24 October 2017

Zimbabwe: Prosthetic Legs Beneficiaries Learn to Walk Again

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Yeukai Mazhawidza (31) of Hillside in Harare is a mother of one who became physically impaired in 2009. As she raced home after work as usual, unaware of the evil that lurked in their neighbourhood on the fateful night, Mazhawidza suddenly came face to face with an armed man who severely attacked her leaving her for dead.

"Using a knife, he stabbed me several times on the back and also on my right leg. I lost a lot of blood and was hospitalised. The attack resulted in my leg being amputated as doctors could not do anything to save it," she told The Herald recently. Following the attack, her life changed economically, socially, physically and spiritually as she slipped into depression.

"I lost my job as mobility became a huge problem. I was employed as an accounts clerk at a local company and the offices were upstairs. After the accident, they moved me downstairs to the IT department and I started doing work I had not trained for. I was fired and applied for another job, went through the interview process and secured the post," she said. The reality of the impact of disability sank in when she reported for work.

"The department manager looked at me and asked if I was the right person they had employed. She looked at me again and asked whether I was really Yeukai Mazhawidza. She fired me before I even started. They did not even show me my workstation. I was depressed. I felt like I was not human anymore," she added.

As a young mother, Mazhawidza found it hard to speak to her child about her situation. Today, her life has changed. She is one of 12 people who received free prosthetic legs from Prophetic Healing and Deliverance leader Prophet Walter Magaya through "Walk with Me", an initiative aimed at providing free prosthetic legs and arms to people living with disabilities. The next batch of beneficiaries will receive free artificial limbs at a date to be announced. Because of the confidence restored in her after receiving the prosthetic leg, Mazhawidza has also managed to fulfil her dream.

"At the time of my injury, I wanted to study how the mind works. I did not understand what happened to me, why it happened and why this person decided to do this to me. I enrolled for a degree in psychology with a local university and graduated," she said.

She also wants to mentor children with various physical impairments. For Freeman Mukwena of Highfield, Harare, who lost both legs after being pushed off a moving train by a security guard, the prosthetic legs are all he needed to rebuild his broken life. On the fateful day in 2008, Mukwena had no idea that the train fare from Mutare to Harare, which he thought was (ZWD) $1 million, had sky-rocketed to $14 million, angering the security guard who accused him of wanting a free ride.

"I told him I did not know the fare had gone up. The security guard pushed me. I felt my left leg break into pieces. It was like a dream. I fell off the train and my other leg was crushed from the foot up to the knee. Because of the shock, I did not immediately feel pain. I was bleeding profusely," said Mukwena. Following the accident, he was fired and had to do menial jobs.

"It was hard to board public transport as kombi drivers said my wheelchair took up so much space. Only drivers who knew me gave me a ride. Accessing buildings was difficult especially when elevators were not working," he added. Since receiving the prosthetic legs, Mukwena says his life has changed for the better. He now has a driver's licence and wants to buy a car. He can now work and no longer depends on other people. Austin Charova (40) of Waterfalls who lost his leg in a road traffic accident in July 2007 is also a beneficiary of the prosthetic legs. A professional welder, life became hard for the nine years he walked on one leg as he struggled to raise money for prosthetic legs. The money never materialised and life became harder.

"Walking again was great. It was like starting to take the first baby steps all over again. At first balancing was hard. But, because of the training and therapy we received in SA, I managed to do so with time," he said.

He now works as the head of metal fabrication engineering at Yadah Construction. Another beneficiary is Margaret Bangajena of Ruwa who developed cancer of the leg in the year 2000. Her leg was amputated towards the end of that same year as the cancer could not be treated.

"Life without my other leg was extremely hard. I was called all sorts of names by small children. My family could not afford to buy the prosthetic leg," she said. Netsai Kwenda (50) of Sunningdale 2, Harare, developed polio and became disabled when she was just three years old. She stayed in hospital for six months and lost use of both her legs. She also developed complications with her right leg resulting in the leg becoming shorter after surgery and needed the aid of a calliper.

"It was not easy. The calliper cost $700 for one set. Sometimes I could just repair the shoe only and ended up going to local shoe makers. Sometimes they would take up to a year fixing the shoe and I would walk barefoot," she said. She is happy that she was given what she calls "the shoes of life". Tadzai Darlington Matema, had a great life and worked as professional electrician when he developed cancer of the oesophagus. As a result he had to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

"After the last radiotherapy in 2008 I developed a small wound on my ankle. The wound became deep that my bones were exposed. I fell one day and started bleeding. My orthopaedic Dr Mhishi said my bone had been infected and had to amputate above the knee. The better devil was to amputate," he said. In 2011, Matema opted for voluntary retrenchment and life became tough.

"As an electrician, it became hard to get menial jobs as I could not stand upright without the aid of crutches. My children depended on me for school fees, food and here I was failing to get income," he revealed. According to Matema, getting the prosthetic leg was awesome.

"Standing on your own and being able to walk is amazing. I now have a job at Yadah Construction," he said. He says the prosthetic leg is the biggest miracle in his life.

"Looking at the situation we were in and the donation we received from Prophet Magaya shows his commitment to society. He also gave other people who do not attend our church prosthetic legs showing the extent of his philanthropic work," added Matema. Chikomborero Denga (17) of Budiriro 5 in Harare stroked when he was nine and also developed a blister on his right leg.

"The blister burst and developed a serious septic infection which resulted in my leg being amputated. Some of my former schoolmates laughed at me. I would go into the toilet, find a quiet corner and cry," he said. Equally painful was watching other kids his age playing plastic ball on the streets after school and no one picking him on their team even if they were one person short.

"I was so excited when I heard news that I would receive a prosthetic leg. My life has transformed in many ways. I now play wheelchair basketball at Jairos Jiri School where I am in Form 1. I also play tennis," he said. When he completes his studies, Chikomborero says the sky will not even be his limit. His dream is to become a pilot.

"We had our prosthetic legs fitted in SA and Prophet Magaya paid for our flights back home. It was my first time to go outside Zimbabwe, stay in a hotel for two weeks and travel on an airplane. I was excited. From that first flight, I made up my mind that I wanted to become a pilot," he said. Aaron Chilolo (64) of New Tafara, is a former haulage truck driver who lost his left hand in a road traffic accident while on duty.

"I lost my job and struggled to take care of my family. I did not get any help from my employer. I thought that since I was injured on duty the company would buy the prosthetic hand for me but nothing came forth," he said. Other beneficiaries included Jaison Kapiya of Chitungwiza, Evelyne Marekera of Mhondoro and Benny Farai Chetse of Highfield. As the 12 exit the difficult life without prosthetic legs, all they do now is smile and rejoice, as they learn to walk again.

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