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Rickson Pancham left home on his feet for the last time 11 years ago. He remembers it well, the morning of December 3, 2010.
That afternoon, the then-construction worker would board the back seat of a friend’s car for a ride home, minutes before it was hit by an oncoming vehicle that left him pinned in the wreckage for hours.
The collision in Couva, he said, rendered him unconscious until he awoke at Port of Spain General Hospital, paralysed, in shock and unable to speak or move.
Pancham fought for his life as doctors and nurses tried all within their power to keep him alive.
Despite their efforts, when he left the hospital years later, doctors advised that he would never walk again.
“It was around Christmas time, I remember that because there was a Santa Claus in my room. I woke up in the Port of Spain General Hospital and my entire body was frozen. My eyes were open but I couldn’t talk, I could not move any part of me, absolutely nothing. They did not put me in a coma or anything like that, I don’t think they expected me to survive,” he told the Express in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
“The doctors worked on me and monitored me for a while. I spent about four or five years in the hospital. They moved me to St James and they did some things on me. Right now, I have nuts and bolts in my spine. If one comes loose, that would be it for me,” he added.
Now nearing 35, Pancham said his life has been reduced to the four walls that enclose him at his home in Balmain Village, Couva, covered in bed sores and unable to use the bathroom without aid.
Living in a one-room structure adjoining the home of his 71-year-old father, Pancham depends on the assistance of his eldest sister Sherryann Pancham to survive. He has not left the house in the past eight years.
Last went out
eight years ago
His sister and brother-in-law, he said, often commute from their home in Gran Couva to ensure that he is showered and cleaned at least once a week. On other days, he said, he is cleaned with wet rags and wears adult diapers.
“My big sister does take care of me. I don’t have any friends. Only two friends I know may come sometimes but everyone who helps me is a stranger every now and again. I live in my parents’ house, I have a little room separate from them. My dad is 71 years and my mom passed away before I got into the accident. When I have to shower, my brother and sister put me in a chair and bathe me.
“I don’t use the washroom often because I don’t eat a lot. I can’t go anywhere. I can’t move anything from my waist down.
My left hand cannot bend and my right hand is always closed. I use a plastic spoon to feed myself. I got skinny and weak,” he said.
Pancham told the Express that he once dreamed of playing cricket for a living. After dropping out of school in standard five to pursue work, he would go on to play cricket as part of neighbourhood teams.
His plans for the future, he said, were shattered that afternoon by the “dangerous driving” of a close friend. Now battling the reality of his debilitating disability, he says friends are scarce.
“When you go with friends you are never sure how to reach home. Before the accident I had a little girlfriend and I got messed up and everything went away. I never planned for anything after that. My plan was to work. I loved sports, I used to play a lot of cricket, windball and hardball.
That was my passion, I used to win trophies. I liked cricket. If I could get up now, I would play cricket. I loved sports,” Pancham said.
“This is a frustrating life, sometimes you are depressed, sometimes you are fed up. I don’t have anyone to take me anywhere. I probably left the house around eight years ago. I survive on disability and it is hard to have to pay someone to go somewhere. I can’t explain what I go through every day. It is really hard sometimes,” he said.
Speaking to the Express, Pancham’s eldest sister Sherryann added that she cares for her brother while raising three children. Having completed a geriatrics course shortly before her brother’s accident, she has assumed sole responsibility for his care.
Sherryann said: “It is really difficult because I have three kids and my husband is out of work.
Some days I don’t have money so I may have to stay with my dad here and then go back. He has other sisters but they don’t live nearby and they are working.
I did a course in geriatrics right before the accident so since then it became a full-time job for me. The doctors said he would never be able to walk again.”
Rickson is unable to access respite care or at-home nursing assistance (offered by the Government to the elderly).
Respite care, a form of temporary care for persons with disabilities, focuses on providing relief for the primary caregivers.
Though the institution of respite care varies from country to country, this initiative can provide caregivers with assistance and time away from the responsibility of care-giving.
This form of care for persons with disabilities does not exist in the current social development structure of Trinidad and Tobago. As a result, people like Rickson are often entirely dependent on their caregivers such as Sherryann.
“We did go through the ministry to try to get the nursing assistance but they said he was too young for the programme. I am 41, without me I don’t know what will happen to him,” she said.
When asked what assistance he may be in need of, Pancham responded that he was already in receipt of a disability cheque from the Ministry of Social Development. For most necessary items, he added, he was already provided for.
However, he said, he remains in need of a reliable doctor to conduct home visits, and sanitary items and toiletries such as antibiotic ointment for his sores, Lysol, wipes, sprays and disinfectants.
More than anything, he added, he wished people would understand the reality of living life while shut away from society.
“It is not an easy life…I can’t put it into words,” he said.
Those willing to offer assistance can contact Rickson Pancham at 719-6127.