Dreams and Miracles, by Goodwell Nzou (PART 2 of 3)

It all started in Chitsungo Village in the Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe, where I was born inside a tiny mud hut with the help of village midwives. I consider this as a humble beginning of greater things and not as a case of an inferior background. Many of my friends boast of their mothers’ giving birth in private maternity wards surrounded by nurses and doctors. But I think to myself.  “The fact that I have a past and am alive in the present means that I have an equally bright future!” I was a normal village boy there; I loved soccer and volleyball and never thought much about the future. Until November 2000, when I was 11 years old, and my brother and I went down to the river for a swim, as we did on so many hot  late afternoons. It was dusk when I was suddenly bitten by a snake. At least I assume it was a snake since nothing else could have left me in such agony or caused my leg to begin swelling so quickly. My brother carried me home, but my parents could not rush me to a clinic because the nearest medical facility was 20 kilometers away and it was already dark. So I spent the whole night in my small bed at home without any medication. Only dawn did my mother and brother gently place me into a wheelbarrow so that they could begin the long journey to help.  For more than a month, they pushed me to clinics on both sides of the border for injections, or carried onto a rural bus to hospitals as nurses drained ounce after ounce of pus from my foot. I wept not just from the pain but from looking at my anklebones, bare and exposed, until, finally, my foot detached itself from my leg. On December 28, when a doctor first mentioned the word amputation, I was almost relieved. But at first, the doctor at the hospital in Harare, where I was finally transported, hesitated to perform the surgery because my parents weren’t there. But they had no money to travel so far to authorize the operation. Forced to become a man almost overnight, I realised that I could not give up; I somehow suddenly knew that I was meant to live and fulfill goals that I couldn’t yet name. I forced the doctors to rid me of my obstacle, my, useless-painful wounded leg. I quickly learned that not everyone considered that I had been brave. My aunt immediately declared that I had become a useless person not even worthy of any education. My heart shattered, but somehow I found the strength not to give up. I perpetually cried and insisted that I go to school until my father gave in and took me to Social Welfare, which provided me with a heavy wooden prosthetic leg. Compared to the titanium limb that I now use, that leg was impossible: heavy and awkward with no joints or springs. But at the time, it was the most precious imaginable possession. By the time I re-entered school, more than a year after my amputation, I had become a determined young man, far distant from the carefree boy from Chitsungo. My aunt’s declaration that I would always be useless rang in my head. I worked extra hard every day. “No disabled child can do anything in life,” she declared once more after she heard that I had applied to continue my education at King George VI School for the Disabled in Bulawayo, the only secondary school for the disabled in Zimbabwe. This one was like The Great Wall of China, standing resolutely between me and my dreams. I now believe in miracles because at the very time that my one aunt was shouting at everyone about me, another aunt told her employer about my problem, and he offered to pay my tuition. By the time I arrived at King George, I was more determined than ever; I would keep going, study medicine and become a doctor to save young people like me. Unfortunately, King George was not exactly the most advanced high school in the country in terms of academics, and by then, the economy of Zimbabwe was collapsing. So there was no Chemistry laboratory at the school; neither was there a Chemistry teacher. The headmistress agreed to find me Physical Science textbooks so that I could teach myself. But I quickly realised that books were not enough. I needed chemicals and a Bunsen burner, fuel and tubes. The administrator was pretty surprised when I asked her to find a way to buy me the things that I needed. But she managed, and a few weeks later, in what had once been a closet, I burnt some copper carbonate in a crucible to see what would happen, the first of scores of experiments I tried on my own, following instructions from whatever textbooks I could find. I did secondary education at King George 2005-2008. I served as deputy head boy in 2006 and as head boy 2007 and 2008. By that time, when I left King George for Christian Brothers College to study physics and chemistry, and  mathematics I do not think anyone – even my aunt – could have stopped me. I had too much to prove; determination had become wired into my soul. I admit that my friends wondered, even made jokes, when I set my alarm to wake up at 2 a.m. so that I could find extra time to study. Or currently, when I volunteer to spend my free time tutoring O-level Math and Integrated Science. And, when I make the time to work with the First Aid club at Christian Brothers College. I know that helping the sick and helping people who reminds me of myself at a younger age is imperative. Proving my aunt wrong is no longer good enough. That emotion has metamorphosed into an internal need to do my best – and be the best.  My dream now is to become a Chemical Engineer and so I’m studying Math, Chemistry, and Physics at Christian Brother College. Many people have insinuated that it is impossible to succeed in University especially regarding my condition and financial status. I definitely know that it is going to be hard and tougher and even more expensive but I use three words to describe all my power, “Thoughts become things.” Or as Napoleon Hill said, “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”. My strength sorely lies in my tenacity that is my secret. Mine has not been an easy life. Where once I could run and play with other children, I spent most of my youth sitting on the sidelines with a heavy wooden leg that was not even cut to fit me. Where once I imagined being a man who could walk the streets of my capital and be treated with respect, I now know that many people look at me with pity or even fear, thinking that I am cursed. It was my goal that I, the son of a mother and father who can neither read nor write, turns a terrible tragedy into an opportunity. It not for that awful snake, I suspect that I would either be doing nothing in my village, which is what most young men there are doing, or working as a garden boy, as my brother does in Harare.  But the American president Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” I will never let go.

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