Getting off my flight at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and stepping on Nigerian soil had me feeling a sense of nostalgia. It had been just a couple of years since I travelled out of the country but I was finally coming back home for good. The buzzing sound of people bustling all around me as I stood in the baggage area waiting created an inward excitement in me.
I am blind, as in I cannot see at all with my physical eyes. Back in the United States, when filling out forms they always asked to specify the degree of blindness, and mine falls into “legally blind”. But I was NOT born blind.
I actually lost my eyesight at the age of 11 from malaria.
YES, from Malaria– I always hear a gasp or receive reactions of shock and bewilderment whenever I say this; like: “you mean this malaria we have every other day can cause blindness? How?”.
Well, here is my story.
MY NAME IS PHILOMINA NWEZE and I am the sixth born to my lovely family of seven children. I hail from Nri in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State but I spent most of the earlier part of my life growing up in Lagos. I still recall my childhood years vividly and I can clearly remember the incident that lead to this malaria complication of blindness.
It happened during my exam period then, sometime in June or July over three decades ago. I had been feeling quite ill and I had a burning fever. I was stooling and vomiting for two days in a row. My mum travelled but I remember my dad taking me to a nearby private hospital first. They immediately told my father that I would be better off in a bigger hospital so my dad took me to a renowned Government hospital (name withheld) in Lagos. I still clearly remember walking into that hospital. There were so many bureaucracies and delays before I eventually got admitted and stayed there for three nights. Apparently, the doctors did not seem to know much of what they were doing. They first said they were suspecting Cholera but by the next day they still weren’t sure of what the diagnosis was and finally said it was Acute Malaria. I was placed on intravenous fluids (drip) in addition to whatever other medications I was given. Rather than improve, I was told that I lapsed into a coma by the next day. Fortunately, my mum had come back from her journey and visited me just at the nick of time before I lost consciousness. She later said that I was practically gone at some point because my feet and hands had gone cold. She did a mouth-to-mouth breath resuscitation for me right there on my hospital bed before I came back to life; that was her first time of ever practising a CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation). It was such a scary experience for her.
Unfortunately, that was just the beginning.
To be Continued next week…