Living with an unknown disability

This is the story of a disabled man who despite life’s challenges has been able to lead a normal life. Once strong and fit, now crippled, Harerimana is only able to move from one place to another while squatting, his arms and legs shuffling him slowly forward.
Since the age of four, Harerimana has been stuck in a squatting position.
Since the age of four, Harerimana has been stuck in a squatting position.

This is the story of a disabled man who despite life’s challenges has been able to lead a normal life. Once strong and fit, now crippled, Harerimana is only able to move from one place to another while squatting, his arms and legs shuffling him slowly forward.

His bones are deformed and keep him this position. His life is plagued by unrelenting trials, isolation and loneliness.

“You mean you want me to come and visit you?” Harerimana asked with disbelief upon receiving my invitation for a chat in a quiet place.

Thirty-six years ago, Vianne Harerimana was born a happy child like all others, four years later he vividly recalls waking up crippled in bed, unable to stand straight.

“At the age of about four, I woke up to find everyone gone fetching firewood and could not arouse because I was unable to stand straight,” Harerimana begins his untold tale in a low and dry tone. From that day forth, he has never been able to walk upright.

However, Harerimana’s life today is remarkably normal. He has a partner who is four months pregnant whom he hopes to walk down the aisle next month. He pays monthly rent of Frw5,000 and looks to the future with optimism.

But Harerimana has never discovered the cause of his disability. Having lost count of the medical centres he has visited, none of which have shed light on his condition, Harerimana has come to suspect that he was bewitched.

“Doctors could not establish the disease I was suffering from. I even went to the traditional ones but none helped me,” says the father to be.

He even went to Gahini centre of the handicapped in 2003 hoping to get some assistance but all efforts to have his dilemma resolved seem to fall on barren ground and for him.
Harerimana recalls vividly the incident he believes to be the reason behind his crippled body. A neighbor had cows and while away grazing, the attendant fell asleep and the cows ate from people’s gardens.

Being young, Harerimana had gone with this man whose name he does not remember very well and it is then that the trouble started. Three of the cows were hacked to death and both eyes of another one were pierced out by the angry garden owners.

“The attendant went on the run and his boss started accusing me. When I asserted that I was not responsible, he picked up a broom and then used its handle to strike me. He began to hit harder and harder and he kept hitting me with it. I can remember the pain and the force of the weapon,” recalls Harerimana. Harerimana was hit mostly about the legs and also around the stomach.

“I can remember the bruises I had for several days after this vicious attack. I can clearly recall my friends fighting for me during this attack and made all attempts to stop it,” revealed Harerimana.

“I can not remember my immediate reaction as result of this abuse but I can recall the incident being “swept under the carpet” and the next thing I knew, I could not stand on my own.”

“I have always remembered this attack by my neighbor. I can still feel the emotional pain of this abuse when I focus on, or describe it,” said Harerimana.

“I tried all medication but it didn’t pay off because there was no change at the end of the day. Regardless of all this I remain hopeful that life continues against all odds.”

His father Reverend Bubakimana Daniel and mother Zebriah Bampire live in the village and they can not stop to wonder why it is only Harerimana out of the whole family who has this rare disability.

“It was a shocking revelation most especially because he developed the deformity later after his birth,” said Bubakimana upon learning that his son was never to walk again.

Born in a family of six, Harerimana who hails from Bugesera has two brothers and three sisters. Choosing not to follow his father’s footsteps and become a man of the church, Harerimana always wished to become a businessman. To date he has not lost his vision.

“I feel like if I got money now, I would open up a shop in Nyabugogo,” he said with hope. To look at he looks like a broken, vulnerable man, but Harerimana is a man of sound mental capability.

“After marrying my wife and producing children, even if I die I will have died a happy man,” said Harerimana who started living with his better half mid last year.

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