By Blessing Kingsley.
My name is Blessing Kingsley, and I am the mother of three lovely children. My oldest child, Mercy developed jaundice on the second day after birth. We were discharged anyway, after the doctor had told us to put her up to the early morning sun. This happened at a private hospital near our place of residence at that time. We continued with the early morning sun therapy. After the first three months of her birth, there was simply no improvement, and she was not getting stable. Her head rolled back and forth instead of getting steady and firm. The staff at the hospital encouraged us to hold on each time we complained.
To complicate matters, we noticed that Mercy was not quite developing like other children who were born at the same period with her. Again, we went back to the hospital and were told that children differed in their rate of development and that some children would not walk nor talk till the age of 5 years. We were further told that there was nothing wrong with the fact that she was yet to attain neck control at 5 months. They said she would still do that, “at her own time.”
At this, we decided to quit medical consultations and concentrate on seeking the spiritual. We did not know any better, this was our first baby, and we were just first-time parents. As she grew older and there was no improvement, I became ashamed of revealing my daughter to the rest of the world. I did not want people to see that I had somebody like her, a child who was disabled. I did not want people to mock me for being her mother. Because I did not accept my own child, I observed that other people treated her with disdain. I still remember how I locked her up each time we had visitors so that they would not see her and mock me.
It was 5 whole years before we would learn that what the diagnosis of my daughter was. Five tortuous years before we would begin the journey of understanding what the issue were with my daughter, and with that, the journey to acceptance also commenced.
It was during this period that we met Tobilola Ajayi who advised us to take the child to the Lagos State University Hospital. Someone had introduced us to this lady and that meeting changed our lives. The first neurologist that we met wished that we had brought her earlier. He opined that we did not need to hide the child, that if we had brought her earlier to the hospital, she would have stood the chance of a better outcome. The concoctions had not helped her. He educated us on the proper treatment of jaundice in children which would have been phototherapy, with the option of an Exchange Blood Transfusion if the bilirubin level did not fall adequately with phototherapy alone.
That consultation changed so may things about us. We realized that there was a name for the disability, “Cerebral Palsy” and that also meant that my daughter was not possessed with any bad spirit. This is the reason why I started using my Facebook wall to enlighten the populace about this condition and raise a voice for children with Cerebral Palsy.
When I was naïve, if I had met with someone that knew about her condition, I would certainly have taken her to the hospital for a proper checkup, but unfortunately all i ever received was the wrong advice. This has prompted me to constantly use my Facebook page to call for people to take their children to the hospital if they noticed any symptoms that they did not understand.
I am grateful for Mercy, my daughter, without whom I would not have known so much about CP or even cared enough about disability in general. This experience has shaped my life and has taught me so much. It has given me a reason to argue for inclusion in all aspects of her life, reason to advocate for all people with disabilities. For her, I keep pushing myself to do better and to be better every day.