My name is Tasha Amadi; I’m seventeen going on eighteen and a quadriplegic. I loved to swim and wasn’t too bad at it either. I swam everyday for the 44 days of my first year of high school prior to my spinal cord injury. I was quite the dancer too, and well-known for these two things through primary school. I didn’t know anything about quadriplegia and never thought about it. That was about to change drastically.
Before our transition to high school, I remember sitting with my friends talking about how amazing high school would be, and how we’d always be bff’s (best friends forever) no matter what. Little did I know that wouldn’t eventuate for me. A bunch of my pals and I went to the same high school but seldom saw each other. I was bullied quite a bit and making friends seemed impossible; this was a big throw-off to me because I used to be considered a “popular girl” before high school. Life at the school became unbearable so I convinced my dad to transfer me.
This new school was great. I had a group of friends within days, we were together everywhere. There were no bullies, no drama, everything was fantastic. It was at this school where my life changed forever, I was only thirteen. On the 6th of March 2006, at around 3.00pm, my mates, the rest of the swim team and I were at practice for a swimming gala to take place the next day. Two of my mates and I decided to brush up on our diving. We were diving in a relatively shallow pool (don’t quite recall the measurements). It wasn’t the first time we’d done this. One of my pals dove in and came out, another did the same then I went in and didn’t come out.
The moment I hit the water I couldn’t feel my body. I floated around in the water face down, unable to get up. I saw blood in the water (I must have bitten my tongue) and heard my friend telling me to stop messing around and that I wasn’t being funny.
In a little over a minute some of the girls in the swim team carried me out of the pool. All the while our coach was at her desk by the pool. I was laid on my back on the concrete and surrounded by the girls, then coach finally came. I explained what had happened and that I had no sensation anywhere but my face and neck, which was hurting. They decided to make me lie on my stomach, yeah I know huge mistake. My neck started to hurt more so they turned me on my back again.
My mother was called and told I’d hurt my leg. It didn’t seem like such a big deal so she sent for a cab to take me to hospital then she’d meet me there, since it was rush hour (heavy traffic) and she was working on the other side of town. I was rolled onto a blanket and carried to the parking lot and waited for the cab. When it came, I was put in the back seat, lying on my side. I lay there, alone with the driver, for hours in traffic on the way to hospital.
On arrival at the hospital, I was taken to the ER, what happened in there is all a blur. I remember, later on, being in a dark room. My head was shaved in preparation for the bolts and screws to be put on either side of my head. I had on a neck brace that was too large for me, since they didn’t have any in my size, which was extremely uncomfortable. I kept turning my head trying to relieve the pain on the back of my head despite being advised otherwise. Eventually my head was forcefully held down.
The doctors and nurses left after a while and nobody was permitted to come see me. The door was shut and I was alone in the dark. I couldn’t reach my nose when it needed a scratch, get a drink when I was thirsty or press the bell to get some help. I called out as loudly as I could but no one heard. I was scared, confused about what had happened to me, trapped in a dark room and trapped in my body. It was a tough night. Eventually I was taken to the children’s ward, where I stayed for six days with weights pulling my head, then went for surgery. The doctor’s report said, in the most beautiful language, that they did something wrong.
After surgery, I woke to nurses waiting to put tubes down my throat to suction fluids from my chest since I was too weak to cough. They said I’d drown in my own “juices” if the extremely uncomfortable procedure wasn’t done. It became unbearable so I bit the tubes as hard as I could until the nurses got fed up and aborted the mission. The next day I was back in the children’s ward. People visited often, mostly family members and family friends, and I saw how sad and scared for me they were. I was scared too but didn’t show it. There was too much worry for one room as it was. I masked my sadness with humor and fake smiles.
The first time I sat in a wheelchair I felt like I’d been spun in a blender for hours (very dizzy) and had blackouts but never passed out, I would’ve preferred the latter. The amount of time I could sit for increased gradually. I hardly slept at night and wasn’t sure what had happened to me as nobody explained clearly. I kept thinking I’d be good as new in no time. Time passed, not much changed, I became frustrated and bitter.
When I went back home all my time was spent in my room. I sat in a wheelchair for a few minutes every day after what I now know as lousy physiotherapy. I was never one to voice my feelings so kept all inside. I managed to change my mind set to a more positive one by watching motivational films. Sadness came and went and my share of falling asleep crying wasn’t eluded. I felt that the accident was all my fault, that if I stayed at the school where I was it wouldn’t have happened. I felt stupid and that I deserved to have a miserable life. Old friends didn’t make it easier. One of them sent me a text message that read “Are you a cripple now??” That was just days after I got home from the hospital. Another actually told me (at about the same time) I shouldn’t have left the school and that all my talent had gone to waste. I do have two loyal friends who came to see me whenever they could and don’t see me any differently as they did before. They are two truly exceptional young ladies.
In September 2008, two years after my injury, I decided to go back to school. I knew it would be difficult but had no idea how difficult. I couldn’t get into the classrooms ’cause there were high steps and no ramps. Finding people to lift me and my heavy wheelchair into the rooms was too time consuming to be of any value, and frankly embarrassing. I ended up staying in a room downstairs and was told teachers would have one-on-ones with me there. I was happy with the arrangement because the stares and cruel comments from other kids had become too much. Teachers seldom came and I taught myself a lot. I excelled in English Literature and Music and was rewarded by the school for it. This happened for my general performance too.
I found out I was a good singer, with perfect pitch said my music teacher. I performed at school a number of times and loved it. Sure it took a while for people to warm up to me but it happened and I have the most amazing friends now. My final exams took a toll on me because I can’t write as fast as everyone else and the extra time allowed wasn’t too much. The tables were not accessible so I had to really bend over to reach them. Though I didn’t finish all my papers, I did my best with each one and I’m happy about that.
I’ve got to say that the hardest thing I’ve had to face is watching how life around me went/goes on and that there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s often said that high school years are the most formative and unforgettable. I never really had a memorable high school experience and I can’t change that. Never went on field trips or anything like that. What’s weird is, I don’t feel bad about it.
I now know that I’m a strong person who can handle anything thrown at me, and have fun doing it. Challenges keep coming and I keep overcoming them every day. Some say I inspire them, I don’t know if it’s really true but I like to think it is. Now I have a sense of purpose, I can do something for others, it’s not just others doing things for me anymore.