By Eveline de Klerk
Life has become one miserable nightmare for 37-year-old Walvis Bay resident Henock Paulus who survived a forklift accident at work in 2011. Since then Paulus has not been unable to return to work. The accident, he says, has left him a broken man, both physically and emotionally.
His live-in girlfriend has long deserted him, and Paulus says he hold no grudges towards her. “I don’t blame her,” he says adding: “Who wants to stay with a man who cannot take care of you financially, let alone get an erection,” he says of his long term injuries.
“It pains me that my life had to turn out this way,” says a deeply distraught Paulus as he narrates his life experience to New Era Weekend.
Paulus was involved in an accident at work when a forklift fell on him while offloading cement. He suffered a sacral fracture, which resulted in a bladder disorder, a broken hip and leg and his kidneys also enlarged. On top of that his right leg was paralyzed.
A sacral fracture is a break in one’s sacrum. The sacrum is a triangle-shaped bone that is found at the bottom of the spine. It forms the solid base of the spinal column, where it intersects with the hipbones to form the pelvis.
He spent three months in hospital underwent three major operations, and another sessions of post recovery rehabilitation period. His doctors informed him that he will never fully recover and will also not have an active sexual life.
He was also declared unfit for work. He is now limping and finds it extremely difficult to do daily tasks such as getting water or just walking to a shop.
Paulus, a father to a son, arrived in Walvis Bay in 1998. He had travelled the nearly 850 kilometres from the northern town of Ondangwa in search of employment at the coastal town.
He found his first job three months after arriving in Walvis Bay. After few years at the company he moved on to work for a marine engineering company. Then later he switched jobs to a company that specialises in outsourcing heavy equipment.
“I was a happy man I could feed my family and myself. The money was not much but it was enough to keep hunger at bay,” reminisced Paulus.
It was at his last employment that he was involved in an accident. He had been in the job for a month before the accident.
“That accident changed my life completely. It made me a lonely man,” Paulus says with a heavy heart. He says the accident was so severe that he cannot remember much about it. He only remembers waking up in the intensive care unit in Windhoek five days later.
His live-in girlfriend left, he says, because she can no longer cope with his disability that require round the clock care. Paulus says he now spends his days alone in his rented shack in Diamond Street of Kuisebmond and passes time by reading his Bible.
“I also go to a gym just to help my leg get better and also as a way to get out of my house since I don’t have any friends,” he says.
“All [my friends] left me after the accident. It made me bitter. However as the years went by I made peace with it and myself. At least my family is there for me and I share whatever little I get with them,” he explains.
Paulus receives N$2000 every month from Social Security, which he will get until he dies. “That is the only income I have now with which I have to pay for my shack, buy food and also help my family. It is really not enough, but what can I do?” he says.
“There was times that I thought about killing myself, but that is all in the past. I find peace in the fact that I am alive even though I will never be a complete man again or do find a job that will help me feed my family. Nobody wants to hire me,” said Paulus.
According to Paulus he has on numerous occasions knocked on the company’s doors to assist him to at least set up a small business to generate additional income, but to no avail.
Documents showed to New Era indicate that Paulus went as far as to seek assistance from the Ombudsman. He wanted to sue his former employer for damages as a result of him being injured while at work. He was advised to seek the assistance of a private lawyer.
“I already had three lawyers and all of them told me that I have no case as the company took out social security for me which is currently responsible of paying me a monthly income until I die,” he said.
“I want my story to serve as a lesson to Namibia, especially those who deal with the labour law, as it leave many workers like me vulnerable and at the mercy of their employers, who do not care about the well-being of their employees after such accidents,” he said.
Paulus says he is now planning to permanently move back to his hometown of Ondangwa next month so he can be close to his family and son. “There is nothing left for me here. It is best that I be surrounded by family while trying to rebuild my life,” he says.