Most people won’t be able to survive the trials that 51-year-old Stephen Archer has faced throughout his life.
Fifteen days after he celebrated his 30th birthday in 1997, a telephone pole fell and rolled over his body. He flew to the United States to receive medical treatment and physical therapy.
It has been 21 years since the life-threatening incident that altered his life and Archer has had continuous setbacks as a result.
While living in the US, the paraplegic became homeless and lived on the streets and at the bus stops of Miami, Florida. During this period, his leg became infected and it was amputated. He was transported to Barbados shortly after his surgery and returned to the familiarity of his family home in Cave Hill, St Michael.
But the once outgoing and energetic young man could not catch a break. A temporary hospital-stay snowballed into a four and a half-year residency at the state-funded Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
Presently, Archer is bed-ridden in the Cyralene Senior Citizens Nursing Home at Accommodation Road, Spooners Hill St Michael. He is a shell of what he used to be. He is also on the verge of eviction from the facility.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY, Archer explained that he owed the nursing home eight months’ rent, which amounts to $20,000. Initially, he was given until the end of March to find a new residence but the owner, aware of his plight has extended it to April 30. His lawyer, whom he declined to identify, is responsible for his finances and has not made any payments to the home.
“When I came here, the idea was to save money to help my sister and fix the house in Cave Hill, but it backfired when the lawyer reduced how much I am getting so I ended up staying here a lot longer than I expected,” Archer revealed.
His sister who shared his burdened died in February from cancer and his mother who was his primary caretaker died from a stroke in 2009 while they were in Miami. His immediate family includes his teenage nephews, his brother, and aged aunt.
Having been in numerous institutions over the years with no physical therapy and being bedridden for the last decade has taken a toll on Archer. He said that the inactivity and the loneliness have driven him “mental”. Reflecting on his circumstances, he admitted he has also contemplated suicide.
“People tell me if they had to go through what I went through, they would have ended their life long ago. Right now it is 21 years going 22 in October, most people don’t last as long as me.
“I just don’t know how to give up, that is probably why. . . When you go down, the only direction to go is up.”
He recalled that in his youth he participated in numerous youth organisations, sports and social activities such as hiking. Even while he was hospitalized in Miami and undergoing rehabilitation he remained active, going to nightclubs and attending car and biking events. During the early 2000s, he frequented local hotspots such as Boatyard, Ship Inn and After Dark. He cited his hospitalization at the QEH as one of his most difficult times because he did not undergo any physical therapy and he was forced to stay in bed 24/7.
“They put me in geriatric [hospital] three times but I am way too young for that because you have to be 60 or older to go in there. And to go from one institution to another institution is not conducive because there is nobody to talk to and I am accustomed to being a social person. I am not really accustomed to staying in one place,” he explained.
“I would have a little more independence because I was in the hospital for four and a half years and that nearly sent me down the mental because there was nobody to talk to, just staying in a place all the time with nothing to do . . . it is not easy.
“There is really nobody to talk to here [at the nursing home]. I am 51 and the next person is 74 and nobody doesn’t really call me or visit me here,” he continued.
The highlight of Archer’s week is when he attends The Church of Jesus Christ and The Latter Day Saints. He does that three times a week.
Despite the challenges he has faced, Archer remains cheerful and optimistic that everything will work itself out. He has released a mini-documentary on social media which has received nearly 21,000 views, created a Help Stephen Archer Facebook page and
launched a gofundme account. Although he is worried about the outstanding bill that hangs over his head, his primary concern is to return to the comfort of his childhood home. The three bedroom, one bathroom house was emptied by burglars and is a shell of what it used to be.
“I am not worried, this is Barbados. In the States, I was homeless, in a wheelchair with maggots on me, but here in Barbados a lot of people know me so hopefully it is not going to come to that. I have nothing to lose when you are down the only direction to go is up. So I am waiting.”