Kenya: Casey Marenge

Personal narratives: What's disability to me?
June 2011

Casey Marenge, now a campaigner for road safety and disability rights, describes the physical, emotional and psychological adjustments she made following her injury.

I was only 20 years old just heading into college when I was involved in a tragic road crash that changed my life forever. I was rushed to a hospital in Nairobi by well-wishers and was immediately taken into the Intensive Care Unit where a myriad of tests, x-rays and medications were administered.

After six weeks of lying in a hospital bed and fundraising from friends and family I left for Cape Town, South Africa to begin the second phase of my treatment. It was only when I arrived that I was informed of the extent of my injury. I had suffered a spinal cord injury-C4 C5 complete and was tetraplegic paralyzed from my shoulders down. After two surgeries and eight more weeks in the ICU my rehabilitation process began.

Day to day activities included physiotherapy – which involved strengthening my muscles, occupational therapy where I learnt how to use voice activation software to perform all computer functions using my voice. There were also counseling sessions to be able to deal with the obvious trauma and education classes to learn how to deal with the new changes physically, psychologically and emotionally.

Coming from a country where there is not much awareness and resources for dealing with post-spinal cord injured victims, my return home was indeed an enormous challenge. Living in a house that was inaccessible, members of my family have had to persevere with daily lifting me up and down the house. Physiotherapy had become a crucial necessity and as a result of the continuous costs incurred, my mother took up the task to administer physiotherapy as well as stand in as my caretaker.

The Spinal Injury Hospital located in Nairobi, Kenya is the only hospital in East Africa catering to people living with SCIs. During my rehabilitation process, getting admitted for treatment during times of illness or to use physiotherapy facilities was close to impossible as a result of the overwhelming numbers on the waiting list. Unlike some developed countries where victims with disabilities are transitioned back into society through provision of employment and education opportunities the case is different in developing countries where getting employment is close to impossible. Taking one day at a time I had to adjust trying to keep myself busy as much as I could.

My rehabilitation period despite challenging was a humbling moment of my life and a continuous process that I face until today. I have learned disability is not inability and a strong mentality and great attitude have been very important!