I CANNOT FIND THE right words to express my heart’s gratitude for all my friends in Australia and PNG who have poured out their heart so compassionately to support and ease my physical condition … only silent tears say it all.
In my life as a paraplegic I have been confronted with all kinds of challenges, both physical and spiritual, and some of them are very painful but I don’t whine and cry.
I have always asked myself: would whining and crying help me? And I find that they don’t. They only weaken my spirit and my strength and make my condition worse. So I have developed an iron-hearted approach to the challenges that come my way.
But I now realise that in every iron heart there is a softer part and, when you touch that, it can melt and the brooks of heaven burst forth.
For the past few days I have been in mourning. The compassion that has been shown by my family of writers and readers in Papua New Guinea and Australia, and even as far as Nairobi in Nigeria, to ensure that my life not only continues but is changed for the better has been so overwhelming that I have been moved to tears.
These very humane friends have touched my heart so much that every time I tried to write this thank you note, tears blurred my vision and I had to lay it off several times.
Being a paraplegic and unemployed, life has been very challenging.
Many times, especially in the first two years of my disability, I prayed to the Lord God, the Author of my life, to simply take my life away.
I refused to face the world in the completely different perspective of a man in a wheelchair. The thoughts about the numerous impediments I would confront daily were a nightmare. I just wanted to go away and be at peace in Heaven.
But God did not take away my life. He has His own plan for my life and I have seen His hands many times in many ways.
The accident happened in February 1999 in Goroka. I was hospitalised in Goroka for about two months before obtaining a voluntary discharge because of the very poor service.
I spent the rest of the year in Goroka setting up a home for my children with my final entitlement from the public service, which wasn’t much.
In February 2000, I came to Kundiawa hospital for further treatment.
In early 2001, spinal fixation surgery was attempted but failed because of a secondary complication.
While the operation was in progress, my right lung collapsed. My right diaphragm was cut open from close to the navel right around to the spine. When my right lung was exposed, it could not cope and collapsed.
Although my whole body was numb as a result of the anaesthetic, my mind was still functioning at a certain degree of consciousness and I felt that my breath was going to stop at any moment.
The doctors confirmed later that I told them my breath was going to stop - and I passed out. The doctors saw the lung had completely stopped working, did what they could to resuscitate it and immediately stitcherd it up. They did not do the spinal fixation.
When I regained consciousness, I found myself in the surgical ward with infusion tubes, cannulas and drainage pipes all over my body. It was tormenting.
While I was recuperating from the failed surgery, I developed severe pressure sores. These were caused mainly because I had to lie still in one position for some days. The hardness of the ordinary mattress also contributed. My water mattress was too big for the hospital bed so I had left it back home in Goroka where it was stolen.
Several times I went under the blade of the surgeon’s knife for the removal of the necrotic tissue. There was also skin grafting. There are many scars around my buttocks and hips – the residual marks of pressure sores and surgeons’ blades.
Some time later my surgeon and priest, Dr Jan Jaworski from Poland, got me a secondhand water bed which was very helpful. All the sores healed. I was able to move around in my wheelchair, be independent and do the things I wanted to, including writing stories and poems. But to get the writing published was hard.
Then in 2011, Jimmy Drekore introduced me to PNG Attitude and The Crocodile Prize. Since then I have been writing and sharing my thoughts with my family of writers and readers from PNG and Australia in PNG Attitude and through the annual Crocodile Prize Anthology.
My current condition developed from a mishap that occurred on my return from attending the 2012 writers’ workshop and Crocodile Prize award ceremony at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby in September last year.
When I arrived in Goroka, my daughter Cheryl, who was supposed to be waiting for me at the airport, was stranded in Kundiawa. She was unable to catch a bus. Worse than that, my mobile phone battery went dead … total communication blackout. I had not charged it the night before.
I waited at Goroka airport for two hours and still there was no sign of Cheryl. I couldn’t wait any longer because it was getting late. I offered some tips to a group of boys and they assisted me to the bus stop and into a bus that was almost crammed.
There were only three seats remaining and I sat in the one close to the doorway. There was plenty of cargo and it was very awkward for me but I refused to complain. In a way I had no choice.
On the way to Kundiawa, my right tibia fractured below the kneecap. The road condition was very poor, riddled with crater size potholes. As the bus maneuvered its way around them, I was tossed about and in one of those movements I must have had hit something that broke my leg.
I didn’t know, and I didn’t feel anything, until two days later when my leg became severely swollen. Of course I suspected something was wrong. I went for an x-ray and the picture revealed the fracture.
A back slab was wedged around my ankle for 12 weeks and it terribly impeded my mobility in bed.
More woe, my secondhand water bed developed holes and was rendered useless. Pressure sores started to develop. Although my leg was healed, the pressure sore under my left buttock got worse.
I went under the doctor’s blade and the necrotic tissues were removed but the sores have not improved because of the hard mattress I am using, and other reasons as well. I have been confined to bed for more than a year now.
I go out once in a while to get natural vitamin D from the sun because I am becoming a carrot. Otherwise I stay in bed all the time and do all my writing lying on my back.
I have never before discussed publicly like this the previous accident or the latest mishap, nor the consequent experiences and problems that I endured – except with other people like my family members and Jimmy Drekore, who is like a son to me.
When some of my friends asked me to write about it, I bluntly refused. I have been keeping everything to myself and battling on silently.
This is the first time I am sharing it all openly and I really feel obliged to do so in appreciation of the overwhelming support rendered to me by some beautiful and kind-hearted people.
Their names are Liz Abel, Tim Ashton, Murray Bladwell, Sil Bolkin, Dan Claasen, Bob Cleland, Marlene Dee, Jimmy Drekore, William Dunlop, Jeff Febi, Phil Fitzpatrick, Tony Flynn, Trevor Freestone, Anne Griffin, Geoff Hancock, Lance Hill, Keith Jackson, Peter Kranz, Robin Lillicrap, Allan McKay, Bryan Matthews, Phillip McGibbony, Rob Parer, Cath Porter, Terry Shelley, Barbara Short, Simbu Children Fund, Mal Turnbull, Bob Turner, David Wall, and Maureen Wari.
Thank you so much for your compassion and benevolent support. The heart you have shown is awesomely inspirational and elating.
I will certainly get well and continue to share with you pieces of mind in PNG Attitude. The loving grace of the Lord shall be with you all.
How you can donate to the $10,000 Francis Nii Appeal
Australia & Rest of World
Account: Crocodile Prize
Location: Miller & Mount Streets, North Sydney, Australia
Account No: 392-865-774
Papua New Guinea
Account: Simbu Children Foundation
Bank: Bank South Pacific
Location: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Account No: 100-124-0413
Drop us an email here when you’ve made the bank transfer and tell us your name including a message for Francis too if you like.
If you don’t do electronic banking, you can send a cheque to the Crocodile Prize at PO Box 1688, Noosa Heads, Queensland 4567.