Community – Omena’s Story

    Living your purposeful life with Brachial Plexus Injury not getting in the way

I remember asking my parents what to tell people when they inquired about the status of my right hand. Dad used to say ‘tell them its birth injury’ and that was convenient. As long as I could remember from cradle, the physiotherapy unit in a teaching hospital was my second home. I went there weekly for physiotherapy. I remember I hated Fridays for that because I always got to school very late or sometimes skipped school. When I turned 8 or 10 (I think), my physiotherapy sessions were terminated (the hospital felt they had done their best). Whatever injury was left was meant to heal at home. I remember being laughed at by my classmates in primary school whenever I played games with them. This made me withdrawn and I had a few friends and even among the few friends, some of them still laughed at me. I had no choice but to be with them because I did not want to be alone. They were kids too.
A turning point in my life was the day I was openly laughed at by another kid in the school and all eyes were on me. I cried until I got home. I was 9 or 10 years old. I decided to hide my hand from the world to prevent people jeering and staring at me. I kept my right hand behind my pinafore or in my right pocket for the remaining part of my primary education and all through high school. I was kind of awkward with the hiding of my hand. I never really participated in sports because I couldn’t with my right hand keep permanently in my pocket. I developed fungal infection consistently in between my digit fingers because the hand was not exposed to air.
I could not have proper transactions with people because whenever I stretched out my left hand to hand over something like money or select goods at the market, I got insulted for using my left hand. It was as if the left hand was cursed…Most tribes in Nigeria forbid you to use your left hand to handle something or hand over stuff to people. Countless times I shed tears. My fear had been to go through this for the rest of my life.
It was more challenging when I got to the University (…it’s a long story). I became depressed but funny enough, I had lots of admirers. Did I mention that I had to go far to the northern part of Nigeria after my high school to be with my Aunty who supported me to gradually let out my right hand from its hiding? She was very instrumental to helping me believe in myself. To cut the long story short, I graduated from the University of Benin with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. I did my entire practical works myself with no preferential treatment given to me. God was and is still with me. I began developing myself to be strong psychologically, emotionally and all round. I learned to hold back tears when people were mean to me or said stuffs about my hand. I began to talk back to them in ways that made me feel good about myself while putting them in an ‘I-feel-bad-I-never-should-have-said-that’ corner.
Just to mention that I wasn’t meant to be the one to be taught how to drive a car but chance happened! I was the bold one. I learned to drive and I drive so well…automatic though.
The day I loaned my shoulders to a young lady with sickle cell anaemia to cry on was the day I realized I had become strong and was never going to break.
Someone once told me that he could not marry me since his mum did not approve of me because of my right hand…I guess they thought the injury was generational! Oh! And another stood frozen with mouth agape while I cleaned his house (all in the name of love) and said ‘what happened to your hand’…I was like seriously? After seeing each other for like 2 months?? That was the last I heard of him. He disappeared.
Whoever loves you, will love you for who you are. Love will find me when its time.
I do everything with no help most times but of course with God’s help. Today, I am a practicing Pharmacist in Nigeria and I am joyful whenever I look back and see how far I have come. People still behave funny but I am strong and I don’t care about their thoughts or feelings. I jog every weekend and do not care about the number of eyes that stare. I am used to it…I smile and I move on without looking back.
Maybe someday, I would dish out every challenging phase of my life and how I overcame them…bits by bits.
Someone once said “If you have to fly, fly. If you have to run, run. If you have to walk, walk. If you have to crawl, crawl but just don’t stop moving”.

Omena Marilyn