From active sports teacher to wheelchair

HARARE - Tichaona Kuripa’s mind was ahead — thinking on how best he would deliver his lecture at a workshop in Harare.

Suddenly, he heard the screeching sound of brakes, the next moment Kuripa found himself under the Toyota Ipsum car he was travelling in.

This day, March 7, 2013 is a day that Kuripa would pay anything to forget.

“The car sped out of the road and hit some rocks. It spun three times and the fourth time was when it hit me on the chest and my head was out of the window,” Kuripa said with a horrendous face, while being shifted from his sleeping position to sitting by his wife Fortunate Kaguyo, 37.

Perhaps the pain was worsened by reliving the ordeal.

Tichaona Kuripa with his wife.

The nearby Guyu community gathered at the accident scene and were quick to help as they knew him well. He had taught some of their children during the 13 years he was a teacher at Zvikaramba Primary School in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe.

“They managed to help my colleagues who were not hurt, I was crying. I was in pain and panic. People managed to drag me out through the window. In the process my spine was damaged,” he said.

He spent the next five days at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare and Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre (RRC) has been his home for the past 15 months until last Monday.

Today he is paralysed from the waist downwards.

Prevailing operational challenges at most health institutions in the country coupled with the patient’s inability to pay cash early meant Kuripa’s family had to manage his bed sores.

“They said they could not keep treating me and that there are other people who need attention more than me. If I had money I would stay in the hospital for my wounds to heal,” he said in a rented apartment in Ruwa. “We needed somewhere close to my therapy treatment centre.”

Apart from the loss of income, the family may have to contend with raising the two children (first born is in grade 7 and the second born is at preschool) until a miracle happens.

Unfortunately, after over decade of service Kuripa is still finding it difficult to cope with the situation.

“When they looked at me they said l had a permanent injury and said l might recover or not. l cannot relieve myself properly. It is 50/50, only God knows if l will fully recover,” he said looking at the urine drainage bag sitting beside the bed and then his wife who has looked after himsince then.

Although he can talk, chances are next to nothing that he will even manage to go back to teaching.

“After the accident, l have not been able to work. After a month they cut my salary. l went to the medical board last year and they gave me my pension. We managed to use

$1 000 for medical fees while the rest covered other incidental expenses which came with the condition.”

Kuripa owes RRC a little over $6 000 in bills for services rendered in regard to reintegration — mounting problems on the former civil servant who has no savings to boast about.

“I managed to have exercises. When I was there, l got bed sores. At the moment the sores are not healed. I am currently receiving exercises from home for $10 and go for check-up after every three months,” said the father of two.

Kuripa has two options tabled after his salary was cut after a month — instead of the normal three months. He was told he could either come back to work or I retire on medical grounds. I retired on medical grounds.

He needed money urgently but could not work at such early stages on his condition.

“I was supposed to get paid for three months after which the doctor was supposed to advise if I could return to work or not. So I opted to sign for the exit package. I needed money badly to pay for my health needs and upkeep of the family,” the former sportsmen said.

Seeking legal recourse and compensation for the accident from the offender proved an unviable option for Kuripa and his wife.

The driver got over the accident by paying a $200 fine for recklessness and negligence. According to the family, he gave them $35 when Kuripa was still at Parirenyatwa.

“The court said the driver was the one who was at fault and had to pay. He gave us $35 in March. I later tried to call him but he said ‘Don’t bother me, he is supposed to be compensated by government’,” his wife said.

Funds to build a cottage at a stand they bought at Murewa centre, school fees for the two girls who are currently living in Nyadiri with their grandmother and the rehabilitation debt constitute the family’s greatest concerns now.

Kuripa is now convinced all government employees should have medical aid and three months before their salaries are cut during such eventualities.

“I was a working man. I had an income. I was a sportsman now all I do is sleep all day. I get carried and I move around in a wheelchair.

“It costs at least 10 times what I used to pay to ride in public transport. Thanks to my wife Fortunate Kaguyo. I had four people in rehab whose wives deserted a few months after such accidents. I am thankful to be alive,” said Kuripa.

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