Tea Bolkvadze, 41, Tbilisi

„My childhood was rather difficult. When I was 15, my 20-year-old brother was killed in a car accident. I was the only child left in the family. Not that we put up with his loss, no, but we actually learned to live with a diseased family member, while he continued to exist in the afterlife together with us. In this way, we somehow adapted to our new life.

Then came my student years. I enrolled in a medical vocational school and then decided to become a doctor. My mother begged me to get married and to settle down. I enrolled in the medical department of the university. At the same time, I worked as a nurse in the hospital of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. I started as an orderly and performed all the tasks typical for an orderly. Then I was promoted to being a nurse. After I received the license, I worked as an ambulance service doctor for ten years until I sustained a trauma.

Just nine months after marriage, I was already expecting a boy. It was a different, thrilling expectation, because I got marriage at 30, my husband and I were waiting for our firstborn and our child was the hope of both family lines. I was planning to have many children. I was prepared and all set for it because it had been difficult for me to lose a sibling and to grow up alone. Until the sixth month of my pregnancy, I kept working in the emergency where I had to cover at least 300 kilometers during a shift. We used UAZ vehicles and served 15 villages. I worked until I realized that I was concerned about my unborn baby more than about my patients.

It was March 21. The labor pains started in the morning and, in the evening, I gave birth to a healthy baby. The labor went smoothly. I remember everything clearly. Luka was born at half past eight. The doctor washed his hands and asked me how I was… At that time, the nurse motioned the doctor to turn to her. I am a medic too so I realized something was wrong. I felt discomfort in the belly too. It was profuse bleeding. I remember the doctors getting soaked in my blood.

Despite my critical condition, I could understand and analyze everything going on around me. During the surgery, clinical death occurred and there was a cardiac arrest. However, I remained conscious and I felt that my bed was lowered. I even wondered why I felt so bad and in my mind decided to inform the doctors of it as soon as I woke up… I remember what they were talking about in the surgery room. I even remember what was happening during my clinical death.

I was going to have many children, but I was left with only one child. I was disconsolate. I could not digest it and went into a state of depression. After some time, I realized that I was hurting myself, my child and, naturally, all the people who cared for me. So I took a grip on myself, wrote all this down, closed the page and changed myself.

I knew that I needed to work. In six months’ time, I returned to work in emergency service. If I’d stayed at home, I would have spiraled into a more severe depression. The doctor’s instinct of helping others was still there. I have fought many life-and-death battles; I have lost some and won others. I will be very honest and say: it is a sense of absolute gratification to go to an elderly person, who is too sick to speak and who is desperate for human empathy probably more than for medical professionalism, and to show your compassion by holding their hand. It means so much for them. Then you leave them cured and giving you their blessings…

Luka was 7 when my father passed away after a severe illness. After two weeks, Luka’s class planned a trip to the home museum of Iakob Gogebashvili in Variani. Luka was in his first year at school, it was his first trip and I wanted to share it with my son. My husband and I followed him in a car. On our way I kept explaining to my husband why I took him, I had a premonition that something bad was about to happen. I sensed a disaster.

I did not like something about the museum, the safety measures were not in place. I was paying attention to children to keep them out of trouble. There were sixty of us – thirty children and thirty parents. When we looked round the second floor, we sent the children to the first floor. A few parents remained on the second floor to take a picture. There was no “No pictures” or “Do Not Lean” sign. The moment we took a picture, there was a cracking sound, the balcony railing broke and I fell down. I sustained a serious skull and brain injury and a serious spinal cord injury. The police launched investigation into a case of “self-harm”. They assumed I jumped from the second floor… But the court has already sorted it out…

It is a funny thing that while in the emergency room, despite my difficult condition, I was still monitoring other patients’ condition. I was discharged from the hospital however, I had to return soon to be diagnosed with pleuritic. I started to think about rehabilitation because due to my hyperactive nature, I could not stay still. I applied to Tatishvili Rehabilitation Center and went through a one-year rehabilitation course let by Tea Adamia.

There is a Coalition for Independent Living. With their help, I travelled to Senaki where I met my trainer Ia Talakhadze. Ia had brought a bow along just for fun. The moment I held the bow, I realized I had some kind of connection with it. Later, I started going to the Para sport Development Center and to train in para-archery. At the same time, I was undergoing rehabilitation with Tea and searching for job.

My mother is well into years. And this woman, who has buried two children (my younger brother passed away too) and who has witnessed her only remaining child’s clinical death twice, was still taking care of me!!! That is why I forced myself to contribute to my family, I had always worked and I wanted to work again. First, I started to look for vacancies in my field, but I always received the same reply: “Our office is not adapted”. Thanks to a reference from our rehab trainer, I was hired as a receptionist in the Para sport Development Center. Now I work and train here. I felt like a bird let out of the cage and fluttering its wings…
I had occasional fits of depression. Paraplegia entails many small nuances – you need to overcome both moral and physical pain. I have pain in limbs. I can feel every muscle and nerve and gradually, the sense of feeling has been returning up to the knees. Today, I learned to hold my spine. Archery has helped me in this enormously.

Once, when I was exercising and my trainer was monitoring me, the trainer could tell my spirits were low and told me: “This is your second breath, you are starting your life anew. You must be able to stand on your feet again… We may fall, but what matters is whether we have the strength and the dignity to stand up.” That was the end of my depression! I survived twice. Why did I survive? Why am I here? I did not die because love for my family kept me here and so many people prayed for me to survive. Love kept me here. You must never fall! You have to keep living! We must accept the reality and not cry over past. Currently, I am doing my best to go to Tokyo Olympics…

In 2015, I learned from TV about a charity campaign WORLD RUN, which is held around the world. Participants start at exactly the same time and the finish line is moving. Most importantly, the raised funds are used to help people with spinal cord injuries. I was fascinated with the idea and decided to take part in the campaign… I wanted to encourage myself and all the people with spinal cord injury. My rehab trainer Tea Adamia and my physiotherapists helped me in running and I became the winner female wheelchair user. We ran 6,800 meters. It was incredible to me to be able to earn my first victory only one year after the injury while still not able to move completely. I participated in 2016 World Run too. This time, my husband helped me and I completed 7,300 meters, again becoming the winner.

On January 29-30, Tbilisi Winter Championship in Archery turned out very successful for me. In the integrated competition, I ranked second among women as an athlete of Tbilisi Para sport Development Center…

So I continue living and going forward…”