Glow Stick by Catherine Maingi

Have you ever seen a glow stick?

A glow stick is a plastic tube with a glass vial inside it.  For the glow stick to work, you have to snap the stick. When you snap the stick you break the glass vial inside. This action allows the chemicals that are inside the glass to react with the ones outside of it, and makes the glow stick… glow. Once broken, some people put glow sticks in the freezer to enable them last longer but with reduced brightness. It doesn’t matter what you do to the glow stick once it is broken, it will glow.

Mr. Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a glow stick, I had to be broken in order to glow.

I became the second born to  Mr. and Mrs. Maingi on a very bright Friday the 13th in the month of March. I was a meek and quiet child hardly noticed by the neighbours. As I grew older and got another brother and sister, I grew fierce and bolder. I was a unique child with unique needs and growing up with 3 siblings was not easy; you see, I loved playing all the boy games you could imagine, however there was a setback;. I was born with a calcium deficiency and I ‘bruised easily’ and often. The number of times I visited the emergency room with fractured bones; well I stopped counting when I got to fracture number five.

On one fateful day at the age of 8, I had the mother of all falls and was broken. I broke both my legs around my knees while playing at home and I was rushed to hospital. After about 6 months of hospital and physiotherapy I was able to walk on crutches but the surgeon had messed up, and a year later I couldn’t walk straight anymore.  It was sad, but there was still more breaking to come.

I got rejected from different schools because I was a ‘disabled person’ as the school heads put it to my down trodden parents. I was no longer the playful girl or even meek girl; I was the girl living with a disability. I was now a statistic.

My spirits grew darker as time passed by and the rejection list grew.  I got discouraged and felt sorry for myself.  I loved school and could not believe that my friends were continuing with their studies, while I was stuck at home. I lost a number of friends along the way and I cried myself to sleep on several occasions.  I didn’t understand how God could put in me these chemicals of wonder and curiosity and at the same time not give me the bones to go with it.

But God had a plan for me. I joined a ‘special school’ for the physically handicapped. And it was there during a visit by foreign doctors; that I met the doctor who would make it possible for me to stand in front of you here today and glow.

It was hard work. I had to undergo several corrective surgeries and counseling sessions. But the school had worse cases and yet those students always had a cheery disposition. I made a decision to also look at the positive side of things. I might have been on a wheel chair or on crutches at the time, but my mind and hands weren’t.  It was my time in the freezer; I would go for my surgeries and in two weeks would be back in class studying hard despite my cast and wheelchair, working on my glow.

After several years of surgeries and physiotherapy I could finally walk again unaided, but not everything was back to normal. I was determined to go back to a normal school and I did. I was willing to do whatever  it took . I studied hard and even managed to jump a class and catch up with my friends. I sat my primary school exams and was admitted to a great high school. But temperatures at the school could get brutally low, as low as -4 degrees, my legs would swell and ache and I often found myself in hospital. My dad wanted to have me change schools but I refused. I was not going to break again. I was determined to glow, to prove to myself and to the world I could make it anywhere regardless of my situation.

By the time I finished secondary school, I was no longer the meek girl or the girl with a disability, or the broken girl.  I was bold, glowing and with the will to take on the world. I had learned invaluable lessons along the way that made me stronger than my age-mates; I could be anything I wanted to be as long as I had the right attitude.

I got admitted to Nairobi University but quickly changed my course to actuarial science after convincing my dad to sponsor me and that it was the course for me.  It is a course that few complete, but I wanted to challenge myself with the biggest and best brains.

I am glad I  chose the path that I did then as it led me to enjoy employment in various industries from investments, banking and now a leader in Health supply chain management at KEMSA.

The journey of my life continues still, but so far I know this,  it is okay to be a glow stick, sometimes we need to break before we can shine.

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