The woman behind Derenalagi’s success

SHE blinks back tears as she tries to compose herself, rehashing the story of the events that changed her life. Her husband sits next to her, silently egging her on, understanding that what they’ve both been through has not been easy.

Close to a decade ago both had made a decision to move across to the US from England. Content with the life they had, they felt it was time to do something different. Nothing however prepared them for the adversity that would later become their greatest blessing.

Ana Qumivutia Derenalagi is the wife of Paralympian and former soldier Derek Derenalagi.

Making a head start to the decisions they made to change their lives, she moved to the US for work while her husband was on what they thought would be his final tour of duty in his capacity as a soldier for the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 2007.

One morning in her Studio Flat in Santa Rosa she opened the door to a strange couple. Thinking they were stalkers, she refused to let them in when the mention of her husband’s name changed her stance.

“They told me they were from the British High Commission and that my husband had been injured.

“I was holding my handbag and don’t remember when it slipped from my arms. At that moment so many things were running through my mind.”

“I’ve seen it happen to so many people but I never thought it would happen to me.”

“I finally let them in and they told me that they had arranged for me to fly to London on the next available flight to see my husband. They had played down the severity of his injuries, telling me that he had lost one leg when in fact he had lost both in the explosion,” she said.

Ana spent that night with an aunt who had been a source of solace and comfort at a despairing moment.

The next day she left the US and made her way to England in the company of British Royal Air Force personnel.

What she saw when she was ushered into the ward her husband was admitted in rocked her to her core.

“I was taken into the ICU ward at Birmingham Hospital and as I looked around all I could see were injured servicemen.

“I saw the curtains drawn on one of the beds and was told that my husband was lying there. I walked towards it and drew it open and I was shocked.”

“I saw that he had no legs and he was heavily bandaged, there were tubes running through his nose and mouth and he was strapped to the bed unconscious.

“At that moment I broke down and cried all the tears I could cry and all I thought was what would become of us now,” she said.

As she recalls this particular memory, tears stream down her face. She pauses as Derek hands her tissue to wipe her tear stained cheeks before she continues to describe how she snubbed that small moment of weakness to allow only positive thoughts and her faith in God to prevail.

“I thought to myself, I must not let him see me like this and then I looked at him and just stood my ground in a way that I stood on my faith and I believed Gods word and his promises in a particular Bible verse that He would watch over his word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12),” she said. ‘So I prayed positive healing Bible verses over him every day and night and waited for God to do His part”.

Derek had been in an induced coma for almost two weeks of which timespan Ana continuously prayed, praised,worshipped God and thanking Him for Derek’s healing.

She also played a CD that had affirmations of positivity taken from the bible every evening believing it would ignite a change in her husband.

“I saw that during the nine days listening to that CD, I started to notice a change in him. From being motionless and vulnerable,

“I saw that his eyes would twitch; his fingers would twitch a bit and he showed signs of life.

The nurses told me that I was not supposed to do that because I was disturbing him but I continued because I believed that though he was physically severely injured, his spirit was alive and well and it is his spirit that I was speaking to,” she said.

Things did turn for the better sooner rather than later for the Derenalagi’s as not long after that, Derek regained consciousness.

However, the lengthy road to recovery was still ahead and the first hurdle was helping Derek come to terms with his situation and disallowing negativity to surround his road to recovery.

“When he came around, he was all over the place.

“I looked at him and it was like he was delusional, he was seeing things.

“Actually what he was going through was post-traumatic stress disorder’.

“I remember so well, some of his friends that came by to take pictures of him in his vulnerable state.

“I really felt that it was wrong of them to do that. He wasn’t himself at all and they came to take pictures of him with them posing in the hospital room.

“What they did was they had broken hospital rules ? it was written there all over the walls, no pictures.

“These friends meant well but for me I didn’t want that.

“I didn’t want my vulnerability and my husband’s vulnerability to be exposed to the public at that time” she said.

This wasn’t the only instance that caused Ana to rethink her strategy in ensuring the welfare of her husband.

“I saw that there were some visitors coming into the hospital room and when they came in all they did was they were just speaking to him negatively.

“They said Isa maumau, sa qai vacava tu qo, valoloma (oh, what a waste, what would become of him now, so sad) and then there were some that I heard later, saying that he must have been doing something wrong to deserve this kind of injury and that he was up to something that was not godly,” she said.

Ana made a decision then to restrict visitors to her husband in the firm belief that surrounding him with negativity would delay his recovery.

During his recovery, she also stopped any negative influence in whatever form from friends and family and naysayers.

In helping look after her husband at the hospital and during rehabilitation that spanned two years, Ana gave up her job to help Derek regain the ability to be independent.

“My goal was to get him independent and up and walking and I did not waste time.

“I stood by him and supported him all the way.

“My whole world revolved around his recovery.

“I helped bathe and clean him in the hospital when he was vulnerable and he wouldn’t allow any of the nurses to actually touch him or look after him.

“So I turned into a nurse looking after his injuries and sores.

“He had bedsores from lying too long on the hospital bed.

“I helped him to eat; he couldn’t even lift his hand to eat.

“I thank God it was a quick recovery for him and I believe that through the power of prayer and firm faith God, was miraculously piecing our broken lives together again’ she said.

* In our next segment we will look at Derek’s progress and how their relationship as husband and wife has fared amid the adversity.

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