Overcoming Her Handicap
To reach the Paralympics
By Sim Ai Hiong.
I was waiting at the departure lounge at Melbourne Airport, waiting for my flight back to Perth. I had just heard the announcement that the flight would be delayed. I always carry in my hand luggage a good book to read, and a book of puzzles and word search. I settled for the latter. After a while I took a break and decided to look around to see what others were doing. Some were taking a nap while others were enjoying some programs on the TV. Then there were those who were engrossed in whatever they were doing on their laptops while others were engaged in interesting conversations with their travelling companions. Then my eyes caught sight of someone in a wheelchair a few rows from where I was sitting. She was Asian, quite young and cheerful. We exchanged smiles. Then I decided to approach her. There was an empty seat beside her, so I sat there and we started to chat.
NU was her name, and she was originally from Vietnam, but had moved to Perth where she was working. Before she came to Perth she was living and working in Holland. As I sat and listened to her story about what had happened to her I was moved with compassion. She was a victim of a mine bomb during the Vietnam War. She was very young then, only 3. She was travelling from her village to another village with her parents and two brothers when the bombing occurred. She was taken to the hospital in Saigon. Unfortunately she suffered severe infection and both legs had to be amputated up to the knee. She was devastated and grieved when she was told that both her parents and two brothers had died in the bombing. I felt her pain as she related the story. One day while recovering in hospital, her aunt was approached by a priest who had founded a charity organisation in Germany. He wanted to take Nu back to Germany with him, to be cared for in an orphanage.
Nu was happy to go; and that started a new chapter in her life. She did well in school and went to college. She enjoyed sports and played wheelchair basketball. She participated in many tournaments while she was in college and was selected to play in four Paralympics, representing Germany. Because of her involvement with the Paralympics she had to discontinue her study and took up a job as Case Officer with a Health Insurance Company. In 2003 she represented Germany at the Paralympics in Sydney, Australia. She extended her stay and decided to continue her study, taking up a course in Business Administration. In 2007 she graduated with a Bachelor in Business/Finance Degree at the Edith Cowan University in Perth. She returned to Germany and worked with several multinational companies. As I sat and listened to Nu, I was amazed at how strong and positive she had become. She did not allow her misfortunes to ruin her life. She had learnt to be independent and brave and to move on and still live a meaningful life.
Well, it was time for us to board the plane, and we happened to be on the same flight! We exchanged telephone numbers and agreed to meet up after we got back to Perth. Sure enough, after a couple of weeks, I had a call from Nu. I invited her over for lunch, and we had a great time catching up from where we left off at the airport, and got to know each other better. As I had mentioned earlier, Nu is a very strong and independent young lady. With her prosthetic legs she drives all over the place, carrying in her car boot 2 wheelchairs; one for playing basketball, and another lightweight for moving around. She is so strong she can easily lift her wheelchair in and out of the boot with just one hand. Her strength amazes me!
Nu has a very good attitude towards life, which is probably what helps her manage so well. She doesn’t sit around and feel sorry for herself because she’s disabled. She is not only able to accept her disability, she is able to move beyond that and live a meaningful life. She enjoys travelling, is outgoing, kind, happy, helpful, and always has a sweet smile. Her many friends are drawn to her because of her pleasant personality. She attended church with me a few times and visited my Bible Study group which meets in our home. She says she is not a Christian, but she believes there is a God. It is my prayer that she will one day come to know Jesus as her personal Saviour.
One day Nu invited me and my husband to watch her play basketball. We had never watched people playing basketball in wheelchairs, so it was quite an experience. My heart pounded each time a player fell off her wheelchair!
We waited to see what would happen. No one came to rescue the fallen.
The game took a pause and the players in her team encouraged her to pick herself up.
She struggled until she got up – then all her team members applauded her and the game continued. What a wonderful way to encourage each other and to build self-confidence.
They are trained not to give up too easily.
On one occasion my husband and I were on holiday in Singapore. Nu was on her way to Germany and she had a full day stopover in Singapore, so she wanted to spend the day with us. It was her first trip to Singapore so she wanted to do some sightseeing. We had lunch. then we took her to Orchard Road in the Central Business District. I will never forget our adventurous episode in Orchard Road! There was a Thai Food Fair at the Thai Embassy, and Nu wanted to go there. But how was I going to get her there in her wheelchair? My husband had another engagement, so I was left alone to handle her in the wheelchair. Unfortunately, Singapore is not very wheelchair friendly. We looked all over for access to the Embassy. One way was to use the overhead bridge, and the other was to use the underpass. Both ways one had to use the escalator. Nu insisted she wanted to take the escalator. She was sure she could manage if I just held tight to her wheelchair and she would hold on tight to the rails of the escalator. The public looked at us in disbelief and horror and nobody got on the escalator with us just in case…..! We made it to the bottom of the escalator and all eyes were on us! Now what? We were in the middle of the underpass, and to get to the building we had to climb a flight of stairs – at least 30 steps. How was I going to get her across in that wheelchair?! There was just no way out, so guess what we did – we made our way back the escalator in the same fashion as we did earlier; and once again all eyes were on us. We finally took a taxi even though it was just round the corner. We enjoyed the fair but we were exhausted from the ordeal. What an unforgettable adventure!
It’s been awhile since I last saw Nu or heard from her. One day I got a message from her through “What’s App”. I was thrilled that we connected again, and we enjoyed a long chat on the phone. She’s left Perth and has settled back in Germany once again – she says Germany will always be her “home”. She has found a good job, working as Financial Analyst with Automobile Industry, conducting staff training over Europe and USA. She remains happy and cheerful, continues to play basketball, and enjoys whatever she is doing.
I’m very sure God has brought Nu into my life to be my special friend. She has been such an inspiration to me. I never knew that one day I myself would find myself in a wheelchair! I had a nasty fall in Sept 2014 and since then I’ve not been able to walk without an aid. Some days I need the walking stick, other days I use the walker. For longer distances and when I travel overseas, I need the wheelchair. When I was first faced with the thought of having to use the wheelchair, I became quite apprehensive and fearful. I can’t put it in words, but I guess it’s the kind of stigma of feeling handicapped and people looking at you. It was not easy for someone as active as I. As I struggled with this predicament, God brought Nu to mind. If Nu can go on living a meaningful life with a smile, despite her disability, then I can too! Through some very difficult months, God brought me to the point where I had to learn to accept my disability, to look beyond that and to move on with life. Circumstances may change, but GOD doesn’t change. He is with me every moment of each day, and He understands every struggle I have. I had to learn that my trials are divinely permitted with a purpose – to teach me to trust God more, and to know that no matter what the circumstances may be, God is always in control. I just need to trust Him and allow Him to carry me. I’m growing stronger each day, and God is healing me in stages. Each day I claim afresh His promise in Isaiah 40:31 “Those who hope in The Lord shall renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I continue to hope in God and trust Him for complete healing. The healing in my ‘inner man’ is already taking place. Thank You Jesus, for loving me enough to want me to grow. The Joy of knowing You IS my Strength!
I had another phone conversation with Nu over the phone recently. We talked and encouraged each other. During the conversation Nu raised a question. She wonders why she didn’t die during the bombing. I told her if she had, I wouldn’t have met her! Then I encouraged her by letting her know how she had been such an inspiration to me. Perhaps one day she will know for sure that God had saved her life, and that God wants to use her to inspire and help others, especially those who are disabled. This week my personal devotions were centred on “Trials and Tribulations” and why God allows them in our lives. James 1:2 tells us that God allows trials in our lives to ‘test our faith in Him and to develop perseverance….so that we may be mature and complete….’ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 also explains it very clearly – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Are you experiencing trials of some kind? Try putting your trust in Jesus, and let Him carry you. “Cast ALL your cares on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). END
Postscript: Nu was recently awarded the Key Contribution Recognition Program award (KCRP) from her company and received a monetary prize.
Ai Hiong was a teacher and church worker in Malaysia and Singapore. She is now retired and still active in church with her husband, living in Perth.