to see you on the other side … visit Dhidhak anytime.

#WorldPeace  #NoToWar  #CiviliansAreNotTargets

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Declutter

Holy week … a momentous time for us Catholic to look in our lives and measure how we lived it and shared it with others.

This time two years ago I experienced walking in the path where Jesus had trodden from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. I felt so blessed.

Now I am home, not of my choosing but because of my injuries I have to stay and recuperate. I look at this as an opportunity to sort out my life in the last year or years. To try to make sense of why this happened to me and see if I can make heads or tails of all the negative thoughts I had about moving to Tunisia that finally had caught on me – breaking my leg forcing me to leave the country early and head home where I know I am loved. But not until I had enough time to settle in and meet good people that eventually helped me prepare for the imminent departure.

God has a way of preparing our path to happiness … he didn’t say it’s easy nor said will be hard. He has a way of making us get through with whatever was going on.

So to find myself in all of what had happened to me I need to declutter and see if I left my old self at the bottom, or I need to reinvent myself and be back on top of the pile.

We shall see …

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Daily Prompt: Swallow

Bouts of frustrations, boredom and a little bit of self-pity

My road to recovery is an uphill battle.

I haven’t even made attempts to do it without my trusted aircast. And today I felt I have to do a little step back and nurse my pain. I am trying hard to get better faster, but I guess this pain is telling me to take it easy!

One would think that just because I do care for people with injuries all my life I know how it feels and can predict my progress.

That is not the case.

No matter how long or how much I know about fracture and post-injury care it didn’t prepare me to become a patient. The encouragement I tell people I teach and treat doesn’t work that easily especially if I am the o

ne telling it to myself.

It also didn’t prepare me mentally.

There are times when I only want to do is lie in bed with my leg up. Binge on my favourite tv series or keep buying ebook finishing one after the other. While at the back of my mind I made promises I need to keep.

it’s hard to shake off, the feeling of you want to be in control and be more active but you just5 don’t do it. Then at night, you regret the day passed without so much accomplishment made. That’s my struggle every night and I guess from experience my frustrations are not easily understood especially if you’re not in my cast.

I am down my two-months mark after my accident and surgery. Two-months being home. I am starting to have a crush on my doctor and spill my life story to my therapist. Not that they are not friendly people, on the contrary, they are my only excuse for having a social life lately and my after therapy visit to drive thru joints before heading home.
Do you think I am getting bored?

It’s just that its different from my previous homecoming, by now I could have been in places with friends and families. I just don’t do anything, I don’t have the energy to organise besides with the kind of adventures I have in mind, with my cast, it will entirely be in slow motion.

But I have to say, it is not all negative, I made progress too. Apart from I can don on and off my own socks and boots, I become more independent doing my activities of daily living and self-care.

So there is hope for me, I can’t wait to be back on the road again, here there and everywhere!

Accessible Transport Begins with the One In-charge of Driving Them

One challenge most PWD have accessing services is the lack of transport and if there are available means, often are not accessible. Most of the time I argue that “in the real world” without external help from NGO people just have to deal with what is there because once they leave, funds run out, people will just have to deal with the reality and make the decision to win over it and access the services or let it win over them and be miserable.

The Philippines one of the first country to have disability law, long before I was born (or maybe I am just a baby), and many other neighboring countries in SEA copied that and adapted in their own culture and context.

But let’s be honest, our respect for people with disabilities still very low. The law does not reflect that in the way our public services are run in this country – people with injuries, disabilities, elderly and other vulnerable groups are second-hand citizens who have to keep pushing and fighting to get to the front of the row and be heard. We’re making some long overdue development but not in the area of public transport.

With my current situation, I am hanging by the “estribo” and observing how a simple visit to the hospital can be a big production.

Before I get carried away, let me re-tell here a little bit of my accessibility and transport challenge and share a few insights on how situations can be improved.

So, when I arrived in the Philippines, coming from a 24-hour journey, around 10,000 kilometers away, I was picked up by a van whose driver doesn’t know how to help me get in from my wheelchair. Which was an insult to the amount of care I had from the hospital to the airport to the plane until I deplane in the Philippine airport.

I just told my sister, 5 weeks post-injury and surgery that no amount of experience in rehabilitation, teaching, demonstrating and grading students prepared me to be a patient but in the case of the last stretch to home – that experience helped a lot!

The airport support staffs are not trained to handle people with disabilities and doesn’t know how to do handling and trasnfers. My teaching skills helped a bit, giving simple instructions how to position the chair when I transfer seats because I don’t want to have more injuries.

Having been pampered from the first and second leg of the journey, my expectations of the third and last leg would be exceptional, simply because it’s home and I pride myself on being Filipino – we go the extra mile! But I was mistaken.

My injury is not life-threatening and I received the best care possible, so there really was no need to be fuzzy and feeling special. But after a long journey, in a cast, I was ready to collapse and be lifted by my family that will receive me at home to bed. Instead, I have to struggle to go in a van using my butt again and endangering my leg hitting the ground in case I lost my grip.

The driver of the van doesn’t know how to help me get in. I was expecting my pick-up to be similar to the ones I had in Tunisia or at least it was meant to pick-up passenger like me and drivers have training on how to handle situation like mine.

Practiced what I preached, I sucked it up and made the situation work for me, anyway in a couple of hours I will be in my family home. In the end, the driver was nice, he drove well and he was not properly briefed, so why shot the messenger.

That experience was a month ago, I am over it but I have to take a cue on my experience to drive a point on the issue of accessible transport at the same time upgrading the skills of our drivers.

I don’t drive myself, but if I do, I would undergo a first-aid training to be prepared in events of an accident and in my case, to at least know how to handle people in delicate situations. If I do a survey now and ask how many of the drivers in my village knows CPR or how to carry someone or what not to do in cases of accident, I will have a lot of success finding how many DO NOT know that those who do.

Proper transfer technique, from the wheelchair or any assistive device to cars, bus, train even plane and in the Philippines to jeepney (that is something to think about) is a good skill to have. One reason why drivers don’t care about PWD and the elderly is that they don’t understand our (the disabled part not the elderly!) situation, we should make them understand by training them simple transfer technique so they will feel useful and helpful.

Last but not least, and the most important is to require drivers to have a mandatory re-examination of the traffic rules and regulations and their driving skills at fairly regular intervals – five years maybe?.

I don’t know if it will increase accessibility to transport but what I do know is that it will increase peoples understanding of disability, increase their compassion towards their fellow-men and appreciate their abilities by providing them the opportunity to be mobile and the road will be safer if drivers are more responsible.

Key To Happiness In Your Job Is To Work With Passion

I’m officially jobless and at the moment disabled. So you can say I have time on my hands, so I am going to update my blog site.

Actually, I still have work to finish for my last mission, but I am happy to finally break-free from the so-called “cursed” mission and will start fresh as a consultant. I am not at liberty to talk about the mission itself (this being a public platform) nor of the people I worked with. But the reason some of us called it a cursed mission was because of the strings of misfortune it had during the year, the stress level can be through the roof and of course my unfortunate accident in the place that I had misgivings to move from the moment it was offered to me.

In fact, the moved to Tunisia made me realized how badly my position and myself was regarded by those I thought to believe in what I do, but I forged ahead because more than myself, the people we help needed better services  as a consequence of war more than the accident that happened that brought me back to my parents home. I remembered something that was told to me last December.

A wise man told me “you deserve to be in an organization that celebrates your achievements and appreciates all that you’ve done”.

I trusted the guy, though we met only a couple of times, the meeting was always very productive. I guess he was able to see the efforts we put into what we were doing, he appreciated me as a person and saw my passion and wit in all the interactions we had. And acknowledged what our team had done in the country in spite of the context and the challenges we had to face.

While at the same time, my organization was ready to drop me by threatening me because I couldn’t accept to live in a house not livable according to my standards and to the cost they are willing to pay.

 

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I don’t mind living in tents when necessary than a house shoved your throat because of its procedure

 

There are thankless job around and being a humanitarian aid worker can be one of them. I say that from experience because there are a lot of things that happen within the scope of this work that is hard to explain.

How many of my friends really understand what I do? Unless they worked with me directly, they will not know that sometimes I write procedures that nobody would care to follow or I give advice that has no guarantee it will even be considered.

We only see the surface of the crisis once reported in the news, but we don’t know the aftermath of it, the effect on the people that before are progressive and because of the war or calamity become vulnerable.

They would not know the amount of work needed to get things off the ground, the get services accessible, the number of negotiations and paper works required to get access to funds to keep our work going, and many more.

 

Olive harvest in Gaza is a form of inclusion activities

 

How many people understand the word vulnerable? Not many, because most of us are consumed with our own problem that we don’t see beyond them and feel for others who have more significant issues than most of us.

We sometimes live in a bubble that when it burst we don’t know what to do next. Well the people I encounter didn’t ask to be vulnerable, their situation made them, that’s why I don’t accept the reactions of Europe to the migration crisis happening from the Middle East to Africa and Myanmar.

In my organization, we kept talking about inclusion, in fact, they even changed their name to it because they said it reflects more their values than its current name (which somehow I agree) if only people really understand how inclusion works. How it is translated into viable action, resulting in sustainable change.

It is hard, it is thankless, but despite the non-understanding and misunderstanding, I continue to do what I do. Because early in my career, I made a promise to myself that I will do this because I believed that this is what God wants me to do – to build lives including mine, one brick at a time.

I also decided to only do my best and with passion even if the best that I know is underappreciated or not even considered at all as long as the end results improvement in the lives of the people that really matter. Passion is another subject hard to measure or quantify. I cannot explain it as clear as I could especially to friends who already told me to quit but I wouldn’t, and I leave it at that.

So even with my current state – being confined to home strapped to my cast, not able to move with our personal assistance, I am happy that I had contributed something to the work done in my last mission. My friends keep telling me it’s a sign that I have to slow down and force myself to rest now that my contracts finish and take time to think about my future.

How I Managed Going to the Toilet Over 39,000 feet?

Its been two weeks since my accident and one week since I am back at home.

I see my life in slow motion, and all the lessons I taught to my colleagues in the field are flooding back to me.

I realized that learning and navigating with assistive devices is not easy. When I was teaching people, I say it like I just asked them to count in English and repeated several times and they are pro, they are on their own. But it’s not like counting. Its a whole new level of skills and right now I can say I try to walk the talk.

I am ambulating with a walker and sometimes with crutches and transported long distance by wheelchair while my fractured leg is sticking out hoping nobody trip over it and give me lots of pain in the process (well that’s me being selfish).

You think that with walkers moving around is easy, well it is if you’re rolling it off in front of you to get to where you are going, but if you need to hop all the time it is not. I only stand on one leg, while I try hard not to forget to lift my injured leg or I will be in trouble, so the mind and body have to be in sync not to overstep and fall. Then there’s the upper body strength that I need to work on. It didn’t help that before my injury I was suffering from tennis elbow pain and was using elbow support (that is because of the nature of my work). So with the elbow and shoulder pain, my grip is weak generally, so I also have to guard that.

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The most challenging so far is navigating the toilet, how I managed that 39,000 feet was a challenge but bordering to easy.

I fractured my left leg in another country, after a week of hospitalization I was given fit to fly certificate and discharged by my doctor. The flight was booked for business class for the almost 24-hour journey across three continents and three airports. Posh eh? I needed to be injured to experience luxury in the air, but besides that, I was dreading the whole journey mainly because I don’t know how I will manage to use the toilet?

1482282938094The airline stewardess knew about my situation that I am medically evacuated, and I will need help, so they were prepared. I was assigned a seat close to the door and the nearest toilet. Space was enough for me to feel comfortable and my injured leg was supported all through the journey. Before we left the airport, I explained to them my worries — if I will need to use the lavatory, which with the space in each, I would not be able to close the door with my leg sticking out. They figured out a way to ensure I am fully covered discreet, and I can do whatever I needed to do without a problem. On the two flights, I have them on call and when I needed to go two would be stationed at each entrance holding the curtains and blocking people. In the end, the journey was not that bad after all, in fact, I was looking forward to using the lavatory in the airplane than in the airport during my layover because I felt more at ease the first half of the journey than navigate the accessible toilet in the airport alone.

 

At home was another story.  My parent’s house was built in the early 60’s the idea of space and accessibility was not yet that known. Since I arrived, I planted myself in my parent’s room on the first floor while dad is in my old bedroom on the second floor (that is with extra caution when he is climbing up and down the stairs) for easy access to the other rooms in the house.  The idea of adapting the different rooms, putting up ramps and rails, grab bars everywhere, adapted toilet seat and showers with plastic over my leg is our new reality.

 

Showers like having hammam every day without the massage

But home is home — it is easy to make things and situation work out for me. I work in my room, I am stretch out on the bed while I discuss with partners in the field (in Turkey) or when I am bored, I stretched out in the sitting room and watch the day unfold in my home. Those times, I get to mingle with my family, watch TV and join them during meals even if I am eating away from the dining room. I go to toilet hoping in my walker except I take a longer time to go to and from and I have someone follow me all the time.

Still, I am confined and not able to move on my own. My doctor tells me four more weeks in my cast until I start to wear boots and start putting weight on my injured leg and start my rehabilitation. That means I have one more month to review my life, my future and how this experience can make me better in my chosen field.

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I am thankful to the people I encountered throughout my journey, from the time of my accident to the time I arrived at my home; all were very helpful and very accommodating. If only it is the same everywhere to everyone because from experience, not every people with injury, person with disability and elderly are given the  same attention as I had, doesn’t have the same luxury and attention that I did and had to struggle to go from one place to the next for the lack of assistive devices or personal assistance.

I just hope by the time I am back on two feet without the assistive devices or personal assistance new adventures are waiting for me to spread my wings enriched with these new experience.

 

The day I become a person with injury and disabled

Having settled in my new house, life was beginning to look normal.

Waking up early. preparing my breakfast of either warm chocolate croissant or muesli with freshly brewed coffee. shower and finally getting my nook in the dining area as my makeshift work from home office.

All that has changed on the 7th day! I had an accident and broke my leg.

Emergency room 

I thought I have seen it all with all the beneficiaries I encountered in my work life but not yet. I’ve seen it all when it came full circle and I am in the middle of it.

The nurse came and showed me my radiography plate and a clear spiral break in my fibula and in the tip of the tibia. I was told, I will undergo surgery within the day and need to recover before I could return to my previous life – which was just hours before.

Realization 

I know what to expect but I was still not in touch with my new reality. I was still hoping I am still sleeping and only dreamt I broke my leg. The moment I was transferred to my room and asked to wait for the specialist, the truth is starting to dawn on me. I am feeling all different emotion that goes from the fact that I am going to be operated on alone, the first such surgery in my life and alone for the most part of it after.

I live far from home. With no family to assist me, I am at the mercy of hospital staffs who don’t speak my language and my second language … I am in a francophone country! Why am I here? Well, ask my boss they know how to live my life better than me.

I am officially a PWI 

Soon all different specialist came to visit and interview me. Thanks to my adopted family, they helped translate for me. I understood very much what will happen while they prepare me for the surgery.

My attending came last, luckily he speaks English and his pep talk was not foreign to me — it was more a review of all the training I provided to my staffs back in the days. I know I will be out of commission for almost 3 months and the first 2 will be the most crucial — the healing of the bone without stress meaning I cannot put weight on my left leg. My right leg will do all the standing, hoping and balancing for me.

I will have to use assistive devices with at least one minimum personal assistance. My functional independence score is low!

Angel in our midst 

What will happen to me now? I need help.

That’s when I realized all through this ordeal I have met people that extended their support to me willingly. They made me feel I was not alone, held my hand when I was feeling nervous before I go to surgery, was there when I am out of it. Visited me and kept me company while I was confined and people that helped arranged my new future, keep my stuff to go with me when I was ready to leave to go home to the Philippines.

I am very grateful in spite of my new reality, that I’ve met these people that I considered angels in my midsts.

Now I am home, I experienced how a person with a disability experienced when traveling. The inaccessibility of simply going to the toilet, or ordering food, or climbing stairs or simply changing seats from wheelchairs.

I was lucky to have had the help all through my journey across three continents, but not every person with a disability has the same support as  I did especially those in the war-torn countries I was tasked to help before I become one with them (at least for the time being).

Dee