27th Year Of My Spinal Cord Injury

When I sustained spinal cord injury 27 years ago today, I had to learn anew everything about my body again. My limbs could no longer move the way they used to. My bladder had to be emptied with the aid of catheters. I needed suppositories to move my bowels. Even my diaphragm function was impaired which affected my breathing.

It has not been easy for me all these years, more so when the world is not built for people with impairments like mine. Moving around in a wheelchair is like traversing an obstacle course even in the most modern parts of Kuala Lumpur. I would love to be more active but the inconvenience of overcoming these barriers wore me down quickly most of the time.

So after 27 years, my body is worn out before its time from over-exertion and over-compensation for reduced muscular functions and in pushing the wheelchair. My fingers are bent. My wrists, shoulders and right knee aches. My kidneys are failing from urinary tract infections and vesicouretal refluxes. In essence, I am living in a body much older than my age.

But all is not that bad. I got to befriend some interesting people and see the world from a different perspective. I learnt to accept the limitations of my impairments and made the best of whatever was thrown at me. Most importantly, being a disabled person, I am conscientized by the issues faced by my peers. This led me to do what I am doing today – promoting disability equality – so that disabled people are accorded the rights we deserve in society.

Someone wise said fate chooses our relative, we choose our friends. I beg to differ. It is fate that chose my friends for me too whom I otherwise would not have the honour to be acquainted with had my life took a different turn. Here’s a toast to friends who have made my 27-year journey with spinal cord injury more meaningful. Thank you for making it less arduous than it could have been. Thank you for being there for me one time or another. I could not have asked for more.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

7 thoughts on “27th Year Of My Spinal Cord Injury”

  1. Just a wild thought – how was it for spinal cord injuries before modern medicine? Would it have been a much shorter lifespan? Was there a higher risk of horse-related injuries, or is the car a far riskier vehicle? I’m glad at how far we’ve advanced but still not far enough. You are a very strong man, Peter, and I am thankful that you help to promote disability equality.

    1. Definitely shorter lifespan before modern medicine, mostly succumbing to kidney disease and pressure sores. We still die from those causes but with timely medical intervention and preventive measures by disabled people themselves, the mortality rate is much lower now and the lifespan for people with more severe injuries have been extended. I don’t have the statistics for specific accidents but I know many got it from diving into a swimming pool, river and sea, and from motor vehicle accidents. Falling from horses, yes, but not as many. Some fall from trees or get it from construction workplace accidents. Thank you for your kind words, Albert. I do what I can. After all, I benefit from it too.

  2. Hello Peter,

    I just feel compelled to leave a comment when I read this post. I hope more people will become aware of the needs of people like you. Please continue to blog. You are an inspiration. God bless.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Kim. It is my hope too that one day, we disabled people will be accorded equality in society where we no longer have to face attitudinal and environmental barriers.

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