A Real life Story: My self-discovery through living with HIV

Living with HIV-PLWHA

THIS IS A REAL LIFE STORY.

My life is a miracle! A life lined with love, great dreams, broken aspirations, resurrection, peace and passionate hope. My name is Temitayo Oyedemi, the last born of an amazing family of five children. Actually, that is not the entire picture- “Omo Agba” is the Yoruba expression of my birth as the last born, meaning “child of old age” because my immediate elder brother is over 6 years older than me! This also has its advantage because I was obviously “dotted on” from childhood. We hail from Ogun State so most of my life has shuttled between my stay in Abeokuta and Lagos. Growing up as a child, my first aspiration was to be a Medical Doctor, then I fantasized about becoming a Petro-Chemical Engineer but oh well, after being “Jamb-ed” for a while, I was only too glad to study English Language when I was finally offered an admission for higher education in Abeokuta. Being an undergrad student didn’t automatically qualify me as a full grown adult in my parent’s eyes, so they literally handed me over to a lovely and equally dotting pastor couple (whom I’ll call Uncle Tony and Aunty Kemi) there in school, LOL, little did I know that these pastors were going to be my life savers.

I remember the rainy morning in the month of August 2000 when I first noticed a weird one-sided tingling but yet painful sensation around my left chest just below my armpit. Then a couple of days later I noticed some rashes along the same area which soon gave way to become blisters and boils. Oddly enough they only seemed to stick to the left hand side of my body so when it was clearly not in a hurry to go away, I had to visit a hospital. I still vividly remember the confused expression on the doctor’s face after examining me and he simply said that he would practical run a gamut of tests to figure out what was going on. When I went back for my lab results, the doctor politely asked me to come back with a relative for my results. Thanks to school work that week, I couldn’t go back myself so Aunty Kemi picked it up instead. My guardians officially broke the news to me: one of the many tests that the doctor ordered for was a HIV Test and I was positive. I froze at the news… a barrage of questions in my head (when?, where?, how?)… And that day, MY WORLD STOPPED.

Today, I live my life to the fullest because I am truly grateful to God for knowledge.

As at year 2000, all I knew about HIV/AIDS was the graphic image of a skull on bones that read ‘HIV KILLS’ in red caps. I literally imbibed that image as the summary of my life and I was stagnant for the next seven (7) years of my life- life was meaningless to me, I lived each day as it came because I felt like death just hung on my neck, every iota of dreams and aspiration died in me.. I dropped out of school; I was practically a dead person walking with no zest for life. Before long I started fall ill a lot, series of spurious diarrhoea, several other opportunistic infections and all what not. I kept to myself a lot, maybe even had a bout of depression or two. My friends then never knew what I was going through and just explained away my being sickly as being overly fragile.

Between my pastor guardians and me, it was an onslaught of prayers: first we absolutely rejected the disease with plenty of ‘binding & casting’, read faith books, prayed, and prayed. When the illnesses persisted I tried out some ‘immune boosters’- more like concussions that cost #8, 000 per month which were to be taken four times daily and I swear, that thing smelt like poop! LOL. As at 2002, my CD4 count was 13 and my Viral load was 5.9! With my series of illnesses then, my guardians convinced me to tell at least a member of my family (God forbid evil, but just in case…) so I finally confided in my sister who is a nurse. After 2 years of nothingness I eventually went back to the hospital and with her support, in 2004 I started on Anti-Retroviral drugs which we bought from Lagos then for #18, 000 for a quarter’s worth of dose. By December 2005, I got enrolled in a Government HIV/AIDS program where I started getting my Anti-Retrovirals for FREE.

Looking back now, I can say that most of those many prayers were answered! As I had the right support, it calmed my mind and restored my Mental Health, not forgetting to mention the unconditional love and affection they showed me. I think Uncle Tony did a lot of reading then about HIV/AIDS to know the various possible ways of getting the infection and to know the various ways of NOT transmitting the disease too. We all used the same set of kitchen utensils, cutlery, sat on the same sofa; I was still treated like a normal person. I can’t tell if they even told other family members living with us then because they all acted normal. I was NEVER stigmatized for one day.

To be continued next week!

 

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