At the entrance of the spinal unit I was met by a big lad in a wheelchair who was introduced as Dhitri, a former patient who returns to offer support and counselling. We got chatting and it turned out that a bus he had been on had fallen into a ravine after a bridge collapsed leaving him paraplegic. ‘Now that’s a proper way to get a spinal cord injury’ I thought, the problem is that over here it’s far too common. We had a quick chat then he showed me to the door.
From the outside the unit resembled more of a prison than a medical building and it wasn’t about to get any better on the inside. We entered and turned left into a tiny concrete room with a single rusty fan slowly turning in the corner. It’s the festival season so there was only one patient in there, tucked into the corner on a low iron bed (see next post).
Light streamed in through the caged windows casting long shadows on the concrete floor. The room looked cold but was stiflingly hot and the thought of spending days never mind months in here sent a shiver up my spine. We moved back into the dark corridor and up towards the physio room. The space was similar to the first room but with four old plinths crammed in. I found some interesting old school equipment they had salvaged and I managed to recognise a tens machine, a standing frame and even a tilt table. Don’t get me wrong they are doing everything they can with what they have, there is no complacency here just a simple lack of resources.
It took me the rest of the day to take it in. It was hard enough to stay positive recovering in relative comfort so I can’t begin to imagine how hard it would be in here. The most amazing thing is the attitude of the patients and staff, no one here expects anything, there’s no complaining, no sense of entitlement, they are grateful for everything they get and believe me at the moment that’s not much!