Diana Jishiashvili, 29, Tbilisi

“I was injured when I was 17…

I loved swimming very much, I looked forward to every summer and in winter I went to the swimming pool. That summer I was spending my holiday at my grandmother’s place. Together with my friends, I went to the river. I jumped a few times from the same spot before sustaining injury. When I was jumping, I slipped, landed badly and injured my neck. My injury is so severe that it is a miracle I survived. I remember being taken to the operating room, the whole life flashed before my eyes. I generally love nature and when I was rushed to the hospital I could not move. I could only close and open my eyes and from the window I saw leaves. These leaves were so majestic, gleaming oddly, that my only thought was wishing to be able to see those leaves again.

I turned 18 in the intensive care unit… Even though I had total paralysis and was trapped in the hospital ward, I always wanted to go out. Sitting in the wheelchair was impossible; I tried in vain for a year and a half, but was unable to. I lost consciousness because nothing was functioning, neither hands, nor legs, and even breathing was hard… When I went out of the hospital for a walk, I headed to stray cats near garbage bins. It was a miracle that I could do that, I mean it was my big achievement and a result of my long fighting, the fact that I was able to use a wheelchair.

However, then I saw how the strangers observed me and realized that I needed an adapted environment to move – even reaching those garbage bins had been a feat. I went into my shell. The thing that caused me biggest stress, was pity, even from some of my friends. They started saying “I will come to see you”, instead of the usual “I will come to your place”. A friend of mine did not invite me to the wedding and later explained “when I imagined that everyone would have fun, dance and you would not be able to dance, I decided not to invite you”. That friend decided it for me! Later, our mutual friend invited me to a birthday party and we danced a lot, I did not have a problem with that. When I received such weird treatment out of pity or whatever, I started to suffer from a severe depression. Emotional pain was more agonizing, and when you despair, physical pain gets worse with that.

I didn’t think that only the people were to blame. I decided to adopt a more positive approach, become more active and I started to recover gradually. In the beginning, it was very difficult, after going outside I had to wash away every glance thrown at me, I could not deal with it. Today, I don’t really care. On the contrary, I’ve got so used to people gaping at me that I feel ill-at-ease and awkward when I’m not stared at.

Once I came across a college on the internet. I immediately wished I could study there. But I instantly closed the page to stop chasing dreams. However, after a while I was contacted from that very college and offered to study with them. I couldn’t believe it, such an opportunity was too good to be true and I was so confused I did not even reply them. Later they sent me more detailed information and that’s when I started to take them seriously. When I began learning, I was in a bad physical condition because I still needed operations and back then there were no insurance plans like it is now, and the doctors’ approach was that I should stay lying at home. For instance, I have heard a doctor tell my father “yes, she is dying and you must take her home”, I mean I was bedridden, in a poor condition and they did not want to provide medical care. I was treated at home, my parents became my doctors. I was very sick, but when I started studying I had to go out every day, get up in the morning, learn… The fact that I had responsibility improved my mental state. Soon my physical condition got better and I was operated on, which means that my condition became stable. I am a computer network and system technician. I can do web-design too and I found the job in that field.

At the same time, I work hard to restore my body and get as healthy as possible. I have not given up and I don’t think it is impossible for me to start walking a little someday. That is why, after graduating the college, I wanted to train physically. Luckily I met the director of the gym of parasport development center on a TV show I was invited to speak about educational issues. He suggested starting fencing because he needed an athlete with the injuries I had sustained. Fencing with this kind of injury is beyond difficult. When I started training the first day, I could not properly use my hand; wearing a mask or striking an opponent was out of the question. Slowly, I improved to the point that I am feeling quite well at the moment, I’ve gained weight too, and it is very good, as my body had wasted away. Today I am the World and European prize winner. Fencing causes you to crave for more, as it happens when listening to good music. It is also associated with art and is an intellectual sport. Come to think of it, I have discovered huge resources in myself after the injury. Now I know exactly what I want but before I used to be confused.

As for my private life, I have a husband. We have lived together independently for two years. I want to have a baby, it is physically possible for me, but first I need proper conditions for that. Even today, the biggest problem is non-adapted environment especially in older residential buildings. We are renting an apartment and we could not find a place on the first floor close to the entrance. I am quite tall and my husband gets back pain every day from carrying me in his hands up and down the second floor. He puts me on the bed, takes the wheelchair down, then takes me down, and the same happens on the way up.

I wanted to buy and apartment in a newly constructed building, which is more or less adapted. I am anyway paying quite a large amount for rent every month. I tried to buy an apartment on credit but all the companies had a down-payment requirement. In one of the companies I was completely neglected, then a friend of mine got in touch with them and they agreed to do me a favor, that is, sell me the space without any upfront payment. The loan maturity was 20 years and they charged a quite high interest. Exhausted of living in a non-adapted building, I was ready to agree to all of their terms. I was preparing to move in eagerly, I even planted flowers, they showed me the apartment but after a while they called me and informed me that the bank had rejected my loan application. Since then, I’ve written to every construction company, explaining my condition to them and asking for preferential terms, but some do not respond at all, and some request me to go to their office even though I tell them that I am a wheelchair user.
You know, the problems are not going away, but I still believe that if you have a positive outlook on the world, this positive energy will come back to you.”