On Anniversaries


“MUGABI! MUGABI!” my Mommy’s screams pealed me away from my cat-like focus on the batsman and towards her waving at me in the foreground.
“It’s time to go home! Hurry your siblings are already in the car!”

“Alright Mommy!” I yelled back as I said goodbye to my friends and jogged towards my Mommy’s direction.
I was suddenly blindsided by the worst headache I had ever had in my entire life.
I shook my head and continued jogging in my Mommy’s direction as what felt like two sledgehammers violently smashed into my temples in sync with my heartbeat.
And again.
And again.

Fighting back tears, I grit my teeth and soldiered through. I was one tough cookie after all and my Mommy had said something about the dangers of over-medicating and how taking a nap could cure a headache better than Panadol so I would just do that when I got home. Complaining was a sign of weakness after all and I was a strong independent boy who could handle himself. As I got to my Mommy she wrapped me up in an unwanted hug as I struggled to get free she kissed me and I harrumphed.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Climbing into the car my brother Victor kicked at my legs as I slid past.
The bane of my existence.
When oh when would my prayers be answered, the torment stop and we could actually become friends? Sigh. I sat down and it took every ounce of strength to contain myself as Noella cried, Tina, Kizito, Nadin and Victor all talked unnecessarily loud, my Mommy and Daddy had their own conversation up front all the while the incessant smashing of the sledgehammers continued. Driving themselves deeper and deeper into my temples.

“Why are you being so quiet? What’s wrong with you?” Kizito asked.
He was coming from a nice place but his question forced me to respond and responding took energy that would be better suited in my internal battle.

“Why do you have such a big nose?” I lobbed a flippant jab back at him in an effort to get him to shut up. (Honestly, also because I was angry and lashing out.) This unfortunately dragged me into a war of words with Kizito and Nadin that lasted until we got home.

Once we got back home, I lobbed one final jab at Kizito to get the final word in then ran upstairs to the bedroom room and crashed. Nap time!

15 minutes later just as I was drifting off into a blissful slumber, Victor pokes his head into the bedroom.
“We need a 4th player for Karrom. You in?”
The sledgehammers had dulled a little… (and let’s be honest I had hella FOMO). I was most definitely in.

A few bruised fingers and ego’s later I was actually not doing too shabby! I was beating Victor at least and had finally wiped the smug grin off of his face.
The sledgehammers were still going at it but I was doing my best to tune them out and focus on the matter at hand.
The game got sidetracked as Kizito and Nadin started bromancing it up and Victor was avidly trying to insert himself which led to everyone but me forgetting whose turn it was next. They started arguing over whose turn it was. Being the only one who was actually paying any attention, I spoke up:

“It’s Nadin’s turn”
I flippantly said making sure to layer heavy on my air of superiority at being the only one who had bothered to keep track of what was going on.
They continued arguing.

“It’s Nadin’s turn”
I said louder, getting annoyed at being unheard.
They continued arguing.

“It’s Nadin’s turn!”
I yelled.
They continued arguing.

“It’s Nadin’s turn!
It’s Nadin’s turn!
They all turned and stared at me. Why were they looking at me like that?

“I was just trying to tell you whose turn it was since you all forgot. It’s Nadin’s turn!”
No sound came out of my mouth. I looked down and at my agape jaw and suddenly realized that this entire time I had been thinking I was speaking. I had no voice.
“Agh! Agh! Agh!”
All that came out of my mouth was an awkward croaking sound as I broke out into violent convulsions and tears.

“It’s Nadin’s turn!”


At nine years old, I suffered a stroke that left the right side of my body paralyzed. The stroke left me incredibly disheartened and without the ability of the formerly dominant side of my body. I had to learn how to walk all over again. I had to learn how to sit all over again. I had to learn how to defecate and urinate all over again. I had to learn how to wipe myself after using the toilet all over again. I had to learn how to stand up all over again. I had to learn how to wash my hands all over again. Point being, I had to learn how to do a lot of things all over again. It was excruciatingly slow and inefficient. It was frustrating. It was painful. It sucked.

But, gradually, over time with consistent effort and perseverance I achieved fluency with my previously non dominant hand. That, however, did not stop the inability to use the right side of my body. The weakness. The limping. The spasticity. The pain. The taunting and bullying in my youth due to my physical deficiency. This hurt. I did not fit in due to a physical deficiency but the emotional, spiritual and psychological pain hurt more. I was barred from participating in P.E, or any rigorous physical activity outside of physical therapy, which as a third grader was devastating. Participation in daily life was an uphill battle that I had to work incredibly hard to surmount. My stroke also left me suffering from frequent excruciating migraines, sensitivity to the sun and stuttering. LIFE SUCKED.

My stroke also taught me the importance of respect regardless of how different someone may be. My stroke also taught me, that I had to rely on other people; I had no choice in the matter which led to me realizing that vulnerability is strength. I was supported by friends and family whom I am forever indebted to and who made every effort to treat me like I was no different which made me feel to an extent, no different to anyone else. Due to my stroke, the act of simple participation in daily life as an uphill battle and the fact that I had to do so much more to achieve the same results as my peers taught me to count my blessings, that I was different, that life is truly unfair and most importantly the importance of perseverance.  My stroke also taught me that despite the unfairness of my trauma I was simultaneously incredibly privileged to be born into the family I was born into. My stroke also taught me how to be proud of my struggles, limitations and perseverance

My name is Mugabi Byenkya.
I am a stroke survivor.
And I am damn proud of it.


5 thoughts on “On Anniversaries

  1. I wanted to tell you that I’ve read all of these entries and they’re incredibly interesting and thought-provoking to read. I hope you continue writing them!

    I hadn’t realized the stroke left you paralyzed on the right side. I love how you described the lessons you learned so early from rising to the challenge. In particular, I agree that vulnerability is strength. Its something that I learned much later in my life in a different context, but I completely agree. I think that the world tends to see being on top as strength, without considering that moving forward in the face of vulnerability or being the underdog takes much more internal strength and confidence.

    Also, I thought I’d mention that although not quite a full paralysis, I was born with a minor case of cerebral palsy on the left side, so with most physical activity, I’m always slightly off. I’m not trying to compare my situation to yours, I just thought it might be relevant to share. 🙂


    • Thanks for your kind words Elena! As I once said “A verse a day keeps the blues away”, so I will definitely continue regularly writing and posting on this blog.

      I completely agree with you in your comments and vulnerability and I have found that when one person is vulnerable it gives others the space to be likewise vulnerable although unfortunately vulnerability is often shot down by snide sarcasm and bullying.

      I had no idea that you had a minor case of cerebral palsy on one side, thank you for sharing. It just goes to show something that I am slowly coming to terms with. Nobody is in perfect health, although people with disabilities like myself like to think of a binary in terms of health it is more of a fluid spectrum and everyone has at lease one health issue either major or minor and the more people are vulnerable and willing to share their respective struggles the more conversations like this can happen and people can find out more about the things in peoples lives that go unsaid but mean so much to them 🙂


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