Abigail drove Jason to school on a Monday morning. Jason was excited and proud to have his grandma by him for his “show and tell”. His grandma was his most favourite person and he didn’t have a hard time telling his class that his grandma was a practicing nurse for thirteen years. Abigail enjoyed answering several questions from the children. It was so much fun. Finally she watched her grandson settle in his class. She had a cordial talk with Jason’s teacher, before she left to pick him up again at school closing time.
Abigail drove to the Crowell shopping mall, some distance away from Pearson Elementary School. As she was busy shopping for fresh groceries; moving up and down the aisles, she came across a very familiar face. The face hadn’t changed much. Abigail pushed her shopping trolley around and passed by the young man to be sure. He took no notice of her. She turned around again to see if it was really Onyeka; the nine year old boy she nursed many years ago at National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi. She hastened to follow him from behind, and overtook him.
“Are you Onyeka?” she said aloud. He heard her, and looked towards her direction. He took a closer look at her, and pointed his finger across to her, trying to be sure if she was the most compassionate nurse he used to know. “Nurse Abigail?” he asked.
“Yes, I am Onyeka,” he answered, with a loud shout. “Where did you go all these years? We wished to contact you, when we were told you left NOHIL, but we had no one to ask your whereabouts. My parents hated to ask anything about you from Nurse Rachael because we knew she didn’t like you at all,” he said.
“You did?” you were such an adorable boy back then, I am so glad you got your miracle,” she replied as she hugged him as firmly as she could. There was an explosion in her brain… the good sort… the type that carries more possibilities than she could be conscious of… but there were hundreds of questions there in that buzz of electricity… “I can’t believe this; you can walk now and you look great! How did this happen or is this really not Onyeka?
“Actually, I have been walking for over twelve years now. In fact, I had my spinal surgery a few weeks after you resigned with the help of Dr Willams Abade. He told us about his friend; Dr. Yasir Salimon; a renowned Nigerian-American neurosurgeon and academic who was starting out a healthcare development company with his wife, Perpetual. The company was launching out with free spinal surgeries to underprivileged Nigerians in Lagos state. That was my miracle! My condition fit perfectly with the description they needed. Dr Willams Abade provided them with all the medical history needed for the surgery.”
“Originally, Dr Willams Abade thought I would need two separate surgeries to complete the realignment. He also thought I might need to wear a body cast after the operation.
However, after examining my scans Dr Yasir Salimon was able to combine the surgeries into one and used only a brace on me. He came to Nigeria with implants and equipment from the US so that they could operate for free on people with spine-related problems like me. He was the lead surgeon and a couple of others assisted him at the time. They carried out about 10 surgeries and mine was one of them.
“I finally got to experience a completely unconscious ability to walk, stand, and chat with people without being reminded that I have pain to attend to and that’s what I call a medical miracle.”
Two months after my surgery and recovery period at home, I was ready to start the hard work of rehabilitation, which began with range-of-motion exercises, gait retraining and pool therapy. Rehabilitation was a slow process, it took 12 to 18 months; I underwent six weeks of inpatient rehabilitation. After completing six weeks inpatient rehabilitation, I began outpatient rehab. I stood for extended period of time and practiced walking with a cane. After six months my gait and walking mechanics had greatly improved.
My parents, older sister; Ada and I were not discouraged, we had our eyes on the prize — numerous dancing at family celebrations, afternoons of sunshine and playing and countless years of active companionship.
Dissimilar to numerous others with my background, I received a scholarship to study medicine in Stanford through the Agency for External Aid, a Nigerian government program which is targeted at improving the quality of life for Nigeria’s most vulnerable communities.
I went on to receive a combined MD/MSc degree at Stanford Medical School, Stanford, California and I have recently completed my post-residency fellowship training in complex nerve reconstruction at Louisiana State University and complex spine surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee; all in the States.
His narrative was quite unbelievable, shocking really. Abigail’s mind was sent reeling, unable to comprehend or process the array of achievements that he had grossed. She felt giddy with excitement. She wanted to run, to shout, and to tell everyone that her Onyeka had risen above his medical limitations. She felt pumped, excited, more alive than she had ever thought possible.
Over the years I have learnt never to cave in when bad circumstances occur. I realize that whatever happens to me only breaks the old me and build the new me. It’s my choice to stay down when things go wrong and never allow what happens to me, keep you down. I see every situation as a chance to become what I have always intended to be, hard times will not make me bitter but will leave me better,” he added with his trademark smirk that Abigail recognized.