Just as her Hebrew name signifies, Nasiya is a miracle.
She is a strong, passionate and independent young woman who is determined to take a good shot at her second chance at life and achieve her goals and dreams.
Her ambitions include becoming one of the island’s leading broadcasters and getting into a profession that allows her to work with special needs children.
In 2004/2005, Nasiya Springer experienced a near-death, life-changing ordeal that left her with a heart-rending, yet inspiring story which she recently shared with Barbados TODAY.
Many are often driven to tears, while some change the way they approach their own personal lives, when they hear a few of the touching chapters of Nasiya’s life.
How did she move from a young, aspiring beauty technician, privileged to work with contestants of the 2002 Miss World Competition in North London, to a final year Barbados Community College (BCC) student getting from class to class with the support of a cane? Because half of the left side of her body is partially paralyzed.
At 16, after graduating from Ellerslie Secondary, Nasiya went to England to live with her father. There, she successfully completed a two-year hairdressing and advanced nail and skin care programme at a college.
About that same time, she began getting intense headaches, during which her vision either temporarily went, or she would see double. She visited the doctor, complaining about the undesirable symptoms. Even then, she didn’t think it was “anything serious”.
Today, she knows just how serious those headaches were. And it all came crumbling down on December 4, 2004, when, at the age of 19, she almost died.
“I went to work as normal . . . at the hair salon; and then when I came home, I was watching a movie with a friend, and I started getting this really bad headache. It was really intense, like someone was hitting me in my head with a hammer. I took two painkillers and it went away for a while. But when it came back, it came back with a vengeance and it just kept pounding and pounding,” she recalled.
Nasiya went into an unconscious state. The next time she was conscious was on February 28, 2005, when she woke up in hospital.
“I had a brain haemorrhage and they [doctors] went in to stop the bleeding on my brain. Then they realized I had a tumour as well; and that had to be removed. I went through hours of life-saving surgery. They put a metal gauge on my forehead to measure the amount of pressure that was on the brain and how fast the brain was swelling.
“They realized six days afterwards that the brain was swelling at a rapid pace and it didn’t have anywhere to go so I had to have parts of my skull removed to allow the brain to swell to its full capacity without any damage being done. Then they realized that I also had a blood clot on my brain which, if not removed, could kill me. So I had to get that removed as well. After that, I went into a coma for six weeks.”
As Nasiya continued to tell her story, she recalled that when regaining consciousness, she saw strange people lying on beds around her. Her father informed her she was not in her room at home, as she initially thought, but in a hospital.
“I was like, ‘What I doing in the hospital? Nothing ain’t wrong with me. I am not supposed to be in the hospital. I got to get up and go to work. I am not supposed to be in no hospital. Why you put me in the hospital?’ I just wanted to know how I came to be in the hospital, because the last thing I knew was that I just had a really bad headache.
“Then he said to me, ‘You don’t remember you had a brain haemorrhage and you had surgery?’ I said, ‘Had surgery for what? I don’t need no surgery. Why you telling me this?’ Then he said, ‘Nasiya, I got news for you; you had a brain haemorrhage; you had a brain tumour removed and you were in a coma for six weeks and they had given you up [for] dead’.”
Though she felt a sharp pain in her head and on the side she was lying on for those 42 days, she did not believe her father until a doctor visited her bedside and told her that she was lucky to be alive. The doctor also informed her about the extended hours a medical team operated on her.
“I was really taken aback. And the doctor was actually surprised that I was still alive because of the condition that I had and the severity of the surgery. They didn’t expect me to live. They actually said that if I lived I wouldn’t be any help to myself. I wouldn’t be able to walk. I wouldn’t be able to talk. I wouldn’t be able to do anything. They had given me up [for] dead because of the severity of the condition,” Nasiya said.
She spent almost two more months at the health care facility still receiving critical care, along with necessary physiotherapy and occupational therapy, among other treatments.
“I also had a stroke while I was in the coma; so it left my left side impaired. When I was recovering from the coma, I couldn’t use my right hand either and my muscles were not moving. I was totally helpless. I remember I was lying on my left side because they couldn’t put me on my right side because I had nothing there to shield my brain. So I was in pain because I was lying on that side for a while. My stepmum was there and I managed to say, ‘Mum, I in pain’, and she called the nurses to turn me to relieve my side from that pain,” she said.
Owing to the inability to stay in England, Nasiya returned to Barbados.
Upon her arrival she spent most of her days reacquainting herself with old friends and family, and living life for what it was in her new state.
Poetry was one of the tools Nasiya used to help her overcome the deep emotional, unexplainable pain she endured.
“I have written like almost 200 pieces of poetry. The different emotions and stuff I was going through: I just put them on paper to pass the day away.”
While spending months writing poetry and short stories about her life, the 29-year-old discovered she had a natural ability for the art. Also noticing this ability was her sister, who encouraged her to apply for a position in the two-year mass communications programme at the Barbados Community College.
Being at home sitting all day was becoming quite boring for Nasiya; so she decided to pursue the studies at the Howell Cross Road, Ivy, St Michael institution.
However, the disabled young woman said she was forewarned by an individual working there that the campus could not accommodate her disability and challenges with getting around.
“So I told him, ‘Listen, my mind is made up and I am determined to go to BCC. I don’t care how I get around. I will get around’.
“I applied and I got through. In filling out the application form, I made specifics when they asked if I have any challenges that I would need assistance with. So I figured that by the time I actually got here something would have [been put in place] to give me the assistance I needed and to get around efficiently.”
Nasiya does not regret making that choice.
“To me the work isn’t hard. The work is a lot, yes; but I manage my time to cater to the deadlines, and where it is not possible for the deadlines to be met, I explain my situation to the tutors; and where possible they grant me deadlines.
“But I am not in the habit of making excuses for not submitting my work, although I may have a valid excuse. My work is always in on time, no matter what,” she quipped.
“The college’s library staff are priceless. They have been a great help to me. They have been urging me on because they have that faith that I can do it.
“For me to give up and say I can’t do it at this stage would be letting them down and everybody else that have faith in me. And I am not one to let down anybody, especially myself. My aim is to keep going until I have crossed the finish line.”
The student commended the Transport Board’s specialized bus service, which caters to the needs of people with physical challenges, and transports her between her Rock Hall, St Lucy home and BCC.
Anxiously sitting at the mic of one of the studios, she was busy managing a number of projects, working on her thesis, and studying for final examinations, as her stint at the college nears the end.
When she finishes, her first plan is to relax.
“Then I want to go into broadcast because broadcast reaches a wider range of people than print media. I want to encourage people that despite what they are going through, there is still hope and always a way to go forward and achieve your goals.
“Then after I have worked for a year, I want to go on to do a degree in education and specialize in special needs training, because there are children out there who are born with disabilities and they have to be integrated into society . . . and society isn’t readily accepting them.
“I want to be one of the people to encourage them that despite what their disability may be, or what challenges they might have, they can still go out there and achieve just as much as the normal person –– or more. They can be more than what people see they are.”
Nasiya also does not allow her disability to affect her social life. While she dodges parties because of large crowds, she attends social gatherings with her supportive friends. Her best friend of many years is always at her beck and call.
She also cherishes spending time with her boyfriend of three years, even though sometimes that relationship may be challenging, because “I can be a bit difficult at times, depending on what mood I am in”. But her partner understands.
“He has understood me over the years. He has come to know my weaknesses and my strengths; and where I am weak he tries to be strong; and he tries to be there for me. He does everything for me; I don’t even have to ask. He is such a support system, even when I feel like giving up.
“If I say, ‘I can’t get this done, I give up, I don’t want to do this any more’, he is always there to encourage me and tell me I can do it. He says, ‘You are strong, no matter what people say about you. You just have to be humble and leave them behind. Their disappointment is going to be seeing you at the top of the ladder while they are still at the bottom’.”
And as she promises to continue sharing her journey with those who are interested. Nasiya is on a mission to inspire and motivate.
“I have met people that haven’t been through the stuff I have been through, and they are always ready to give up; they have no hope. When I tell people the things I have been through, they think, ‘Well, you have been through all of that and you still manage to keep focus and go on, and you don’t pity yourself or anything’.
“What’s the point in pitying myself? I don’t like [people] pitying me and I don’t indulge myself in self-pity because its going to get me nowhere. My job is to see a goal, go after it, and meet it.”