Eliaichi is from a rural district in the Kilimanjaro region of northern Tanzania. When he was born, his mother noticed his legs weren’t moving, so she began to ask people about her child’s condition. When Eliachi was 3 months old, his mother took him back to the hospital and was told that Eliaichi had spina bifida: a defect occurring in the development of a baby’s spine while the mother is pregnant. A month later, Eliaichi had surgery at the major regional hospital, but surgeons could not correct his spine.
For the next 20 years, Eliaichi could only move by using his arms to pull his body across the floor, causing large pressure sores to develop on his backside. He also tried to crawl on his hands, but repeated dragging of his legs and feet along the ground caused sores and infection, resulting in the removal of some of Eliaichi’s damaged toes from both feet. Without any bowel or bladder control, Eliaichi lived a lonely life, staying at home, isolated from his community. Since he had already undergone an unsuccessful operation as a child, he believed there was no other way his life could be improved.
Then in his twenties, Eliaichi met a doctor at a local hospital who told him about a nearby facility that could help him. That was the first time Eliaichi heard about CCBRT Moshi. Eliaichi soon went to CCBRT Moshi, where he spoke to a doctor and physical therapist, who enrolled him on a continence management programme conducted by CCBRT in partnership with the regional hospital. A little while later, Eliaichi received his first wheelchair from a CCBRT Moshi technician. Today, he continues to attend continence clinics every month at the regional hospital, as well as the continence management week held at CCBRT Moshi once every three months.
Since regaining control over his body and movements, Eliaichi’s life has changed dramatically. He now works as a shoe repairman in his village, where business is good. He is able to leave his home and come to work, and no longer relies on people in his community to help him do things. Eliaichi’s independence enabled him to meet his wife, and late last year they had a baby boy. As a board member for youth on the Association of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Tanzania, Eliaichi is paying it forward by campaigning for other young people in similar situations to receive the help they need.
On the change in his life, Eliaichi says simply: “I felt that I was going to die. CCBRT Moshi gave me life.”