Father Thomas outside a classroom at Sacred Heart Seminary in Mubende, Uganda. For nearly 30 years, Whirlwind has been dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the developing world. We recently received an update from Father Thomas Gabula, a Catholic Priest in Uganda, and avid user of the RoughRider. In October 2009, barely three months after his ordination, Father Thomas was in a motorbike accident which left him paralyzed from the waist down and unable to fulfill his duties with the Church. Through the generosity of sponsors, he was given the opportunity to receive rehabilitation therapy at Shepherd Center; an Atlanta, Georgia based non-profit hospital, which specializes in the medical treatment and rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injuries.
Help was first reached out to Father Thomas through sisters Mary Goss and Connie Kay. Connie had previously attended Shepherd Center, while Mary is Director at Catholic Relief Services, which partners with a diocese in Uganda. Through their hard work, the two sisters were able to start the process of arranging Father Thomas’ rehab trip to the United States. Furthermore, Darci Pernoud, an Occupational Therapist at the Shepherd Center, served as Thomas’ caregiver during his month’s stay. Recognizing that a traditional hospital wheelchair would not hold up against the rugged conditions in Uganda, Darci contacted Whirlwind about getting Father Thomas a RoughRider.
After his month of therapy, Father Thomas had learned many new skills that allowed him to be nearly independent. He now has the freedom to live an active life and return to his work with the Church. When we talked with Father Thomas, he happily mentioned the many things he can now do with Whirlwind’s all-terrain wheelchair. At the Sacred Heart Seminary in Mubende, outside Kampala, he teaches classes on the Bible and Latin, and is able to traverse most of the uneven and stony terrain when traveling to the different classes, chapels and churches. He also enjoys getting out into the community and working with parishioners. He is committed to helping other Ugandans with disabilities and sharing what he learned at the Shepherd Center. We wish him all the best, and look forward to hearing from him in the future.