Man paralysed in car crash looks to rebuild life

Six years after road accident, wheelchair-bound Saeed Abdullah hopes to open a repair shop and stay on in the UAE.

Saeed Abdullah says he can now go out freely without anyone’s help, thanks to his new wheelchair.
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For several years, Saeed Abdullah was confined to a bed in a cramped Sharjah flat, paralysed from the waist down.

But after a long fight for compensation from the drink driver who caused his injuries, and a lot of help in recovering, Mr Abdullah is on the way to rebuilding his life.

"I am feeling better now," said the Pakistani national.

His suffering began on September 2, 2005. Mr Abdullah, who worked for a textiles company, was hit by a speeding BMW while driving a company van along Emirates Road in Sharjah to deliver goods to a client.

He remembers seeing a car approach quickly behind him. He changed lanes but could not avoid the collision.

The speeding BMW pushed Mr Abdullah's delivery van into an electricity pole.

Mr Abdullah spent the next three months recovering in Sharjah's Al Qassimi Hospital and had more treatment in Pakistan, but he was severely disabled.

The National first reported on Mr Abdullah's woes in September last year, when he was sharing an accommodation with eight other men and spent his days mostly in bed.

He was also battling in court to obtain compensation from the man who caused the crash.

The compensation had been awarded in June 2007 but it took more than four more years for Mr Abdullah to receive it.

Lisa Kingsley, 30, from London, helped Mr Abdullah with his legal woes. Ms Kingsley runs Basics UAE, an informal group of volunteers.

She accompanied Mr Abdullah to the Sharjah court and raised money for his medical treatment.

Ms Kingsley also convinced the management at The City Hospital in Dubai to offer Mr Abdullah a discount for medical treatment.

Lisa Tough, the senior occupational therapist at the hospital, met Mr Abdullah in September last year. She and a colleague, the senior physiotherapist Virginia Kelly, did an assessment of the case and recommended a treatment plan.

"Right from day one, Saeed has been a very smiley person and grateful for the intervention," Ms Tough said.

Mr Abdullah's condition was quite serious. His injuries caused him to lose control of the muscles in his abdomen, back, hips and shoulders, and he had no lower-limb movement.

He had functional use of his left arm, but his right arm was weaker. He also had difficulty sitting properly in his wheelchair, and the bad posture was causing additional discomforts such as leg spasms.

And Mr Abdullah suffered from postural hypertension, which is common for people who spend a long time in bed. It means blood pressure drops rapidly with changes in body position.

"First of all, we had to get him medically stable," said Ms Tough, noting that the internal medicine specialist Dr Maida Balila prescribed blood-pressure medication.

Next, Mr Abdullah had to learn to sit properly in his wheelchair, with his legs bent at a 90-degree angle. He got used to the position gradually, increasing the amount of time he was able to hold it.

Once this was achieved, and after several consultations, a suitable wheelchair was chosen. Provided at a discounted rate by the Dubai company Arabian Ethicals, the wheelchair arrived in January. It was a huge improvement.

In the old, basic wheelchair Mr Abdullah's body was slumped, and he had to use his arms to balance. The new chair gave him more support, freeing his arms for other uses.

In March, Ms Tough visited Mr Abdullah's home, looking at how to make it more suitable to his condition. In April he received a slide board and other equipment, allowing him to move in and out of his wheelchair with minimal assistance.

"It is much better now," said Mr Abdullah, who has recently been on outings to the park, the Sharjah fish market and Dubai. "I can go out freely without anybody."

Next on the list is physiotherapy to make him stronger. Mr Abdullah is also trying to open a repair shop for mobile phones and laptops. That would give him a much-needed monthly income and ensure he stayed in the UAE.

He does not want to return to his poor, rural hometown in Pakistan, where he would not receive the same level of care.

"I want to find a legal way to stay here," Mr Abdullah said.