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I attempted Suicide when I Lost My Right Arm, the words of David Anyaele who lost his two hands to Rebels saved me, Assumpta Khalil says

Assumpta Khalil thought it was all over when she lost her right arm to an accident at the peak of her youth, she realized that all hope is not lost when she met David Anyaele who had his two hands cut off by the rebels during the Sierra Leonean civil war in the early 90s.

Assumpta is beautiful, confidence and self-assuredness and she will always catch the attention of anybody going by her fair and pretty face with her one-armed that she is not hiding at all.

In this interview, she shared with us what she went through when she had the accident that led to the lost of right arm and how she managed to get over it and become what she is today.

How did your disability occur?

It was on a Wednesday 13th December, 2002 to be precise; I had the accident on my way to school. I was an ND student at the polytechnic, Ibadan. It had happened on my way going to check my results. 18-seater bus I was one of the passengers had a head-on collision with an on-coming vehicle as our bus was approaching a bend. It was a bad spot so our bus somersaulted. Some people fell out, some died but I was lucky to be among the few survivors. We were rushed to the State Hospital Ijaiye, Abeokuta. I lost consciousness and when I woke up, I discovered that the accident affected my right arm and right breast. I was in coma for long and when I woke up, I was told that a certain Mrs Bose, whose brother was also involved in the accident (I didn’t meet her though), on seeing my deteriorating condition, paid for my first operation that resuscitated me. It was after was resuscitated that I was able to reach my family in Lagos through Dr. Oloko.

When my family came, the doctors told them that I need an amputation because the arm was badly damaged. My family refused and later requested for my voluntary disacharge which the hospital willingly granted. I was taken to Igbobi Orthopaedic Hospital, Lagos. The doctors at Igbobi suggested the same amputation. Again, my family refused, insisting that there had to be an alternative.  Then, Dr Mbaleme came to me and said to me “Assumpta, I’m going to amputate your hand” it was the first time I was hearing that word. I asked for clarification and he explained that “I am going to cut off your hand”,

He told me that the level of infection in my hand had reached an alarming stage; that I was lucky that it wasn’t my left hand was affected, otherwise it would have affected my heart, which could lead to death. He told me that there was no time to waste any longer, he showed that my arm was already turning green. He explained to me that I could live if I accept this fate because he doesn’t want me to die.

Then I asked him a question, “would I be able to have children after the amputation”. He told me that amputation doesn’t affect the womb. I also remember asking him, “Who will marry me?” he smiled at me and said “Don’t worry, when you get there and you don’t find someone to marry you, let me know.”

After all the counselling, my family still refused and I was now the one who was pleading with them, telling them that I will be fine with the amputation. Meanwhile as all these was going on, the pain was unbearable, you can’t even wish your enemy what I was going through. I was so devastated, then I told my family that if you don’t want my arm to be amputated, that’s means you want me to die. That was when they agreed.

I was put to sleep waking up the next morning around 5am, I wanted to go back to sleep, I noticed that the deed has been done, I didn’t want to face the reality. I closed my eyes tight but sleep wasn’t coming.  In fact, what finally woke me up was the cry from my mother and other relatives. It was a terrible experience. The reality was done on me.

Was it traumatic to you after you realized that you will be living with one arm?

I lost it. I told myself it was over. I just couldn’t accept the reality. I was just 23, the peak of my youth, and I was wondering how I was going to continue with my schooling, my dreams of becoming a successful journalist, a newscaster or radio presenter; all of a sudden, they seemed wiped out. It was as if someone came with an eraser and wiped them all out. I felt like ending it all.

At the main ward, where I was supposed to recuperate, my health was rather deteriorated. “I was not in the right state of mind. First, they had to deal with my right breast. Only a tiny flesh held the whole of my breast together and I could actually see the green and black of the inner parts of my breast. The doctor said they were going to place me on a one-week treatment and if it did not respond, they were going to take another drastic decision. Of course, that meant they were going to cut off the breast, but to God be the glory, the breast started to respond to treatment and the green and black started turning red and it came back to life. It was the first part of my body that healed.”

To tell you how low I sank, I no longer saw any future and I contemplated suicide on a lot of occasions. I actually tried overdose about three times, but somehow my body did not respond and I didn’t die (laughs). Yeah, I can actually laugh over it now, but back then, it was a grim situation. I would save some of the drugs I was supposed to take over a period of time and then swallow them all at once, but it didn’t work.”

How did you get over the trauma?

“It got to a point; my situation started getting worse. I was not responding to treatment; my blood pressure shot up incredibly. The doctors were on their toes; they said ‘to me, you’re thinking’, but I said I wasn’t – because I really didn’t think I was. But beyond that, the pain was killing. Believe me, amputation is better experienced. I was always under observation. At a point, Dr Mbaleme came to me and said, ‘There is someone I’d like you to meet.’ That doctor, he was God-sent. I don’t know what would have befallen me if not for him. Then I had been in the hospital for about two months. He had given Mr. David my phone number and he had called me ahead.

“That day, I saw a man smiling, as he approached me. He said, ‘Hello, are you Assumpta? I said, yes; he said I’m David, spoke a bit and then brought out his two hands! I was like aaaghhh! What! Both his hands were cut off from just above the wrist! I was shocked and tongue-tied. And now, I was the one who was feeling pity for him. I said, ‘Sorry… are you okay?’

“But he smiled and said, ‘How are you?’ He said my name is David and I am a friend of your doctor. He told me you have not been responding to treatment.’ I told him I was in a very devastating situation and that I was losing it.

“But he looked at me and said, ‘I wish I had one hand like you.’ And that was like a discovery moment for me. I realized that my situation was not the worst.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Can you feed yourself?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said ‘Who feeds you?’ I said ‘My mother. He said ‘Do you bath yourself?’ I said ‘No.’ I said my mum does everything for me.’ Then he said, ‘From today, you are going start doing all these things by yourself. ‘

“Then he said ‘You are going to get hold of a pen and start writing. I remember the first day Mr. David made me write with my left hand; I was like a kindergarten writing. But he led by example by writing with his stump. He also ate with his stump. I was really amazed. Honestly, he was a bundle of inspiration.

“That was like the turning point I needed. Everything changed. I started seeing the positive side of my life and started looking forward to seeing him. In no time, I started recovering and that was when it dawned on me that I had indeed been thinking. I had two more operations and then I was discharged. Mr. David kept coming to counsel me until we lost contact.

I paid dearly for losing David Anyaele’s contact as I fell into depression, which lasted for five years. I lost it again. I told myself it was over and withdrew from the society. I wanted to die. I deliberately made myself a prey to the world and thus became vulnerable. I lost my self-confidence and this time; it was big time. But one day I told myself, ‘Enough is enough’.

Having gone through the trauma, what do you engage yourself with?

So now, I am a single mother living with my siblings. I sell ankara fabrics, assisted by my siblings. I also do voluntary works with NGOs and has been through lots of capacity building workshops and training, which has boosted my experience and helped me to give back. I also work with David Anyaele at his Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and Star Children Development Initiative as a volunteer.

I also make liquid soap for brightening and lighting, whitening soap, shower gel etc and my customers are growing by the day.

For me now, life is beautiful. I don’t want to die anymore. I have a bright future and I want to live for myself and my two daughters, and for the people for whom I am an inspiration to.

How about your love life, after the depression, as you rediscovered yourself, were your able to get married?

At a point, I started experiencing stigmatization from my friends, family, even in my relationships. I tried keeping one or two relationships and one actually worked out; but it started rearing its ugly head again. My in-laws started sticking it in my face. Unfortunately, my husband started dancing to their tunes. He allowed them to influence him and began using harsh words on me. He said things like, ‘I don’t even know what I am doing with you.’ He even called me an imbecile and went as far as telling people I was his sister, generally treating in a manner that was less human. It got to the level of violence against me. I started experiencing serious battering from him and it took the intervention of the neighbours, who raised money for me and urge me to run for my life or else I will be kill ed.’ “So I took their advice and ran. it was the best decision I ever took.”

After your marriage failed, have you been able to get over it to love again?

Yes, I have moved on. I am living positively with my disability. I have accepted myself for who I am. I have no regret living with disability. Life is now beautiful and I thank God for another opportunity to live. I am in a relationship but taking my time to remarry but for sure I will settle down soon, as we all know that people can change, I don’t want repeat the first mistake. Once beaten, twice shy.

In a nutshell tell me about your achievements especially after your disability?

I have been able to acquire skills. I have been able to mentor and coordinate other women with disabilities, get them to work together for our common good. We have a WhatsApp group. I have been using that forum to counsel them.

Your advice for any other persons who may be in depression now as a result of similar experience or anybody who may be in this condition in future?

My advice is that first they must accept their present condition in good fate and see it as God’s wish. Accept your fate as a person with disability, love yourself, face reality and be cheerful knowing that you can’t change the situation and above all love your God more. You should know that it took God for you to be alive, try to identify yourself with other persons with disabilities, join an NGO to help you build your capacity, feel free to network with PWDs for possible opportunities, always talk when the need arises, please don’t keep to yourself. Make friends with positive thinking, engage in things that will make you happy, stay away from negative environment. Have great mentors you can always engage for counselling.

What can government do presently to address permanently the plights of people with disabilities?

Implement the disability rights act, functional legal framework should be put in place to help PWDs get justice to help us enjoy a more inclusive society.

What have you learnt living with disability?

To believe in myself. I can do extraordinary things, and to be confident in myself leads to success.

Your advice to PWDs?

Accept yourself for who you are. Acceptance of your situation is the key to all PWDs. Love yourself, face reality, know that you can’t change the situation.  Love God, you must know that it took God for you to be alive. Identify and network with others, build your capacity, and engage right company and stay away from those with negative thought about you. Stay focused and engage on activities that will make you happy always and discover that thing that you are good at and maximize it. Get a good mentor, it will help you perform better.



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