Life has a way of serving you dishes you never want or desire. How we handle these dishes determines our overall outlook to life- disgruntled and angry with the world or a stepping stone to greatness. I have a story. Anyone who sees me today will never believe it happened. Even I, the main star in the story, still doubts its authenticity from time to time but then a glance in the mirror, a sudden nervous twitch brings me back to reality. As I reflect back, I am grateful to God, my family and all who stood by me during the biggest challenge in my life.
November 2009, a great turning point in my life. I got married to the love of my life. I was ecstatic! When one grows up reading love stories and praying for your own prince charming to arrive, when he does, the world rights itself in your favour. That was my mentality. Relocating though painful was exciting. I was set to cut the strings from mummy’s apron and stand like the big girl I thought I was. Today however I have come to the realization that truly the strings to the apron can never be truly cut. Once birthed, your life is interwoven to your family.
As a woman, the joy of carrying your unborn child especially that of your loved one is indescribable and the pain in losing halfway…earth shattering. I lost my very first few weeks after conceiving. I was numb! From the evacuation process to burying the fetus, It seemed as if I was in a different plane looking at what was going on. My husband, my family members worried, tried to jolt me out of that state but me…..I was spaced out. I just wanted to sleep and carry on as if nothing was out of place. If only I knew, we knew what was in the months ahead.
Barely six weeks after, I took in again but in my naïve state, I couldn’t differentiate any bodily change. It took a serious bout of vomiting and malaria symptoms to rush me to the hospital where it was confirmed. The twist came in here. I was given an injection. Up till today, no one can fully ascertain whether it was the drug that sparked up the next phase in my life or my body simply reacting to the pregnancy.
Initially, when the reactions started, many thought it was malaria. I believe the elderly women who were my neighbours thought I was just being lazy and pampered. After all it was just a pregnancy they reasoned. “We all have had many.” Funny enough, it was the same thought going on in some of the nurses that attended to me. My memory was flitting in and out but I remembered in one of the visits to the hospital where I was admitted, the nurse just gave me a bowl to spit after doing all she could. I was spitting blood!!! Subconsciously, I knew this wasn’t pregnancy symptoms anymore. My husband quickly called my mother and I was discharged against medical advice and moved to a teaching hospital close to my childhood home. Phase 2! It became worse. Ironically, the journey down there I couldn’t remember apart from telling my husband and mother my fear that I wouldn’t make it- something they both rejected instantly.
My stay in that hospital….I have a better understanding of patients I see now, the pains and frustration when they try to express their ordeals to their healthy loved ones and they can’t comprehend. It is a silent hell.
I could still talk, I could remember though hazily, I could stagger, I could see. I never knew a day would come when all these will be near impossible. By the way, I was still pregnant. In the recess of my mind, I kept encouraging myself. Just seeing the pain in my family ‘s eyes-my husband, mother, sisters- I braced up and smiled, swallowing the pain and gritting for nighttime when no one was around. In all honesty, the doctors attending to me tried given the facilities they had to work with but my case was puzzling. There was no change and I was getting tired of staying in the hospital. In my opinion, I was getting worse instead of better and my care left a lot to be desired. I could get better care at home I reasoned so I persuaded my mother and husband so I could be an outpatient.
I was discharged and permitted to be coming for checkups and antenatal clinics. A doctor friend visited me daily at home to fix whatever had to be done. A time came I couldn’t see. It happened suddenly. All of a sudden it was darkness. My mother quickly rushed me back to the hospital. Mothers! God bless true mothers. The fight they fight for their children is enormous. Soon after some drugs, I recovered my eyesight. The doctor revealed then something was wrong with my central nervous system, something was going on in my brain that couldn’t be detected. In life sometimes , some people are put in your way to push you to where your help and breakthrough will come (in their mind they think they are being cruel and hurtful). In my case it was a very close family member. I was shattered. “You are supposed to be there for me not push me into the world” I cried within myself but then after weeping in my weakened state, I requested to go back to my husband’s house. My mother and siblings agreed and I travelled back.
Throughout this time, faith in God, strong family support propelled me on that I could beat this. Later I got to know that people called my husband aside to tell him I was not good, citing that we just got married and all this happening and I came to siphon his money. What a wicked world! In life not all who you call friends are friends. A hard lesson learnt. In that state, I didn’t see my ‘so called friends’. It was barely six months after many had danced at my wedding. Life! The more we live daily, the more we learn.
My limbs got weaker, my sight dimmed and to remember simple things became so hard. My mum stayed with me when my husband went to work, my siblings came visiting and helped when they could. No one knew what was wrong. Most people concluded it was because of my stay in the hospital that was the reason for the weakened limbs so encouraged me to move around. That was difficult! My mother had to support me with my growing pregnancy to take few steps each day. There came a day- was so bad, my husband and mother looked at me lying helpless in bed unable to move. He decided there and then this was not just working. Time to seek another medical advice. His friend and wife came and as soon as she saw me being that she was in the medical profession compelled us to immediately go back to the hospital as the deterioration over the last couple of days was horrendous.
Dead weight! That was what I was. Three men struggled to carry me to the car. In the hospital (the very first one I went at the beginning), one glance at me and immediately I was referred to a major hospital in the nearby state, Lagos. Oh Nigeria! We weep at the sight of our roads. Before they were able to get me to the hospital, hours had passed and it was nightfall. In the hospital as I was being registered, I kept pleading to urinate. I was assisted to the toilet but couldn’t pass any urine. That was a red signal to the medical team. Immediately a catheter was fixed and the amount of urine showed need for immediate attention. My organs were failing. I was rushed to the hospital headquarters where immediately on arrival at the emergency unit I had a cardiac arrest. Till today, the thought of what my family went through seeing me being resuscitated over and over again is something that will forever leave an indelible mark on my heart.
The medical team that night I am forever grateful. They refused to give up. When I was stabilised, I was moved to intensive care. At this time I had slipped into a coma and was no longer aware of my surroundings. I stayed in a coma for a couple of days attached to a life support machine. Today, when I see a life support machine when watching movies and see the pain and agony the loved ones are facing, I get a better grasp of what I and my family went through and I am forever grateful to God. Never ever take this life for granted. It can easily slip through your grasp.
I woke up unable to move from neck down, my last memory was of happenings over two months ago. I was so afraid in the sterile ward, no familiar face. When my family came to see me, the tears in their eyes puzzled me. Too many films and books…. I thought I was in a place years ahead. I had to ask the doctors over and over what month and year it was because I thought everyone else was lying to me. This was the first time in a long while I was seeing things vividly even though I couldn’t recognize where I was. It was all so strange. I was like a newborn baby, I had to learn to talk again, learn how to support my neck, how to move. I was a 20+ old new born baby.
I still remember the first day I spoke, weeks after my admission. The doctors were doing routine ward rounds. The norm for me was using my eyes to express myself as I couldn’t talk. My limbs barely moved. The internal struggles were real! I had words but they were locked up. No way to come out. The doctors and nurses were attending to my bedside neighbour as I looked on. Suddenly the dam broke. “Effiong!” I screamed. The lady in question literally jumped out of her skin. The medical team looked at me in joy and amazement. It was a touching scene. Everyone could hardly believe I had just blurted out a word. Personally, it was like I had crossed a chasm of silence into sound. Effiong could hardly wait to inform my family in the waiting room who held daily vigil believing that I would survive. The joy, the thanksgiving to God, the smiles….. it was something never to be forgotten. It was then I was allowed to have my first solid meal. For me no hesitation. It was rice! The aroma of my bedside neighbour’s food had been torturing me for days. Suffice to say even the doctors laughed when they heard.
I still had a long way to go. I couldn’t sleep lying flat out . I was still attached to a life support machine but that wasn’t the issue. I could only sleep inclined. Immediately the bed was laid flat in a normal sleeping position, I started choking. There was a lot of mucus in my lungs that had to be drained periodically for me to breathe smoothly. A really scary one was when I had to be wheeled to the laboratory for an MRI scan. It was bad! I was rushed back to the ICU and placed back on the life support and my lungs quickly drained. The doctor that attended to me was quick thinking. Truthfully, I am forever grateful. This was someone who never knew me but became a friend, godsent to ensure throughout my stay in the hospital I was comfortable. A good lesson….your being there for someone, just your presence can be that one step to pull the person back from the brink of death to life.
True love! Never underestimate its power, its potency. My husband proved it over and over. He rejected every medical opinion that my survival was low, that our child will not survive. He stood by me even when others stepped back. Mother and sisters….they were there. They literally placed their lives on hold to stand by me. In life, when you experience challenges, those who stand by you can make a difference in whether you come out strong or die in the midst of your struggles. Till today, doctors who attended to me still speak of the strong presence of my husband, mother and sisters by my sick bed. I vividly remember one of the nurses questioning me about other family members and friends. Life!
There in the intensive care unit, we didn’t know ourselves facially. We just heard our names. We were wounded soldiers of life struggling to get up. Some of us didn’t make it. It was painful to know that out of the many that were brought in still breathing, many went out to the morgue. Prof (Mrs) and Alhaji- two conspicuous people in my mind that battled but lost the battle. Alhaji’s was even more painful- already deemed better to move to the next ward progressing and then worsening. I moved on gradually to outpatient, never knowing his fate until I returned months later for routine tests. The other surviving co-patient Mr Afolabi was recuperating fine even when I left, the last I heard of him. That season, he and I were practically the only ones that held on to life.
My journey to health was long. Medically, no one could pinpoint what was wrong. I was put on different medications. Many thought I had a kind of disease that made me swell not knowing I was pregnant. I underwent physiotherapy during pregnancy, learnt how to walk again, to move, and went through potty training all over again. Life! I realized the hard and painful way that even adults had diapers. My bowels had to be trained again.
Today, I am a mother of three children. I gave birth all through caesarean sections and come out fine after every single one despite the complications that arose, I am walking without any walking aid, capable of taking care of my children without any assistance. I still take medication; Sometimes the feelings of depression, pain and reflection that I am not where I thought I would be when I was younger arises, but then I remember all I went through, how many like Alhaji and Prof(Mrs) didn’t make it, my family standing by me and I will say to myself “I am grateful for another chance at life”
When I was in the hospital, one of the nurses told me one day that despite the pain and all I was going through, I always had a smile. I smiled at her. That was all I could do. I determined in my heart that I wouldn’t give up. To me, my family our mantra was “this too shall pass” and to all challenges now, the mantra is “this too shall pass!”
It’s been a little over a decade but daily, I am grateful for the second chance at life, to make an impact in the lives of people I come across. This is one of the reasons for this blog: to express myself and help others in my own little way. My near death experience is a reminder daily that with God, the impossible can still be made possible. Your situation may be written off by men but God can make a way even when to the human eye, there is no way. So my word to you is: hold on, trust God. All things work together for good to those who love God.(Romans 8:28 paraphrased). Tell yourself….this too shall pass!
Story and Images by Oruare Ojimadu