Estimated reading time: 19 minute(s)
Bolanle had her child, her husband, and a job of her own, all was going on well till 2015 when tragedy struck, turning everything upside down for her. CHIDINMA UZOMA in this story captures the travails of Bolanle as a PWD in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Akinjobi Bolanle a 43-year-old woman living at Isolo, Itoku area of Abeokuta narrated her ordeal of blindness, and how she has struggled in her world for the past seven years.
This reporter first came across Bolanle along Oke-Ilewo road in Abeokuta, Ogun State one faithful Wednesday as she goes about her daily begging for alms, all alone without the assistance of anyone.
Bolanle was not born blind, she was once a cleaner at a Primary School Agooka, Abeokuta till she encountered a particular disease of the eyes (Glaucoma) that left her with blindness.
Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness. It is a disease of the eye in which fluid pressure within the eye rises – if left untreated the patient may lose vision and even become blind.
According to a report, there are 80 million people worldwide with glaucoma, and this number is expected to increase to over 111 million by 2040.
Another finding showed that at least, half of those with glaucoma are unaware that they are affected. In some developing countries like Nigeria, 90% of glaucoma is undetected.
In many cases, glaucoma may be asymptomatic. It is estimated that more than 11 million individuals would be bilaterally blind due to glaucoma in 2020 (around 13% of the cases).
In Nigeria, about 1.8 million people over 40 years of age suffer from glaucoma with almost 360,000 of them blind in both eyes. Bolanle is one out of the 360,000
This reporter caught up with Bolanle, one fateful Wednesday in Abeokuta as she went about begging for alms. Bolanle had been begging for alms for about seven years since the blindness rendered her jobless.
She navigates the streets of Abeokuta from her house in Itoku and walks down the Igboore road linking Oke-Ilewo to Omida and back to her house.
Sometimes, she goes from Oke-Ilewo to Ita-Eko and navigates from there to Itoku. Bolanle explains that she sometimes gets help from well-meaning people in the state who either help her cross the roads or help her get a cab back home.
Betrayed by her emotions, Bolanle narrates how life had been unfair to her.
She said, “I became a shadow of my life in the year 2015 when I suddenly developed severe itching and scratches in my eyes but ignorantly overlooked it. Although I went to different hospitals like State Hospital and two other private hospitals for treatment but could not get medical attention because there was no money to carry on with the necessary treatment.
“I spent my whole monthly earnings seeking medical help when the bad sight was fast developing. Months later, I met a doctor at Health Haven Specialist Hospital Oloke who suggested I should undergo surgery at least for one of the eyes to avoid total blindness. I refuted that because I could not afford N75,000 for the surgery. I did not know that it could lead to total blindness.
“Depression and frustration overwhelmed me when my husband deserted me and my 8-year-old male child. I resorted to begging to help myself and my son who stays with a relative since there was no help coming from anywhere. I wish to give my only child a good life, that is why I have to let him stay with one of my sisters and walk alone on the road with the help of people’s direction”.
Bolanle who has not set her eyes on either her husband or her child since the incident said she wishes to see again ‘if the hands of time can go back.’
Bolanle’s fate sealed
An ophthalmologist in Lagos, Tayo Bogunjoko explained to this reporter how dreaded the eye disease can be.
Vast in General Ophthalmic Practice, Community Ophthalmology in Cataract, Glaucoma and Medical retina Bogunjoko revealed that Glaucoma is one of the common eye diseases that can lead to blindness.
He said “according to the World Health Organization WHO or the Latest studies on situations of blindness in the world, the Second most common cause of blindness all over the world is Glaucoma, others like Cataract, Diabetic retinopathy, and Cornea diseases.
“Glaucoma is usually related to increased pressure inside the eye. If it isn’t treated, this condition can lead to permanent vision loss and blindness, often without symptoms.
“Risk factors for glaucoma include heredity, age, diabetes, and some medications. It is commonly caused by other factors such as a blunt object or chemical injury to the eye, severe eye infection, or blockage of blood vessels.
“Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes loss of sight by damaging a part of the eye called the optic nerve. This nerve sends information from your eyes to your brain. It is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, and the cause of vision loss in the United States.
“The signs are usually serious and may include blurred vision, severe headaches, eye pain, nausea, vomiting, or seeing rainbow-like halos around lights. It is an age-related eye disease that comes up after the age of 40.
“Dry eyes, also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, happen when tear glands can’t make enough tears or produce poor quality tears. Dry eyes can be uncomfortable, causing itching, burning, or even some loss of vision.
“Your health care provider may suggest using a humidifier in your home or special eye drops that simulate real tears. Surgery may be needed in more serious cases of dry eyes.
“It is advisable to reduce activities that can cause radiation in the eyes like, constant looking at the computer or phone with a high density of light for a long time can also damage the eyes, so it is advised to take a break so it doesn’t damage the eyes permanently,”
When asked about the chances of Bolanle seeing them again, Bogunjoko said “No possibility of seeing” the doctor said because the damage has already been done. Glaucoma cannot be cured, and the damage caused by glaucoma can’t be reversed but it can surely be controlled with regular checkups to slow or prevent vision loss; regular medications, eye drops, laser treatment, surgery, etc. Glaucoma can be treated by lowering intraocular pressure.”
What does Bolanle need?
Bolanle said if the chances of her seeing again are impossible, she wishes to get financial support to establish a store where she can easily sell different drinks to people and get money to feed herself and her child.
When PLATFORM TIMES visited her residence, neighbours testified to her diligence despite her condition. The call for assistance too.
Bolanle stays alone in an apartment that belongs to her sister. This reporter observed the dilapidated structure of the house. No one was in sight nor was there a challenge during the stay of this reporter.
However, one of Bolanle’s acquaintances, Pastor Olawale Oladipupo, the Senior Pastor of the Church of the Lord of History, the church Bolanle attends told PLATFORM TIMES how committed and diligent she is in the things of God despite her disability.
Olawale pleaded that people come to Bolanle’s aide as he seriously lamented the suffering and hardship Bolanle has passed through in the past 7 years.
A close neighbor, simply identified as Iya Hammed said that she has never seen anyone come to her aide since she has been in this situation.
Bolanle is pleading with good-minded Nigerians and the government to come to her aid.
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