Reader Profile - Choosing the road less travelled

Isaac Mollo is the friendly voice you hear when you phone the Bridgestone Firestone regional office in Isando, Johannesburg. In person he is as warm as his voice.

Isaac is a T12 paraplegic, injured by a gunshot accident in 1998, he tells me without remorse. “I was 25 at the time and the accident happened five days before my 26th birthday.” Today, nearly ten years later, he believes he is much happier and satisfied with his life than before the accident.

“I accept my disability and I believe that everything happens for a reason,” says Isaac. “Your life changes for reasons you might not realise at the time. I look back and think that through my accident I escaped to live a better life than if I was still walking today.

“When I started working at Bridgestone/Firestone in October last year as a receptionist, that made me look to the future.”

When Isaac joined the company, they were refurbishing their regional office. “I was based at head office waiting for the regional office to be refurbished. I became very involved in this process to ensure that it was a wheelchair friendly building.”

More recently the company bought him a standing frame. “Yesterday I stood for three hours,” says Isaac proudly.” The frame also gives relief to a pressure sore he is recovering from.

“In December I had a bad pressure sore and had to go to hospital and undergo an operation. I only came out of hospital at the end of February and then I was at home recovering for the month of March. I came back to work in April. To assist me, the company has organised transport for me to and from work. “

Isaac lives in Primrose, Germiston in Gauteng. “Previously I lived in Katlehong on the East Rand, but it was just too far to travel to work every day. My biggest problem with working has always been transport.”

Before his accident, Isaac was a hydraulic fitter in Jet Park. The company went into liquidation round about the same time that he was in hospital after his accident. “I figured that even if I had not had the accident I would have had to start afresh anyway.

“While I was in hospital I met Erma Olivier, who told me about Access College. So after I left hospital, I enrolled for a six-month information Processing Diploma there. I completed the diploma in November 1999 and in March 2000 I had my first job since being in a wheelchair.“

Isaac worked at the Avril Elizabeth Homes, an NGO, as a receptionist and transport co-ordinator, among other things. Unfortunately in 2003 he was retrenched.

“I then started a “tuck shop”. I had food and drinks that I sold in an area with a pool table. However, I soon realised that it was not really what I wanted. I wanted to work in an office again.”

So in June last year Isaac went to work for Independent Appliance Services, in Wynberg. “I still lived in Katlehong then, so transport was again a problem. I would wait for hours for a taxi as they did not like to stop for me (I take too long to get in and out). However my boss and I liked each other so I tried.”

There were also no wheelchair facilities, such as a bathroom, at the workplace. Unfortunately, it was too much and Isaac resigned. This experience made Isaac realise that either he would have to move closer to where he would work, or he had to buy a car. He took the first option as, at that stage, it was the easier and more viable one.

“Right now I am planning my life. I would like to study further and grow with Bridgestone Firestone. Right now I am still searching for exactly what I want to go forward with, but when I find it, I know I will do it, and do it to the best of my ability, and succeed.

“I want to succeed for my child. I have a 10-year-old son who lives in Bloemfontein with his mother. We are divorced, but we are friends and I see my son a lot. He is the light of my life and it is for him that I do everything. He is my reason for living. I tell people to find a reason to live and let it lead you, while you recover and learn to deal with your disability.

“It is a very sad moment when you are told that you cannot use your legs and you think to yourself; what am I going to do when I leave hospital? It is very difficult. Without family and friends rallying around you, it is very difficult to encourage and motivate yourself. I was in hospital with someone who said he was going to take his own life when he left hospital. And he did.

“I want to say to others, don’t do that. I know how scared you feel when you have lost the use of your legs, your bladder and your manhood. You feel like life is not worth living. But it is. As time goes by, your body also improves. Some sensation comes back. I have sensation in my legs up to my knees and I have bladder sensitivity.

“I feel like a small motivational speaker when I visit people in hospital who are in the same position that I was ten years ago. I see those who are interested, and want to hear more, and I know they will be okay. Unfortunately, not everyone responds. There are people that I know will not say, ‘I am lucky to be alive’, but rather, ‘Why me?’, and they will be unhappy.

“I say, ‘don’t question why; rather live your life and prove yourself.’ There is still so much to do, but you have to work for it. Nothing is for free. Get out there and do.”

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