At the very young age of 25, Unathi Mnyanda had not only experienced the loss of her mother in 2008 but also lost her child who was only a few days old in 2009.
Following the loss of her child, Unathi was diagnosed as having Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) which is a rare and congenital condition affecting the flow of blood in the brain. This disease was exacerbated by high blood pressure and resulted in Unathi experiencing an episode similar to a stroke.
“Everything became bad after I lost my mother. As if that was not enough, I lost my child soon after my mother passed away. It was like the whole universe had turned against me”, said Unathi.
“It was just a normal day. I had just done some cooking and wanted to take a nap. While I was asleep, I felt unusually thirsty and I woke up to get some water. Suddenly I could not feel the left side of my body. It was numb. I was terrified but managed to call my sister”, she recalled.
Five minutes after Unathi made the call, her sister arrived only to find her collapsed in her bedroom. She was rushed to Tembisa Hospital where she spent a week in a coma before being transferred to the Johannesburg General hospital where she stayed for two months.
“It frustrated me to see my life stuck. I could not afford to stay in a hospital bed for so long. I had a life to live, I had friends and family that I wanted to spent time with. Knowing that I could not be with them was very difficult”, she said.
Unathi started to improve after the two months she spent in hospital but she still faced a long journey as it was still not clear whether she would be able to recover her speech or be able to walk by herself again.
“Prior to my discharge from hospital, my sister had introduced me to Elizabeth Maisela from the Association for the Physically Disabled, Greater Johannesburg. Mom Elizabeth was assigned as my care giver when I returned home and had to literally teach me how to eat again. She also had to bath me. I was very angry at the change in my life as I wanted to be able to take care of myself again. I was determined not to become dependent on Mom Elizabeth for everything and although it wasn’t easy for me I started opening up to Mom Elizabeth and that helped me a lot”, recalled Unathi.
It was Elizabeth’s persistence, determination and passion for the work that she does that kept her firm in her endeavour to see Unathi recover despite her resistance to receive help.
“I knew I had to help her even when she not willing to let me help her. I believed she would recover. I had to help her with exercises and encouraged her to work hard. She is a very strong woman. She had the passion and desire to get back on track again”, said Elizabeth.
From not being able to speak and walk, Unathi eventually started to speak very well but the challenge of walking again remained. With sheer determination, she overcame the challenge and started to use two crutches as support.
“From learning to walk with two crutches, she then tried one. From one she started walking on her own and the rest is history”, added Elizabeth.
“Mom Elizabeth is like a mother to me. I love her dearly. She has been a pillar of strength during my darkest moments. She has been with me through thick and thin. She has been with me when people I regarded as my friends had deserted me”, said Unathi.
Unathi was presented with an award as Achiever of the Year at the 79th AGM of the Association for the Physically Disabled – Greater Johannesburg (APD), held on Friday, 2 August 2013.
“This award is a sign of our appreciation and gratitude for Unathi’s positive approach to life. She has really worked hard to overcome the challenges that she faced. As our slogan says ‘there is life after disability’, Unathi has really lived up to that “, said Miemie Retsuri, Assistant Director of the APD in Community Service.
Unathi’s dream is to become a social worker. “My illness opened my eyes and I would like to help other people who are going through what I went through”.
I have applied for admission to study at the University of Johannesburg and I am really looking forward to doing my best. The only challenge I am now faced with is with regards to having enough funds to cover my studies. I would appreciate any sort of assistance”, she said.
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