In our sequence of letters from African writers, Nigerian novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes a few lady whose life modified after she acquired a pores and skin ailment and later visited a leprosy colony.
Iby Ikotidem was used to being the lifetime of the celebration. She liked trend and jewelry, had a mess of associates and a full social calendar, usually organising occasions within the US state of New Jersey, the place she has lived along with her husband and two kids for the previous 28 years.
“I used to be a showstopper,” she stated.
However all that was delivered to an finish shortly after the primary patch of dry pores and skin appeared on her knee about 12 years in the past, across the time her actual property enterprise folded.
She thought little of it till it quickly unfold throughout her physique, besides her face.
Following a sequence of medical exams, she was identified with acute psoriasis, an autoimmune illness that causes pores and skin cells to construct up and kind scales and itchy, dry patches.
‘Mirror was my enemy’
Even when she wore long-sleeve blouses and maxi skirts to cowl up the sight and cease folks from staring, her situation nonetheless drew consideration wherever she went.
Typically when she acquired up from a chair, folks exclaimed in shock, questioning the place the “mud” on the ground had immediately appeared from.
“I hated myself. The mirror was my enemy,” she stated
Quickly, the stigmatisation started.
Mrs Ikotidiem remembers a very painful incident when she was among the many weekend friends at a celebration in her buddy’s home – she was given a mattress on the ground within the basement whereas everybody else retired to visitor bedrooms upstairs.
“I sat on the ground, crying,” she stated.
Mrs Ikotidiem quickly grew to become a recluse, shaved her hair – and was on a downward spiral till her 12-year-old daughter instructed her: “Mummy, you are my hero. Please, do not enable this illness take you down.'”
Mrs Ikotidem stated: “That dissolved each considered suicide I had.”
The yr after her prognosis, her kids have been invited to hitch a bunch of younger folks within the US from her dwelling state of Akwa Ibom, who would volunteer for charity work there.
Her son, Anthony, then about 15 years previous, insisted that his mom accompany him. Reluctantly, she agreed.
They visited a variety of orphanages – journeys which have been coated on native tv.
Whereas having breakfast within the resort one morning, Mrs Ikotidem was approached by an previous schoolmate who praised her and the youths for his or her work and prompt they lengthen their charity to leprosy colonies within the state.
“I stated: ‘What! Is there nonetheless leprosy in Nigeria?'” Mrs Ikotidem stated. “It was my first time of understanding that there was nonetheless leprosy on the earth.”
Regardless of its elimination as a world well being concern, leprosy remains to be prevalent in Nigeria, with greater than 3,500 instances identified annually, in response to the nation’s Centre for Illness Management.
The bacterial illness might be cured if identified and handled early but when left untreated, it might trigger extreme injury to arms and ft, and even paralysis and blindness.
Some mother and father have been initially hesitant when Mrs Ikotidem talked about going to the Ekpene Obom Leprosy Hospital however they ultimately all accompanied her – a go to that modified her life.
Like many leprosy hospitals round Nigeria, Ekpene Obom additionally gives lodging for sufferers who can now not return to their authentic communities owing to stigmatisation.
Even after they’re cured from the illness that’s treatable inside six to 12 months of a course of antibiotics, they continue to be there with their households, their kids attending college additionally throughout the premises.
Mrs Ikotidem instructed the residents and sufferers that she understood their plight.
“I knew what it was to be deserted, to be stared at,” she stated.
Offered her jewelry
Over the previous decade, Mrs Ikotidem has made caring for leprosy sufferers her life’s mission.
Via Hope’s Door, a basis she arrange, she has centered her work to date on three colonies in southern and northern Nigeria.
Amongst different help, she gives them with particular sneakers, crutches, and wheelchairs. She provides their kids with stationery for varsity. She renovates their residential areas.
“You could see a few of the mattresses they used, you would not even let your canine sleep on it,” she stated.
With restricted funding from a authorities that has many different public well being priorities, leprosy colonies in Nigeria are inclined to rely totally on worldwide charities, reminiscent of The Leprosy Mission.
“Once they have any downside, they name me, not the federal government,” Mrs Ikotidem stated, who funded her preliminary initiatives by promoting her valuable jewelry earlier than internet hosting fundraising occasions and reaching out to associates.
Her subsequent large mission is to assist the residents of the colonies turn out to be much less dependent, by offering them with seedlings and instruments for farming on their land.
“I’m going to mattress serious about this neighborhood and get up serious about them,” Mrs Ikotidem stated.
“In psoriasis, I discovered my mission, and in my mission, I discovered my therapeutic.”
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