“I wish that terrible day never came,” the 21-year-old student of History and International Relations at the Osun State University, said during an encounter with our correspondent earlier in the week. “Each time I look back on the tragic incident of that day, sometimes I wish I could take my life. The pain and emotional trauma I have been through these past 16 years is enough to drive anyone insane,” she added painfully.
A few weeks after her fifth birthday, Lawal had resumed happily at school one fateful morning, looking forward to a fulfilling time of learning and fun at the academic institution. By midday, a teacher dispatched her and the other pupils in her class to go in search of crown corks, which they could use to aid their ability in counting figures. It was an exercise they had engaged in before, so going on such search wasn’t anything strange. At the end of the activity, the Ogun native had gathered enough of the items and was proudly returning to school with the others when tragedy struck. She has had to live with the terrifying pain.
“All of a sudden, from nowhere, a commercial motorcyclist rammed into me after losing control of the machine,” Lawal recalled, her voice trembling this time. “I landed on ground with a bang, hitting my ribs and hip heavily on the hard surface. As I attempted to stand up out of fear, my right foot went into the motorcycle’s spoke and got hooked there. The next thing I noticed was that a terrible pain engulfed me, I never even realised that the machine had cut off the foot. I started hearing people shouting that I should be rushed to the hospital and not be allowed to die.
“While the people were still struggling to get me up from the ground and take me to a hospital, a dog came from nowhere to pick up the severed foot and ran away with it. Perhaps it saw it as meat and made away with it. It was as if there was an unseen hand controlling the dog. Even though I was very young then, I thought the world had ended,” she said.
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The minutes and days that followed that tragic incident not only changed the course of Lawal’s journey in life but also threw her on a path where she’s had to deal with all manner of emotional and psychological problems. First confined to the hospital bed for at least five, agonising months – not knowing if she would survive or not, to losing the ability to walk for several months more – the troubles that came with the accident cannot be exhausted in a few sentences. Nearly two decades after that devastating incident, the scars have simply refused to heal.
“My mother had just given birth to my younger sister when the accident occurred,” the young undergraduate said. “She tried a lot to save my life even though she was nursing a baby and had just lost a sister at the time. It was a very terrible period for the entire family.
“Later, through the mercies of God, the severed foot was found but the cells had died already. It was of no use. By the time I was rushed to the National Orthopaedic Hospital at Igbobi, Lagos, the doctors were on strike. That compounded my problem.
“So, after five months at the hospital, I was discharged even though I could no longer walk. I could only crawl and had to be placed on somebody’s back if there was need for me to be taken to the hospital. All the children ran away from me and would call me different horrible names. As young as I was then, it was a period I really wished I had the power to just disappear from the world,” she added.
Following months of running around for a solution to her predicament by her mother and a few family members, the 21-year-old was finally able to walk again – but not without limping in a manner that caused discomfort. While some in the process of consoling the young lady said that the tragedy was a mere coincidence, others suggested to her that it could be as a result of ‘spiritual attack’.
“There is perhaps some kind of evidence to believe that what happened to me is not ordinary, maybe spiritual in fact,” Lawal told our correspondent. “My father actually confirmed that it was a spiritual attack. According to him, somebody said that if they took away my ability to walk, there would be no way for me to make use of the glory God had placed upon my life. Otherwise how can one explain that a dog ran away with my foot immediately after the accident? It is very strange,” she added.
Now in her third year at the university, Lawal has had to pass through plenty of struggles to get to where she is today. Apart from denying herself certain needs just to keep her education going, to enduring ill treatments from even persons close to her, she has indeed witnessed what even many far older than her may never have. Though the situation sometimes threatens to affect her concentration in school, the young lady has developed a seeming thick skin just to survive and keep her target of becoming something big in life intact.
“Without the support of God and my mother, maybe I’d have dropped out of school today,” she said. “As a matter of fact, I have had to deny myself of a lot of things that many times I felt very bad and blamed God for allowing this to happen to me.
“To help sponsor my education, I work as a ticket officer with LAGBUS whenever I am on holiday in Lagos. I make sure I save as much as I can from the N15, 000 I’m paid so that I can take care of needs in school.
“Also, I had to keep low cut most of the time just to save extra money that would have gone into hair making for my education.
“There are days I go without food in school and I have had to survive through the kindness of friends. I cannot count how many times ladies have suggested that I sell my body for money and I rejected.
“Also, I have had to withdraw from a number of activities due to my leg. Most times I am forced to wear cover shoes or even snicker just to conceal my disability and avoid undue attention. This affects not just my academics but normal daily life as well. Most of my colleagues in school don’t know my condition as a result of how I conceal it.
“The first and only boyfriend I had left me because of my disability. He was in school and came home only during holidays, so he had no idea about my condition. By the time he eventually found out, he stayed away from me. Since then, I have not found anyone willing to accept me the way I am,” she added.
Desperate to overcome the stigma and humiliation that she had been subjected to over the years, Lawal took the bull by the horns in 2016 when she went in search of a solution to her plight. While the severed foot is lost forever, the acquisition of prosthesis, she reasoned, would make walking easier for her and boost her confidence. She searched different places for answers and eventually found herself at the Orthopaedic hospital in Igbobi again. But rather than finding a solution, her misery was made worse.
“I visited Igbobi in 2016, shortly after gaining admission to the university to see if they could give me prosthesis to wear on my foot to make life easier for me.
“On getting there, we were shown one for N40, 000 even though it was not exactly what I was looking for. The doctors also told us that there was a better one for $2000 from India but because we could not afford that, I went for the one of N40, 000. At the end, it turned out to be a big disappointment. I couldn’t use it for a day and tried to return it but it was rejected. I have since dumped it at home.
“I really wish I could get help to acquire a good foot prosthesis that had just been released to the market by a company from Canada named Niagara Prosthetics & Orthotics Corporation which costs $5,000 at the moment (N1,800,000 at the rate of N360 per dollar), with that I’ll be able to walk around normally and live life like I should. I have lived with this pain for 16 years; I want to have my confidence back and contribute to the development of my society like I have always dreamt of doing.
“I have been through a very tough road in life, now I just want to succeed and take care of my mother, the one person who has been there for me through these years. Though I am still trying to find my balance in life, I am very optimistic that God has bigger and better things in stock for me,” she said.
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