Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after pioneering surgery

A man who was completely paralysed from the waist down can walk
again after a British-funded surgical breakthrough which offers hope to
millions of people who are disabled by spinal cord injuries.Polish surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from the nose of Darek
Fidyka, a Bulgarian man who was injured four years ago, to provide
pathways along which the broken tissue was able to grow.

The 38-year-old, who is believed to be the first person in the world
to recover from complete severing of the spinal nerves, can now walk
with a frame and has been able to resume an independent life, even to
the extent of driving a car, while sensation has returned to his lower

Professor Geoffrey Raisman, whose team at University College London’s
institute of neurology discovered the technique, said: “We believe that
this procedure is the breakthrough which, as it is further developed,
will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for
people disabled by spinal cord injury.”

The surgery was performed by a Polish team led by one of the world’s
top spinal repair experts, Dr Pawel Tabakow, from Wroclaw Medical
University, and involved transplanting olfactory ensheathing cells
(OECs) from the nose to the spinal cord.OECs assist the repair of damaged nerves that transmit smell messages
by opening up pathways for them to the olfactory bulbs in the

Relocated to the spinal cord, they appear to enable the ends of
severed nerve fibres to grow and join together – something that was
previously thought to be impossible.While some patients with partial spinal injury have made remarkable
recoveries, a complete break is generally assumed to be unrepairable.

The research, funded by the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (NSIF)
and the UK Stem Cell Foundation, features in a BBC Panorama programme on
Tuesday night.Raisman, who hopes to see at least three more patients treated in
Poland over the next three to five years if the funding can be raised,
said: “The patient is now able to move around the hips and on the left
side he’s experienced considerable recovery of the leg muscles.

“He can get around with a walker and he’s been able to resume much of
his original life, including driving a car. He’s not dancing, but he’s
absolutely delighted,” said Raisman.The NSIF’s founder, David Nicholls, whose son Daniel was paralysed in
2003, said information relating to the breakthrough will be made
available to other researchers around the world to help cure paralysis.

He said: “Paralysis is something that most of us don’t know very much
about, because we are not affected by it. One of the most devastating
moments a parent will ever experience is the sight of their son or
daughter lying motionless in bed and facing the reality that they may
never walk again.

“The scientific information relating to this significant advancement
will be made available to other researchers around the world so that
together we can fight to finally find a cure for this condition which
robs people of their lives.”Raisman said he had never believed the “observed wisdom” that the central nervous system cannot regenerate damaged connections.

He added: “Nerve fibres are trying to regenerate all the time. But
there are two problems – crash barriers, which are scars, and a great
big hole in the road.“In order for the nerve fibres to express that ability they’ve always
had to repair themselves, first the scar has to be opened up, and then
you have to provide a channel that will lead them where they need to

He stressed that what had been achieved was a leap forward beyond
promoting “plasticity” – the rewiring of remaining connections.The professor added: “The number of patients who are completely paralysed is enormous. There are millions of them in the world.“If we can convince the global neurosurgeon community that this works then it will develop very rapidly indeed.”

This article was first published in the Guardian UK

Wheeling into bumpy university student politics: the exceptional story of Anne Mercy

Walking the talk…

“The future rewards those who press on.I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself.I don’t have time to complain.I am going to press on”-Barrack Obama.
When I contacted her on
phone on my intention to meet her for an interview, I was impressed by her reaction.
Warm, but clearly indicating that her schedule was tight. Rightly so, a leader
like her operates on a diary. Leading university students, a demanding degree
in pharmacy at Kenyatta University, and the typical social life of youthful young
woman, without a doubt a diary comes in handy.
The election to fill in
the positions of leadership at the Kenyatta University students Association (KUSA)
that took place on 17th October 2014 and the outcome therein is
still a boiling topic in the institution of higher education corridors. Who
won, who lost and who almost won. In those discussions, Anne’s name, in one way
or another has to come in. She is deputy president elect of KUSA. She left
friends and opponents in shock. How a young woman, soft spoken, in a wheelchair
won with a landslide is quite something.
In the wall of her room
in university lies a large portrait of her.”My friend studying arts made that
for me”, she tells me. I could fail to notice that most her items are made of
bright colors. The walls with some graffiti which she tells me were thanks to
the previous room occupant, a heap of books at the corner and a music system.
There is a conspicuous wooden chair at the  corner which she says it is her favorite place
to sit.
“How were the
elections?’’, I nudge. She sighs. Deep in thoughts. She tells me that they were
not easy but she made it nevertheless. University student politics in Kenya are
a fair representation of the national politics. Tribalism, propaganda and the
need to dish out money are prevalent. She was prepared for all that and diplomatic
at it.
With a think tank for the line of attack and the foot soldiers, she was in
no doubt.
Her opponents run a propaganda
machinery targeting her disability and purporting that she was eyeing for the
sympathy votes. That was far from the truth. “Surely my job description is so
core in any student’s life that they would be wrong to vote on basis of
sympathy. I am directly involved in Accommodation, Catering services and
security.They voted for because I have a proven track record and they have
faith in me”, she states.
In the previous
academic year she served as the special needs secretary in the executive. Bringing
the interests of those with the special needs to the forefront. How did
perform? Exemplary. Under her reign she achieved a lot. She was able to bring a
disability policy for the school. “Before that, disability services were
treated as favors and goodwill from the officers. But it was imperative to have
them on paper.”
She is also the brain behind special vans that take students
with mobility problems around the school. The vans are a phone call away and
are free of charge. Collaborating with the university’s culture week team she
was able to introduce the Mr and Miss Disability pageant in the university. 
Anne Mercy  was born in 1991 in Nyeri highlands, in a
family of four, a place one journalist in Kenya once described as “a place of
honey and milk”. Her acquaintances pet her by calling her Almasi. She went to
Nyeri Moi Complex primary and as she was transitioning to high school the worst
She was involved in disastrous road accident. She was severely injured.
The rest of her family members in the accident sustained injuries. This not
only led to her being hospitalized for three months but left her with permanent
paralysis on both feet.
The life of the little
girl changed forever. Her family was very supportive but it was not easy. She
was depressed, and it took so long to reconcile to the fact she might actually
never walk for the rest of her life. 
In Temple Road High school she rebuilt her
life and that was where she regained her confidence and discovered her “leadership
gene”. She was a class prefect, a head girl and a public speaker.
In her new role as KUSA’s
vice president, her manifesto is plain. To tackle the perennial problem of accommodation
by liaising with the stakeholders for construction of new hostels and renovation
of the existing ones, to ensure the cafeteria machines are up and working all
the time, and most importantly to empower fellow female students.”Women leaders
are too few in the executive”, she adds.
Our interview is interrupted
by movements of students who come in and out of her room. To pass regards, others
congratulating her for the fresh triumph, while others “just want to see how
she is doing”. Joining national politics is not one of her immediate plans as
she would like to practice pharmacy after university. But in the long-term
future she says, “you never know”.
Her advice to fellow disabled
young women is to unite and share challenges and successes but also she feels
that they should be notable professionals in their different fields. When I ask
her the one person she would like to meet in her life, she looks at me, makes a
face, then asks ,”only one person?”I get the joke and I tell her to give two.
Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama are her two choices.
As she sees me off
towards the gate, I cannot fail to notice that she is a woman of the people. Others
wave at her from a distance, others running towards her for a handshake, others
a warm hug while others smile in acknowledgement.
Her email address is
is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass
through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we
reach the mountaintop of our desire”
-Nelson Mandela

A Song in Seven Stanzas for Our Granddaughters

A GRANDMOTHER credit to google

1.Tradition and the remembrance of things past,
Are a re-discovered country
Of things we struggle against;
Where as pygmy women we stand tall among the Bantu
And name ourselves Babongo.
We stand here, compassionate witnesses,
To witches who are just mothers, to mothers who are just loyal
To those who who wrestle snakes to feed their children,
And to grandmothers who keep faith enough with girls
To make god change his mind.

2.Young as we are,if we don’t tell our stories who will speak out for us, when
We claim our bodies for ourselves and weep no more, when
We write to each other and teach ourselves, not
To trade our bodies for security, wealth, power,
Or whatever price they can bring, when
We call out and claim a love that knows no name and has no place, when
We learn “it is not rape if …”
We still love our daddy as his bewildering passion penetrates us
Shocking us to learn the forbidden pathways of ourselves,
And the things we struggle for.

3.If we don’t tell our stories, hailstones will continue to fall on our heads,
Thrown by fathers for the children to see – for we are not good women,
Thrown by Imams, by a judge’s decree – for we are not good wives,
Thrown by other women in our husbands’ lives
As they come in the morning cradling his children
Calling us witch, barren, bitch
And we find something to tie the chest with;
Challenging words to hurl back in battle,
And partners to hold us anyway,
Through the things we struggle against.

4.If we don’t tell our stories who will know we did not comply:
We did not wish our lives away, but stayed focused,
And staunched the cut of virginal blood,
To stop our daughters being slaves;
We learned to sing survival songs,
Through violence and rape and war;
We did not tell each other lies, or taste slow poison all alone;
And stitched for our dead not effigies, but new dolls
So our artistry shows only prayer heals despair,
Through the things we struggle for.

5.When we share  strategy through story
We empower ourselves to take a standl
And bear witness through our words in blood and ink,
To wage peace as an act of faith,
To call out by name the things we fear,
Not just victim, or betrayed child soldiers-
liberated from the firs of oil, or greed, or power
We claim a collective love,
Plant trees or wage a campaign, sing songs or keep silence,
As agents of a just resistance now and as in the past.

6.Through bondage and through freedom we share our tactics,
And document. We write from every different place,
To reclaim our names, and inherited legacies we want to pass along.
We write to stay in places as we choose-
We who crossed the Atlantic all those yesterdays ago,
We who have come again today-
We who have stayed in place through generations,
We who will stay in place tomorrow-
Or move on: between generations, between cultures, between locations,
As we ourselves want, now, as in the future.

7.We envision new futures for ourselves
As we weep with each other in silence or laugh:
We network behind shop counters, and on factory floors,
We engage across industrial landscapes, and in mining villages,
We reach out from fishing boats and commercial farms
We meet in schools, churches, parliaments and slums
And from dance floors to prison cells we are Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the Liberian State House.
We are the tomorrow our grandmothers dreamed
We are grandmothers dreaming other tomorrows-
Our own compassionate witnesses standing at the edge of time.

 Abena P.A. Busia.

Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh: Ebola victim and everyday hero

The doctor prevented the spread of Ebola in Nigeria – and paid with her life.
Now we should honour her, and the other health workers whose dedication is

Stella Ameyo Adadevoh A
candlelight vigil for Stella Ameyo Adadevoh and other Ebola victims in Abuja,
Nigeria. Photograph: Afolabi
Last month, the Nigerian government released the 2014 National Honours award
list: more than 300 people, many of them serving government officials, seemingly
recognised simply because of the public office they hold, not for anything
particularly honourable or heroic.

An outcry followed, largely due to the
absence of one name: Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh. A government spokesman was forced
to explain that the awards are never given posthumously.

The public’s indignation
was understandable: Adadevoh was the Nigerian doctor who oversaw the treatment
of Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian national who brought the Ebola virus to Nigeria.

 She died of the virus on 19 August, one of eight fatalities out of 20 cases
(each linked to Sawyer) in the country. Without her dedication, it is quite
possible that the World
Health Organisation would not have declared Nigeria – the most populous country
in Africa – Ebola-free
on Monday. The significance of her actions, and those
of her hospital colleagues, cannot be overstated.

According to an account by Ada Igonoh, a young doctor who treated Sawyer –
and upon whom it fell to certify him dead – Adadevoh vehemently turned down a
request by Sawyer’s employers to have him discharged so he could catch a flight
to Calabar, a coastal city 750km from Lagos, where he had been due to attend a
conference (we are left to imagine what would have followed had Sawyer been
allowed to leave Lagos for Calabar).

Igonoh says that from the moment Adadevoh suspected Sawyer might have Ebola –
the Liberian had denied contact with an Ebola patient, even though his sister
had died of the virus barely two weeks before his arrival in Nigeria – she
quarantined him, made contact with the authorities, and ensured the provision of
protective materials and Ebola educational material to hospital staff.

Adadevoh was born in Lagos in October 1956. Her father was Babatunde
Adadevoh, a professor of chemical pathology and, between 1978 and 1980, the
vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos. Her great-grandfather was the
Nigerian nationalist Herbert Macaulay (himself the grandson of Samuel Ajayi
Crowther, the first African Anglican bishop). She lived most of her life in
Lagos, spending the last 21 years working at the First Consultant hospital in
Obalende on Lagos Island, where a statue of Macaulay still stands today.

In a fine tribute, Nigerian journalist Simon Kolawole explained and
convincingly that Adadevoh was only doing her job as a medical professional. He
wrote: “There were various options in front of her when she discovered Sawyer
had Ebola: one, quietly say ‘e no concern me’ and discharge him quickly to avoid
contaminating the hospital; two, refer him to [Lagos University Teaching
hospital], not minding the bigger consequences for the rest of Nigeria; three,
act responsibly in line with the ethics of the medical profession and ‘detain’
him because of the peculiarity of the disease.”

That this needed to be pointed out at all is perhaps testimony to how unused
Nigeria has become to the idea of people doing their jobs as they should. It is
precisely the reason Adadevoh needs to be honoured: as a reminder that heroism
can be attained as much in everyday work clothes as it can in superhero

In September, the Lagos state parliament asked Governor Babatunde Fashola to
rename the Infectious Diseases hospital in Lagos – where Adadevoh died – in her
memory. There is still time to further recognise Adadevoh’s heroism. No doubt
the biggest tribute Nigeria could ever give her would be to create a culture in
which devotion and dedication to one’s vocation is habitual.

This article was first publishe in the GUARDIAN

Defying disability: From coffee plantations to the Nyeri County Assembly

advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your
disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things
it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”-Steve Hawking

Hon Kanyi preparing for an official meeting.

a two hour drive from Nairobi  to a town
that is situated about 150 km north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, I find
myself in the middle of a land  that was
once described by a Kenyan journalist as “a land of honey and milk”, Nyeri. 

mission is simple: To meet one man who has defied all odds to sit in the county
assembly of Nyeri and  a first, in many
the journey he calls me. Insisting that should I get lost, I inform him immediately. 
I meet him at Nyeri
white Rhino hotel. As I walk in, he waves directing me to his direction. He accords me a very warm handshake and offers me a cup of what I like. He is
seated at a wooden chair, next to a huge aquarium. On the opposite side is a
huge notice, scribed on a piece of well cut wood, ”No smoking”. He is quick to
tell me to “feel at home”. We then settle for our interview.

Who exactly is Hon Joseph Kanyi  King’ori?
I am many things. I am an educationist, a disability activist and most of all a
member of Nyeri county Assembly..
How was the transition from being a
college lecturer to a Member of county assembly?
be honest it was challenging at first. While I might not be in class teaching
now I am best positioned to influence policies that will in many ways affect
the academic discourse in our county.
How did the politics journey begin?
 I applied for nomination in November 2012
through The National Alliance. The process was very competitive but I thank God
that I was shortlisted. Our nomination has been challenged in court many times
by people who do not accept defeat, but time has proven us rightfully in office
over and over.
Your table is full of books and notes.
What are you reading?
see, in a job like mine, one has to be consistently updating their knowledge on
issues. One has to read in order to lead. I am in the process of preparing a
bill in the assembly therefore I am reading related bills from Northern Ireland
and other developed countries. Borrowing best practices on the very least
You have been in office for over a
year now. What have you achieved?
must admit that the learning curve has been quite steep. But among the notable
achievements have been:
Sponsoring a motion urging the county to establish a policy to ensure access to
built environment for persons with disabilities in Nyeri County
Influencing through committee a motion on Early childhood education which urges
the county government to put prominence on children with disabilities, orphans and
vulnerable children when developing the early childhood education programmes.
Being very active in the procedure and law committee  that has so far sponsored four bills in the
county assembly.
These achievements are absolutely
incredible. They come with a fair share of challenges like in any other job. Is
it so?
indeed challenges are there. To start as a nominated member of the county
assembly I am not entitled to a budgetary allocation. This is a major
impediment because some projects require money to implement. Secondly I do not
have a personal Assistant like other members of the assembly. This becomes a
challenge especially when running errands as well as when travelling both
within and outside the country. Thirdly unlike fellow elected members I do not
have a physical office where I can be meeting my people.
What are your future plans for the
remaining time as an MCA?
am geared to sponsor a bill in the assembly that captures the data of all disabled
persons in the county. The mapping will be in such a way that their physical location
is known to ensure that a social worker can easily trace their whereabouts. 
there is need for a bill for the realization of Convention of Rights of Persons
with disabilities (CRPD) on the county level. This is something certainly in my
to do list. I also intend to bring MCAs  with
disabilities from the larger Mt.Kenya region together to ensure that we share
best practices and how we can make our impact felt.
You speak so highly of your family.
grandmother, my siblings, my mother and my lovely wife have been my rock.
You are a self made leader. Please
was born in poverty. Many years ago,my mother was a squatter in a coffee
plantation in mathari sub location in Nyeri. She brought me up single handedly
alongside seven other siblings. Acquiring a disability at a young age was a setback
to an already struggling single mother and I had no option but to work
extremely hard. 
She took me to school on her back every single day. During
those days there were no role models especially achieving people with a disability.
I had to work extremely hard to be ahead of myself. The same fighting spirit
has sustained me this far.
Parting shot?
with disabilities need to unite and speak in one voice for there is safety  in numbers.
If you were to have a cup of
porridge with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Delano Roosevelt

Hon Joseph Kanyi can be reached  on email or facebook

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”-John Quincy Adam