This is the story of Shadrack. Shadrack is quadriplegic after being shot in the neck during an armed robbery and assault. He was employed as a gardener in a complex in Johannesburg when one morning, tragedy struck. This is his story told by two women who have given him a voice – Carin Silbermann and Gail Mabalane:
Shadrack is a family man dedicated to his job. He was always so diligent and going the extra mile. He cared for the lovebirds in the gutters – we have over 30! He is always at work by 6.30 am and never misses a day. He is very kind and caring.
On 1 September at 5:30 am he was walking to work. Two men wearing balaclavas attacked him and stole his phone. They then shot him in the back of his neck and dragged him to an ATM, where they withdrew his R5 000 salary. They left him for dead and fled. A member of the community found him and called his wife.
An ambulance took him to the nearest big trauma centre. Shadrack waited 12 hours in a tent outside the state hospital for an available bed. He was finally admitted to the surgical ward. He later underwent surgery to stabilise the bones of his spine.
The hospital did not allow any visitors due to Covid-19 restrictions. Shadrack also had no access to a phone. He was stuck in one position in bed and could not move even if he wanted to. He did not get any counselling and could not reach any family members.
While in hospital, he was not told what was going on. He lay in bed for two weeks with minimal feedback. Nursing staff tried to assure him that the bullet was out and that he was healing, but something did not make sense – he could not feel or move his body.
Finally, I (Carin) managed to speak to a neurosurgeon I knew at the hospital, and he explained the diagnosis. The doctor said that, unfortunately, the bullet had severed his spinal cord and punctured his lung. There is nothing they could do. He was quadriplegic. At that time, we did not really understand what that meant.
Two weeks after his admission, Shadrack was given a phone by one of the nurses to call his wife. He was being discharged. On that day, the family was told that he was paralysed and quadriplegic. He was issued a standard wheelchair and given a discharge summary with a follow-up date and a prescription for pain killers. His wife was not shown how to help him in and out of the wheelchair. She was also not educated on how to care for someone with a spinal cord injury.
Shadrack’s wife, Eunice, called Gail and I. We went to the hospital to pick him up. We looked at each other as we realised the enormity of the situation. We didn’t know how to tell Shadrack or Eunice the bad news. We went to the car and didn’t have a clue about how to move a six-foot-tall man from a wheelchair into a car.
We dragged and pulled until finally, we got Shadrach into the car. We all drove home in silence – we were so scared.
On arrival at Cosmos City, where Shadrack lives, his two children, aged seven and twelve, came running after our car shouting: “papa, papa is home”. They ran into his arms in the back of the car, but “papa” could not lift his arms to hug them. They all sobbed.
We could not get the wheelchair into the single room he was living in. We had to carry him inside and placed him on the bed. He just lay there. We then found a seven-centimetre pressure sore on his buttocks plus six smaller others. We also found out that he had a catheter and no control over his bladder or bowel.
Gail and I realised that the family couldn’t live there anymore – it was too small! For Shadrack’s future journey, we had to move.
We were lucky enough to find a bigger space on short notice and helped move the family in. It was difficult because we could hear his children being teased outside because their dad was in nappies. The whole family was emotionally shattered and needed counselling.
Shadrack was given a follow-up appointment for 1 November 2021 to go to the urology clinic for a check-up and a special catheter called a suprapubic catheter (SPC). Only a week before the date did we realise it was a public holiday and had to jump through hoops to get the new date of 3 November. On the third, Shadrack patiently waited to be seen by a doctor. When they eventually saw him, he was told that they could not assist him with inserting an SPC and that he would need to go to a private hospital to get it done. His normal urethral catheter was changed, and he was sent home.
We was so disappointed to hear this. After reaching out to another doctor, we managed to get Shadrack a new date to go to theatre to get the operation to insert an SPC. Shadrack first had to have a Covid-19 test done on the Wednesday, and then he was booked for the Friday. He sat in his wheelchair from 6 that morning without any help. He was told at about 11 am that morning that due to the water outage in Johannesburg, there was no clean linen, and therefore they could not do his surgery. He was sent home again.
Finally, about a week later, Shadrack had his SPC inserted. He requested a prescription for pain medication, but this was declined. The medicine he requires costs about R2 000 per month.
Gail and I started a “Back-a-Buddy” campaign to raise funds for Shadrack’s physical and medical needs. We have been blessed with the help of a wound care nurse, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, a doctor with a special interest in spinal cord injuries and funds to buy much-needed equipment.
Shadrack is unable to work and provide for his family at the moment. Even though Eunice (his wife) works, it’s just not enough, especially with additional medical expenses. We hope to get a few people to commit to (any amount) monthly. This way, we can help the family sustain their monthly needs long term.
With gratitude and appreciation to everyone who has helped Shaddy and his family, the last couple of months feel like a lifetime already. Thank you so much!
If anyone would still like to donate, please click here for the link. https://www.backabuddy.co.za/shadrack-kuchale