By Francis Ewherido
It took me a while to decide to write this article. One thought said, these are very private matters, keep them private. Another said, you have to tell your story in the midst of the pervasive hopelessness because the story might pull someone from the brink of suicide, another might see sunshine amidst darkness, and hope might replace hopelessness for someone. My eldest brother, Bishop Anthony Ovayero Ewherido, was the first to tell me to document my experience. Then some family members and friends did, but I was still undecided. Then it struck me, people go to church to give testimonies of getting visas, why not this “resurrection.” I was also scared God can punish me for keeping this miracle to myself. I had a change of mind at this point.
It started in Ilesha, Osun State, on June 11, 2021. I was returning from the 2021 CEO Conference of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB). As I was climbing down the hotel staircase with my bag, I felt pains on my knees, but I was not bothered because I felt it was caused by the extra weight. Shortly after the journey commenced, I started feeling feverish. At the outskirts of Ibadan, we stopped and I took pain killers. By the time we got to Lagos, my situation had gotten so bad that I abandoned the burial I was rushing down from Ilesha to attend and headed home. I saw my doctor later who prescribed drugs for me. Two day later, I was lying down at home when I felt sharp and excruciating pains on my right knee as if someone was stabbing me persistently with a knife. This was followed by seizure, then an indescribable emptiness and then all was still.
When I regained consciousness about 30 minutes later, I was lying down in the hospital with our assistant parish priest administering anointing of the sick on me. My wife filled in the gaps. My doctor suggested that I do a brain scan. She felt the problem might be from the brain. I did the MRI scan and there it was: meningioma (brain tumour). I was shattered. I wept like a baby.
The neurosurgeons I was referred to told me that surgery to remove the tumour was the best solution. It was a tough decision to make. I have to sign documents absolving the hospital and its staff from liability in the event of death or permanent disability. I signed, while my wife signed as witness. The surgery to remove the tumour went well, but life-threatening complications followed: there was liquid in my brain which they needed to drain out and my cranium pressure had risen to 40, which is 100 percent above the normal pressure. Three more surgeries were done in quick succession, all to save my life. I was in coma that stretched beyond what the doctors anticipated. There was real anxiety at some point among the medical personnel that I might not make it. A meeting was organised among the medical team and my wife, my immediate elder brother and immediate younger brother. My other brothers were excluded. My eldest brother, Bishop Anthony Ewherido wanted to spare them the agony. Though it was meant to give a situation report, I feel they also wanted to prepare them in the event that I did not make it.
After six weeks and four days in coma, I moved a finger. Thereafter, I gradually regained consciousness. I still do not have the desire to watch the video taken after I regained consciousness. I have also not looked at the photos taken while I was in coma. They are heart wrenching. While I was in coma, the doctors also had to deal with lung infection. When I regained consciousness I noticed plasters around my right rib cage. I asked and my wife explained that it was from there they drained fluid from my lungs when I was in coma due to the infection.
It was the height of COVID-19 and protecting me was a tough task. They changed my ward about four times due to the upsurge in the number of COVID-19 patients. In the course of changing wards, I was allocated a bed space by the window and I was exposed to cold. I contracted pneumonia. When the coughing and sneezing got too much, the hospital quarantined me. I remained quarantined until we were moved to another ward where I got a room to myself. These were very trying times.
When I got out of coma, I could not talk coherently. I also partly lost my memory. I forgot my date of birth and all my passwords. I even forgot that my brother, Sen Akpor Pius Ewherido, was dead. When I did not hear from him, I asked why my usually very caring brother had not reached out to me since I became ill. My wife reminded me he was dead. It was like breaking the news to me. I wept.
Physiotherapy had to start almost immediately. The physiotherapists told me to recite A,B,C,D… 1,2,3,4. I felt insulted and almost rebelled, but I relented. Then I started reciting and got stuck. I had forgotten some alphabets and numbers. I had to learn how to recite alphabets and numbers like a kindergarten pupil. Thank God I did because while in hospital, I was having issues with my eyes and they needed to find out if the tumour had affected my eyes. If I had not learnt how to recite the alphabets, I would have stumbled when the optometrist told me to recite the alphabets on the board.
My legs were a different kettle of fish. They had been compromised due to inactivity while in coma. I could not stand not to talk of walk. I had to learn how to stand and walk. I started by going around in a wheelchair, then moved on to other gadgets before ending up with a walking stick. It was a tortuous journey. I fell a number a times due to my weak right knee. The news would travel round that I fell and send anxiety among hospital staff because my head and brain were not supposed to hit anywhere. The fall that amused me most was when I was urinating into the bottle. I forgot and put weight on my right leg. In a flash of a second I hit the floor and fell under the table. Instead of protecting my head, I hung on to the bottle to prevent urine from spilling on me. For about three months, my brain was open and unprotected; covered only with bandages to prevent infections.
One evening, I was on the bed when I suffered a massive seizure that seemed to last for eternity. I was shaken to my foundation. The hospital staff were running helter-skelter. By the time calm returned, my right arm and leg were numb, worsening the issues with my right knee. By my next physiotherapy appointment, I could not hold a pen to write. My fingers were numb. Twice they told to me write a prose, twice I failed to go beyond the first paragraph. Even when they said I should write on a simple topic, my family, I did not fare any better. I had to plead with the physiotherapist that she was pushing me too hard.
The seizure really devastated me. Initially I thought it was a stroke. At that point, I said that is it. There is no need to live anymore. My situation was already precarious; to add stroke was too much for me. They had to do another MRI scan and assured me that it was a seizure and not stroke. But the effect of the seizure persisted. Thereafter, I would hold food in my hands to eat. I would not even know it had fallen off my hand. I lost over 10kg.
Before being discharged, they did a fifth brain surgery to cover my brain. About 17 months after the brain surgeries, my knees kept deteriorating. I was back in the hospital for knee surgery on both knees. It was inevitable because I was not functional. In all fairness, I had pre-existing conditions. The inactivity when I was in coma and the three months and two weeks stay in hospital only aggravated the condition of the knees. To the glory of God, I have achieved 99.9 per cent brain recovery. My body has also healed substantially.
That has been my story in the last 20 months. That was why the column disappeared suddenly for over a year. As Apostle Paul wrote, I was afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed ( 2 Corinthians 4:8–9 ). Many have been my afflictions, but the Lord God delivered me from them all (Psalm 34:19).
I remain very grateful to God for the outcome of this unbelievable journey. In the past I have shared some of my health challenges on this space to encourage others, but I was not keen on sharing this. I broke down three times while writing. It is quite a very long story. I am documenting the details in a book, but I have been too lazy to complete it.
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