Peace from pain

Themba Molefe

Themba Molefe

Pain is the sensation of acute physical hurt or discomfort induced by injury and illness, among other causes.

Also, pain can be emotional suffering or mental distress. Worse, physical or emotional pain can be chronic.

This clearly means that there are those among us who cannot fully enjoy the simple things in their lives because of the limitations brought about by bodily pain.

Those who suffer from emotional or mental distress might be victims of poverty, racism, homelessness, bigotry or cruelty by fellow humans.

I have lived with physical pain for the better part of my adult life.

I should hasten to state that this is neither a cry for sympathy on my part nor, as we say in journalese, a sob story.

Actually, I am happy and just wish to share the joy.

But first, some followers of this column may remember reading a few years ago when I wrote about a spinal operation that would change my life forever.

After being diagnosed with a pinched nerve, the neurologist said only a fusion could prevent some imminent paralysis which would eventually render me a quadriplegic.

I would then die, he said with a poker face. Me? Die? No way.

It was in 1992 when I underwent the intricate five-hour operation under the scalpels of a team of neurosurgeons who were led by an orthopaedic specialist at a Johannesburg private hospital.

For the next six months that I spent at the hospital I wore a halo - an iron brace - screwed to my temple. My two sons called me Robocop, after the fictional part-man-part-machine movie character. And the name stuck.

I had to learn to walk again and that took another six months. Today I am just grateful for moving from one place to the next, albeit with a shuffle.

Why, you may ask, am I happy and want to share my joy?

This week, for the first time in years, I have not experienced any backache and my neck can do some smart moves it has ceased doing a long time ago: turn.

No, I was not touched by a Bible-toting, faith-healing pastor of the charismatic kind. There's no miracle charm I can swear on, none at all.

It is all thanks to Farryl Roth, my patient physiotherapist who has been working on me. He says we are getting there, although it might take time.

I know that in time I will be able to drive my car again and accompany my government on her shopping sprees and take long walks in my street. Yes.

There are people who do not appreciate life, who take simple tasks such as walking and pushing a supermarket trolley for granted.

To many people who cannot walk, this necessary physical activity is a luxury which is out of reach.

It is important for all of us to take care of things we may regret not having later on in life.

As for me, I will follow Farryl's regimen until I can run up the stairs in the office again.

Who knows, as a former professional ballroom dancer, I might return and light up the floor once more.

lThis article, one of Molefe's finest, was originally published on April 10 2008. He will be buried tomorrow in Alberton.