I was barely 8, and was gradually nearing my early grave. What other notion could a kid in class four nurture than to insinuate that nature was against his existence? Though highly cerebral, I was so tender to lead a cause toward emancipating my person from the untold bondage.
I became a shadow of myself and the talk of the day within my nuclear cum extended family, and of course the vicinity therein. My darling mum, being a qualified nurse, was very helpful to the situation at hand. In fact, she was my messiah to assert the least. Messiah, in the sense that, I was suffering from a medical condition.
At 7, I was diagnosed of hepatitis, precisely Hepatitis B. I had grown to believe that the aforementioned disease was so cruel that it could claim the bearer’s life unannounced.
Being a professional, my mum kept telling me in a language I would comprehend that it wasn’t as deadly as I learnt even though I could overtime widely see in her eyes fear and anguish, especially each time I got struck by the monster.
I was transferred from a hospital to another on a regular basis, drank pints of blood donated by my relatives; and in some cases, it would seem as if all hopes had been lost.
That was how my beloved family rolled for years; yes, a good number of years. At the time, use of cell phones was still inborn in the global community, particularly the Nigerian society. And, internet services were not yet ubiquitous; hence, only letter writing was in vogue. Each time any member of my family wrote home, he or she would concentrate mainly on the ailment.
They would want to be intimated on the journey thus far and how exactly I was faring at the moment. I wasn’t bedridden and there was no time I was, but within me, I was only about two centimeters away from graveyard. It was so serious and was telling on me – both physically and emotionally – that everyone far and near began to reason that it wasn’t just a medical condition.
It’s noteworthy that my parents’ scarce economy was expended in the process. In spite of the whooping expenses, they weren’t deterred, rather were so committed towards ensuring that I became a better person health wise.
The situation continued unabated till when we encountered a certain pediatrician who told us that it could best be addressed via dietary. Thereof, I was placed under the care of a renowned dietician. She (the dietician) recom-mended that I should henceforth quit taking various foods and drinks, which included red meat, fried diets, and alcoholics, among others.
From what was presented, it seemed that I had to begin to detest most of the foods I had ab initio been enjoying both as human and a kid. The conditions alone brought another brand of shock into my already battered bone marrow.
Nevertheless, neither did I nor my parents have any choice than to stick strictly to the laid down rules. “Hello Fred!” the paediatrician, Dr. Okafor called the moment he walked into the ward where I was hospitalized. It was about 8:30am, and my second day in the centre. “Good morning, doctor.” I greeted, lying in my bracket.“Morning dear.” he responded. “How are you today?” “I am fine, doctor.”
“I can see you are.” he concurred, nodding and calmly raised my left arm up, then looked at my mum who was seated right beside me. “Hope he slept well?” He asked her. I guessed she had already gone to his office to make some pressing enquiries, so there wasn’t need for exchange of pleasantries between them when he stepped into the ward. She nodded immediately. “Yes, he did.” she supplemented.
“I really thank God.” “Nothing would happen to him.” He assured my pleasant mother, and allowed my arm to return to the bed. “Amen oooh!” she exclaimed enthusiastically.“Once you stick to the recommended diets,” quoth Dr. Okafor.
“He would never suffer from it again.” “Okay.” she replied. “I will try my best.” He detached his stethoscope from his neck and tenderly placed it on my chest with his right hand. “Do you feel pain here?” He inquired, touching the chest with the other hand as he listened to the gadget.
“No sir.” I responded. “Alright.” he said, withdrew the equipment. “You will be discharged today, okay?” “Oh, thank you doctor!” I exclaimed elatedly, looked at my mum. She smiled at me in appreciation. “Thank you, doc.” She added, twisting her neck towards him.“You are welcome.”
He said, hesitantly turned and walked away. Thereafter, ‘special’ dishes were made for me. All my soups were cooked without oil and even meat, except fish. Fresh tomatoes were used as the colouring agents. Same measure was applicable to rice, either jollof or stewed. I was taking enough water at intervals, mostly during meals. Aside water, my other food supplements were only natural fruits including oranges, banana, guava, carrot, garden eggs, and what have you.
That was how I managed the situation for over a year. During this period, I was not unlike a total stranger at home because I inadvertently began detesting virtually every other food to include those I wasn’t advised to avoid. Before I could take anything, I had to consult my mum who would give me a go ahead order or ask me to steer clear of it, as the case might be. I was only doing it to save my humble soul.
The experience was really hectic for me being a kid who was supposed to fall in love with almost every cooked food. But I had to cope because I had no option, though every effort was possible owing to my mum’s steady attention.
You can now understand why I saw her as my messiah. Well, as a medical personnel and mother, she had no option than to respond accordingly. At 10, my doctor asked my parents to bring me for further diagnoses, which they complied.
There and behold, no trace of Hepatitis B was found in my entire system. Months later, I repeated the tests and same results were observed thereof. “Congra tulations Fred!” exclaimed Dr. Okafor as he walked up to where I was seated alongside my mum right in his office.
On hearing the remark, my mum jumped up and I was compelled to follow suit. Therein, she hugged me tightly and passionately too. My dad later got the final breaking news when we got home. It was indeed celebration galore for the entire Nwaozor family.
Since then till now, I have never been diagnosed of any form of hepatitis infection. If you ask me, I would say it was all about sacrifice and self denial. The rest is history, please!
- Nwaozor – novelist, playwright and poet, is Chief Executive Director, Centre for Counselling, Research & Career Development – Owerri
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