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First words at 21

Luisa Qiolevu
Tuesday, December 05, 2017

UNABLE to speak for the past 21 years, Netava Rarokoliwa finally spoke two weeks ago after following a strict schedule of herbal medication and faith.

Mr Rarokoliwa's originally from Viria in Naitasiri, but has been living in Labasa for the past nine months and had to travel to the village for his mother's funeral.

At the village, he was introduced to an old man by family members who was said to be able to cure his condition with a concoction from a plant known as soni.

Mr Rarokoliwa said he was given the medicine by the old man to drink before breakfast for three consecutive days.

"I remember vomiting blood during the first two days and I was a bit worried but I was reassured that it was for my own good," he said.

"On the third day, the vomiting had stopped and there I felt as if my throat had been cleared of some heavy burden.

"My family received the shock of their lives as I greeted them 'yadra' (good morning) that morning which was the first word I ever spoke."

Mr Rarokoliwa said his siblings broke out in tears, hugging and kissing him as they were equally shocked but happy that he was finally speaking.

"When people call me up on my phone, I reply to them through text message but now I can answer my phone and talk normal again, I used to write and use sign language in order to communicate with other people but now all that is a thing of the past for me, I can now talk fluently and I am still finding it new to talk to people as I am fond of writing and using sign language."

Ana Selita and her family, who had been staying with Mr Rarokoliwa in Labasa, said they could not belive their ears when Mr Rarokoli called on the day he spoke.

"At first I thought it might be someone else talking over the phone and pretending it was him because I haven't heard him talk, so am not really sure if it was him or not," Ms Selita said.

"We only believed that it was him after he asked for everyone at home and we are so happy that he could talk. We only wish his mum was alive to hear him talk for the first time."

FijiFirst Labasa office co-ordinator, Anil Prasad who has been working with Mr Rarokoliwa for the past three months before he could finally speak said he was surprised that Mr Rarokoliwa could finally talk.

"He called me up the day he could talk and I couldn't believe my ears until he said something about work," he said.

"We no longer converse through writing and sign language as he speaks really well now."

In July, Mr Rarokoliwa visited The Fiji Times office in Labasa asking for some assistance. Reporter Luke Rawalai, who was in the office, had to exchange written notes with him as Rawalai found it hard to understand his gestures.

n More on Sunday

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