An increasing proportion of Nigeria’s population is learning to live with the particular challenges that disability brings.
The great thing is that it is not so very hard to help enhance a disabled person’s life to make living easier, doing daily tasks more comfortable and successful.
Kelechi Uhegwu, 29 is a beautiful talented girl from Abia State and a graduate from the University of Lagos.
She was Diagnosed with polio when she was a year old, and since then till date, she has managed this condition very well despite challenges.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER PHOTOS AND VIDEO
She deserves a better and productive life and has used this medium to speak out.
Read her story below:
I am Kelechi Uhegwu from Abia State, Nigeria. I am the eldest of three children. I was born in Agbor in Delta State and then we moved to a suburb of Lagos.
I had my primary education at Mictec International School in Ojota, Lagos and at Holy Child International School in Satellite town. I had my Secondary School at Navy Town Secondary school in Navy Town, Ojo, Lagos.
A little after my 1st birthday, my parents traveled to Lagos, leaving me with my grand mum in Agbor. I fell ill and was admitted into the General Hospital, Agbor in Delta State where I was misdiagnosed by the doctors and was treated for malaria and measles. I was injected for some days and this led to pains in my legs after which I could stand but was unable to walk and after a while I could not walk anymore. I had poliomyelitis (paralytic scoliosis).
Polio limited my ‘movement’ but it didn’t limit ‘the person in me’. I had to pull myself through life despite all the difficulties that are associated with disabilities in Nigeria.
I learnt how to walk with leg braces and crutches.
All my life was school, home, church and the hospital. At school, I played like every other kid, I had my fair share of being bullied too. At home, I was allowed to play with my younger brother but was over-protected by my parents; I was not allowed to play outside with other kids because my caring parents thought I was fragile but for the adventurous person that I am, when my parents went out, I would device a way to get out of the house with my younger brother to play with other kids, even with the knowledge of the punishment that awaited me.
Constant Hospital Visits.
I was always in the hospital and it was extremely painful. I had my treatment at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos. The experience wasn’t an interesting one and made me a quiet person sometimes.
I have received a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Lagos in 2008. My entry into the University was a miracle. I had battled with UME (University Matriculation Exam) for two years because I thought I put in my all which wasn’t good enough to get me an admission. So, I struggled and obtained a Diploma form in the University of Lagos and channeled my whole energy on the examination and passed the entrance examination. Another challenge was transportation to school from my home in Satellite town to Akoka where my school is located because Diploma students weren’t given accommodation in school.
Being the very optimistic person that I am, I took the risk of waking up every morning without a dime and then I would get a ride by strangers for half my journey or directly to school.
I met the Deputy Vice Chancellor of my time to tell him about my challenges. When he met me, he was pleased with my zeal to be educated despite my physical and financial challenges and he gave me an approval to write the final exam. I eventually wrote the exam and came out with good grades with which I gained admission by Direct Entry to study a degree course in Zoology and my tuition was erased.
Getting about without Proper Infrastructure for Disabilities In Nigeria.
My everyday experience in school got so tough over time as my classes were held on the third floor and underground at the Faculty of Science. I couldn’t go for all the classes as my human energy couldn’t carry me. So, I either stayed for all the lectures that would be held at third floor or downstairs throughout a day. I couldn’t shuffle going for classes but ‘I still made it to class’ and my grades suffered eventually.
A life changing experience was when one of my friends Jane Ogbe wrote a story about me and I was nominated for the ‘Survival Against All Odds Awards, by the Aart of Life Foundation in 2006. It was featured on-air, people voted for me and it was a really exhilarating feeling. I came 1st Runner up eventually. It also helped me become a stronger person because people kept stopping me to say they watched the program and they were inspired by my story. I felt good that I was an inspiration to someone.
My lowest moment was on the 8th of March, 2000 when my dad passed on from renal failure. It was the final year of my secondary school and that was when I understood the meaning of the Word – ‘Responsibility’ and now my mum has been bed-ridden for over three years as a result of complications from Pott’s disease.
How I make Myself Happy
Besides being a Lab Scientist, I love art and I express it through make -up and writing poems. I love to read books, listen to good music, invite friends around. That’s what I do to keep the fire burning. I also encourage my friends with any form of disability to stay strong, look good, smell good, surround themselves with positive people, dream big, take a Leap and every of Our Dreams will be achieved.
Ray of Hope in the Horizon
Late Dr Adebola Bailey (Consultant Surgeon) of National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos referred me to Dr JK Webb of the Queens Medical Centre, Centre for Spinal Studies and Surgery, Nottingham, England where I could undergo corrective surgery. So after my doctor passed on, I still stayed in touch with Dr Webb.
It is an anterior surgical release and posterior stabilisation with rods and screw as well as fusion of the spine with a 2-stage procedure.
The Surgery is to help straighten my spine and to give me an opportunity to walk unaided again.
It costs about £47,000 which is way more than what I can afford as an individual considering my present financial status.
I worked as a Lab scientist for one year with the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Lagos during my National Service Year in 2010/2011 and I concluded that I couldn’t be a Lab scientist anymore because of my physical disability.
So I focused on being self employed as a make-up artiste as I was beginning to feel worse on my spine.. So I have my clients come to my abode to have their make-up done…
It’s not very convenient for some potential clients especially Brides. So I live one day at a time with the little that I’m able to get.
The reason my doctor; Dr Bailey referred me to Dr Webb in England was because he had reviewed my case and has worked with the hospital in England for a while and especially because it’s a school for Spinal surgeries.
Complications from Scoliosis;
I honestly do need the surgery as early as possible. I already have unlevel shoulders, prominent ribs, uneven hips, a shift of the waist and trunk to the side and an upper spine twist which has resulted to kyphosis and gives me back pain.
If I don’t have the surgery done early. Lung and heart damage may result in severe scoliosis, the rib cage may press against my lungs and heart, making it more difficult to breathe and harder for my heart to pump.
After my surgery I would like to focus on my make-up career,doing make up for events and having seasonal makeup training sessions for young entrepreneurs. A lot of people aren’t aware of how beautiful they truly are if they applied makeup rightly. I love the smile and look of satisfaction on my client’s face when I give them a touch with my ‘Brushes’…
Efforts to date and their results.
I’ve been doing public fund raisin and used the Social network and the Media house like Blackberry, Twitter, Facebook, you-tube, Tv, radio, newspaper.
These social network and write-ups gave more awareness about me but not much people donated financially.
So, On May 26th, 2013 some Nigerian Artistes; Sound Sultan, Kcee, Solid Star, Nikky Laoye, and a couple of artistes organised a fund raising concert for me and we invested the money I had raised. The concert may have lost money but it was fun!
I have raised about ten percent of the total money (10%) but I’m still very positive that with time and financial support from ‘caring hearts’ of the world, I’d have my surgery done and I’d be relieved of pains especially.
The Trent is calling out to its kind readers to help Miss Uhegwu get the medical treatment she needs.
You can reach her on;
Mobile number +2348034252974
E-maill: k[email protected].
Her bank details are;
Uhegwu Kelechi Ruth
Guarantee Trust Bank(GTB);