When we arrive at Nicholas’ home in Moshi, we see him sitting quietly in the wheelchair that was provided free of charge by CCBRT. Nicholas was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 6 months old when his mother realised that he was not able to hold his own head up, or turn himself over. He is now 7 years old. When Nicholas’ mother heard an announcement about CCBRT in church one Sunday, she realised that they might be able to help her son.
Nicholas is taken out to the garden to meet his friend, and starts to laugh and plays like any other 7 year old boy. Wheeling his chair towards the music playing from the car radio, Nicholas jokes with our team and races his chair with his friend. He is loving the freedom that comes with his wheelchair.
Before physiotherapy with CCBRT’s Community Health Workers, Nicholas was unable to sit up or control his neck. Home exercises and the use of assistive devices have strengthened Nicholas’ muscles to the point where he is now able to sit without assistance, and is even able to steer his wheelchair by himself as he plays with his friends. It is clear that the support provided by CCBRT has had a huge impact upon Nicholas’ life.
It is not only Nicholas who benefits from this support. Nicholas’ progress has given him more opportunities to socialise; he can now go to church and no longer needs constant supervision around the home. During a recent Week of Intensive Training at CCBRT, Nicholas learnt the control and developed the strength required to feed himself. What may seem like a basic skill that many of us take for granted is a monumental step in enhancing Nicholas’ welfare and independence. It also relieves pressure on his mother, who is able to expand her focus on her entire family, including her teenage daughter and three month old baby. The Weeks of Intensive Training also provide mothers like Nicholas’ with an opportunity to develop support networks with their peers, and to understand how other women manage the challenges they face in raising a child with a disability. “I saw other children with more severe problems than Nicholas and I realised that he actually has a lot of potential. It gave me heart that there is a lot I can do for my son.” Being able to spend time with other mothers who are also raising a child with a disability was a welcome opportunity for Nicholas’ mother to share experiences and learn from them. “It was good to know that I am not alone.”
*Name changed to protect patient privacy