BY the middle of last year, Francis Nii – author, commentator and paraplegic – was doing it tough.
Returning from the Crocodile Prize Awards in Port Moresby in September 2012, he’d missed his flight from Goroka to Kundiawa.
So Francis and his wheelchair were loaded on to a crowded passenger vehicle which jolted its way back home to where Francis lives at Sir Joseph Nombri Hospital, Kundiawa. In transit, Francis fractured a bone in a leg.
Confined to bed, a couple of months later he developed pressure sores. Francis had been forced to deal with setbacks before, but this time was different.
The bed sores did not respond to treatment and became worse.
By the time PNG Attitude was made aware of the situation last September, after a concerned reader, Robin Lillicrap, had a discussion with Francis, our friend had been confined to bed on his back for a year. He was uncomplainingly composing his articles on a mobile phone.
Francis’s health was in serious decline and it was clear that action needed to be taken.
We appealed for donations and readers responded generously to the challenge – gifting more than $6,000 within a week enabling us to rush special pressure-relief bedding as well as dietary supplements to Kundiawa; Goroka businessman Terry Shelley organising things on the ground in PNG.
Malcolm Turnbull, managing director of Seating Dynamics in Sydney and himself a paraplegic, got the technical side under control, supervised the chair build and last week Terry Shelley, in his own words, “made the run up to Kundibloodyawa and delivered the ‘speed machine’ to Francis”.
Francis was “overjoyed,” Terry reported. “The look on his face and the afternoon view from the top of Daulo looking down the Goroka Valley made it all worthwhile.”
Yesterday Francis told me “I almost jumped out of my rugged old wheels and danced when I saw Terry with my new wheels aboard the back of his Land Cruiser.
“It's wonderful, it’s a beautiful wheelchair, and the first of its kind in Kundiawa.”
The clunky old wheelchair (pictured left) has now been set aside and a healthier, fitter Francis is wheeling free.
Terry, Robin, Malcolm, donors – thanks.