Tuks Master of Law student suffers stroke but beats odds typing dissertation with one hand
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Pretoria - Master’s student Denis Mitole is the epitome of the saying that tough times do not last, only tough people do.
Mitole was 47 when he accomplished an amazing feat by continuing to pursue his Master’s qualification despite numerous challenges and overwhelming odds that came his way, including suffering a stroke that left him only able to type his dissertation using only one hand.
The journey began when the Malawian-born academic decided to enrol in a Master of Law programme at the University of Pretoria (Tuks) in 2019. He, however, had no idea that the path to graduation would be littered with so many trials.
Mitole said his "bumpy ride" to success began almost immediately as he lost his laptop within the first few months of enrolment after a bus drove over the bag containing it. To make matters worse, his second laptop also crashed with some of his unsaved class material.
As if that was not enough, Mitole lost his mother to cancer in the middle of 2018, during exam time.
"I must confess that I contemplated dropping out at this point due to the fact that the following year, when Covid-19 struck, the borders, were closed and doing cross-border entrepreneurship, which I used to finance my studies, became almost impossible."
"To add on to that, my children’s school laid off staff and subsequently closed its doors, and a variety of circumstances forced my wife, Rachel, to resign from her job.”
Despite these challenges, he said he continued to push forward, thanks to the support given to him by his wife, who encouraged him to continue with his studies despite the dire financial constraints they faced.
Mitole said after 300 applications, he was eventually recruited by an in-house law school and did his articles at the medium-sized Melrose Arch law firm. However, the candidate attorney’s position did not pay much, and it did not offer the financial breakthrough he had anticipated.
Over and above that, Mitole said he was still struggling to get his application for a permanent residence permit in South Africa, which he had applied for in 2018, even though his wife and children received their permits three years prior.
Everything came to a climax on the morning of May 26, after he started feeling tired and weak and decided to go to the hospital.
He said the hospital informed him that his blood pressure was high, and after spending the entire night on a bench in the emergency room waiting to be seen by a doctor, his left limbs had all but became paralysed.
“There was a small blood clot on the right side of my brain, which had caused the brain to stop sending messages to the left-side limbs.”
Mitole said he continued to push himself to get better and would wake up every day at four in the morning to exercise and use gym facilities at the rehab centre.
But, at this point, finishing his dissertation was becoming more like a far-fetched dream.
He recalled that it was only after reading a book by Jen Bricker titled: Everything is Possible that everything changed for him.
"The book is about a young woman who was born without legs but had gone on to chase unimaginable dreams, including going sky-diving and deep-sea diving. She talks about finding the faith and courage to follow your dream, so I had no excuse. I had to get out of rehab and finish my dissertation."
Afterwards, despite having to battle with constant headaches and fatigue as he could only use one hand, Mitole said he remained undeterred to reach the finish line.
When he was eventually discharged from rehab in July, he continued to push himself to submit his dissertation in order to be able to graduate in September while at the same time having to learn how to type, cook, bathe and dress with one hand.
"There are too many things around us that can inspire us to realise our ambitions, and I would urge students and others to find something to look forward to in order to keep pursuing their dreams."