From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Victor Nwankwo, who hails from Amechi Awkunanaw, Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State was 16-years-old in 2004. As a student in one of the secondary schools in Onitsha, Anambra State, then, his dream was to become a medical doctor.
But all that disappeared on his first day as a boarder in the school. Nwankwo never had any premonition that an incident that would leave him with permanent injury was lurking around his school.
Nwankwo, now 33-years-old grew up in Onitsha where he had his secondary education. His primary education was partly at Amechi Awkunanaw, the home town of former governor of the old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo, before he came to Onitsha.
The incident that made him to become a wheelchair user happened in the secondary school he would not like to mention. He said the school management has not abandoned him and so would like to protect the image of the school.
After finishing his junior secondary as a day student, Nwankwo’s people decided that he should live in the dormitory to finish up. But the very day he packed his things off to his school’s boarding house to enjoy a new environment was the day his joy was cut short and his health put in jeopardy.
“It was a kind of misunderstanding between me and a senior student the day I came to live in the dormitory. I was in Senior Secondary one (SSI) at that time.
“The senior was asking me the house I belonged to when I was packing things into the dormitory. After that, we had a problem at the dormitory and he left. I thought everything was over.
“After school hours that day, that senior accosted me at the front of our school and started beating me with a coconut branch with his friends around him waiting for me to react so that they could give me general beating. He lifted me up and hit my head on the ground repeatedly. The spinal cord injury then occurred,” he narrated.
Nwankwo was extremely emotional as he told his story. He said he thought it was not a serious matter until when doctors declared that he had a spinal injury. The situation could have been saved at a hospital where he was rushed to but he said that was not to be because of the money involved to face the treatment. Doctors even said the best bet would have been to fly him outside the country for a better treatment. But the money was not there.
He said his mother was a peasant farmer in their village, having lost his father at an early age and his siblings were not well off to provide the needed finance to take care of his hospital bill. From that moment, his health continued to deteriorate.
The student that caused Nwankwo’s travails, according to him, was arrested, taken to Central Police Station, Onitsha and later Police Zone 9, Umuahia. Nwankwo said nothing came out of all that and the case was discontinued.
Determined to succeed in life, Nwankwo said he managed to finish his secondary education even with his health challenges. He later sat for Senior Secondary Certificate Examination and passed.
“I was and still a bookworm. The people that promised me scholarship could not fulfill their promise. I was science inclined and I wanted to be a medical doctor,” he said.
Six years after the incident, his mother died, leaving him as the last child, and three of his siblings to struggle for survival in Onitsha. At this period, things became very critical for Nwankwo. No mother, no father and his siblings were in Onitsha trying to survive. He said it was at that point in time that one lady, Ukamaka from his village came to his rescue.
“We come from a very abject and poor background. When my mother died few years later, there was this young lady in my village who accepted to take care of me. We were living together and we were looking at getting married. But that couldn’t be.
“The girl was with me for about two years and when her people could not give their consent to the marriage, she had to leave.
“After her departure, I was alone for about two months without any caregiver. I became dejected and was only having negative thoughts.
“One morning, one of my friends in the village called and promised he would be coming around occasionally to help me take my bath and buy things outside. At that time, he would buy akara (bean cake) and anything I could eat. That’s once for the whole day. He would go and come back the next day. Sometimes I would defecate, wrap it and keep for him to dispose of. He was really a friend in need. His name is Emma Oko.
“I was there suffering, praying every day. That was a few months after Ukamaka had left me. I was there crying, praying; begging my church members for alms. Some would come and drop N500, N1000, N200, and so on. But that was not regular.”
Journey into rehab centre
One day, one of his classmates in Onitsha called and told him about Rehabilitation Centre for the Disabled, Old and Trumps (RECDOT) at Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State.
“He said I should try and go there. He said he was praying that God would touch them to accept me to at least be feeding me. Though I did not know the place, I decided to brave it in my wheelchair to the place.”
His journey to RECDOT, Ozubulu opened another chapter in his struggle to survive. On his arrival at RECDOT after a very tortuous journey, Nwankwo said he broke down in tears at the rehabilitation centre asking himself whether that was where life had finally landed him. He said he was crying uncontrollably until one of the caregivers, a lady at the centre came and comforted him.
The lady brought him food which someone could have ordinarily devoured after a long journey without food. But Nwankwo said he had no appetite, he barely managed to eat it.
He was later assisted to the founder and director of the home, Mrs Rosemary Odunukwe whom he said accepted to help him. He became a member of the rehabilitation centre which reduced his burden of entirely taking care of himself.
“So, I found myself into the RECDOT and when the director of the rehabilitation centre came around, I told her my story. She was very shocked and sympathetic. She said there was no problem, that even though my case is a rare case because it was an accident not the way I was born. She said they would try their best to give me hope,” Nwankwo further explained.
He said that it was even difficult for him to learn any skill because of the way his deteriorating health challenge affected his fingers. All he could do was to enroll with an online theological programme at Wibats School of Theology, a programme he did between 2012 and 2015.
The training in theology really changed Nwankwo’s life to become a motivator, preacher and one who can assist people to have courage in life even though he depends on charity for his sustenance because of his health challenge.
Nwankwo’s love life as an adult was chequered before he found his missing rib, Chinaza Igwe with whom he would wed at St Aloysius Catholic Centre, Ozubulu this Saturday, November 27.
There was a turning point in his life when he left the rehabilitation centre to rent a small accommodation outside the home at Ozubulu to start independent life.
“At the village, Ukamaka tried so well but my family background coupled with outside pressure made her to leave me.
“The first lady I met after leaving RECDOT to be my caregiver agreed to marry me. We agreed to marry. She agreed to help me in my physiotherapy and she also planned to take some exams to further her studies a little bit as we get married.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way. I was relying on that promise of marriage without any written agreement. A few months later down the line, the lady felt I was no longer useful. I discovered she felt she had found someone more useful than I was. I don’t want to give you her name.
“I said to her that there was no problem. She began to show some strange behaviours. I then called her mother and complained to her because she knew how it all started.
“The mother told me it was her daughter who would take a decision, not her. Later, the lady came back and demanded that I should pay her for her services to me. I told her it was not our agreement but she never listened to me.
“She said I ought to pay her over N100,000 or face the consequences. As God might have it, someone sent me little money that time. I took her to a bank in Nnewi where I keep little money given to me by helpers. I told the cashier to empty my account and give to her. I had a little over N100,000 in the account. I gave her everything.
“After that I began to cry, complaining to my God when I came back to my house. I began to tell myself that even the little money I had in my account was gone.
“Few days later, she visited me with her newfound love with an envelope. She said she had come with the envelope, I didn’t even know how much was in the envelope to assist me since there was no more money in my account. I told her that I didn’t need her help. I told her that God is my helper. That was how my chapter with her was closed,” Nwankwo narrated.
He said his neighbours began to help him until another lady came as a caregiver who then gave him her charge. It is noteworthy that Nwankwo has been paying all his bills with alms. He told the new caregiver that he was not ready to marry, recalling his past experience. Moreover, he said he was seriously down and needed adequate medication.
He told the new caregiver that she would be assisting him to go to the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) Nnewi for medical check-up and other cares, and she agreed.
Nwankwo said few months later, the lady from Edo State began to worry him about marriage. He began to wonder why someone would think about marriage with a man who had been admitted at NAUTH Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with oxygen for a serious care.
He said the lady kept on disturbing him for marriage at his sick bed and he kept on enduring it. Anytime he talked with any nurse in the course of his treatment, according to him, the lady would say he had plans to marry another person.
Nwankwo said when the situation became unbearable to him that he decided to discharge the girl. His friend helped him to raise money with which the girl was laid off. And that chapter also closed.
He said the NAUTH management was magnanimous enough to allow him go without clearing his bills that ran into over a million naira.
Back to Ozubulu, Nwankwo began to look for a caregiver again because he could not do anything on his own. He needed someone to assist him. Another lady was found.
According to Nwankwo, the new girl showed early signs of not prepared to take care of him. Incidentally, she had a girlfriend, Chinaza, who occasionally visited her within the brief period she served Nwankwo as caregiver.
Nwankwo said the girl who had earlier agreed to take care of him decided to go after all entreaties for her to stay fell on deaf ears.
At that time, Chinaza who had been visiting her girlfriend became sympathetic and decided to take up the challenge after pleading with her friend not to quit the service to no avail. Chinaza hails from Omege Agba in Ishielu LGA of Ebonyi State.
He said: “I told Chinaza that I would marry her for that show of love and interest in me when every other one had failed me, she agreed.
“The problem now became her parents who resisted the proposal but she stood her ground. After so much resistance, everything was settled.
“We have done the traditional wedding and waiting for the White Wedding coming up on November 27 at the RECDOT.
“We appeal to people who may be touched by our story to assist us in any little way they could. The appeal goes to individuals, groups and organizations.”
Nwankwo said with Chinaza as wife, they could start a small business like poultry farm to build up their family, if assisted.
Chinaza on her part said she had resolved to marry Nwankwo, for better for worse.
“I don’t see anything wrong with our marriage. I just decided that he should be my husband. He is my choice. I don’t want him to have challenge of care again. He is a very kind person,” she said.