Six years ago, when Nicole Adesanya was delivered at a Lagos Hospital, her parents did not envisage that a huge burden had befallen them. Her delivery was traumatic; it was a typical case of medical negligence. The doctors delayed her mother who was referred to another hospital during labour for a quick caesarian section. After the third day, she was eventually transferred to the initial hospital and Nicole was born. The doctor and nurses called her “a miracle baby”. Most babies die after such tumultuous delays. Her mother was nursed back to health.
Few months later, the reality of Nicole’s medical condition became to show its face. At a private hospital, cerebral palsy was diagnosed. After her father recounted her child birth episodes to a doctor, the doctor knew the case was not congenial. Several tests were done and it was discovered that poor handling led to the delivery of an asphyxiated child. To use a simple language, Nicole is living with a severe case of cerebral palsy. At six, she cannot walk, talk, or stand. With lots of attention from her loving parents, she began to sit before the age of three. That gave her father hope that Nicole can live an independent life if she gets the right treatment.
Nicole’s condition changed her father’s life completely. He couldn’t socialise and sometimes suffered depression. In Nicole’s infancy, seizures were very frequent and she was constantly hospitalised. Nicole has little tolerance for warm climate and still depends on her parents to feed. Recently, this reporter met Mr Adesanya in Ikeja, the second time in five years, and he recounted how caring for a special needs child can be financially draining.
“She had been in two schools. She went to Ketu Special Centre which was founded by the former Deputy Governor, Lagos State, Mrs Orelope Adefulore. But because of the severity of the case, she was enrolled at Children Development Centre in Surulere. She undergoes a lot of therapies. Asides the school fees which is about five hundred thousand per term, we had to engage a physiotherapist and a speech therapist who are paid one hundred and fifty thousand naira each on a monthly basis. I had the money then and I was able to pay for these,” he began.
The three-hour long conversation was punctuated by phone calls and several instances of off-record comments.
Adesanya is a man who loves being a father and that responsibility, he cherishes. It was indeed a last resort to call to the public for financial assistance to save Nicole. When asked how much he spends on Nicole’s medications, he said it would be difficult to calculate unless he gathers all the receipts. But one thing he was very sure of is that if her medications stop, within two days, she would be hospitalized. That usually costs nothing less that one hundred and twenty thousand naira. Nicole’s father had consulted John Hopkins’ Hospital in US and he had been fully briefed on the medical options for Nicole’s condition. This would involve surgery, as well as implantations that would help stabilise her muscles and coordinate her movements. He described the every day life of Nicole who had learned to sit and play on her own, although with a lot of noise.
“Taking her to school is another episode entirely. We didn’t have a car so we would take taxi. When I sat down to calculate all the money spent on transportation, I decided to get a car,” he recalled.
He has sold the car earlier this year to care for his family upon his loss of employment. Meanwhile, Nicole’s schooling had to stop as he couldn’t afford to the fees.Describing Nicole’s unchanging condition over the years, Mr. Adesanya said he believes his daughter has the right to live, and live right.
“She constantly vibrates. When she is being held, her body calms. When you hold her legs down, they stop shaking but as soon as you take the hands away, they begin to vibrate. That is how she has been since she had been born,” he said.
Sadly too, Nicole doesn’t understand simple commands such as “come”, “take”, “stop” or “keep quiet”. Her father recalled one night when she cried uncontrollably and no one understood why she was crying on top of her voice. The next morning, neighbors asked what the problem was and they had no answer. Once, Nicole’s father had scolded her for crying for no reason and the tables were turned a few minutes later as he had to find his private space to shed his tears quietly. He blamed himself for trying to punish a child for an offense that she cannot comprehend.
Later, Adesanya met Miss Curvy Culture Nigeria, Ms. Shelly Ogbise who has launched an online campaign for contributions for Nicole’s overseas treatment for cerebral palsy. The beauty queen has decided to use her reign to do something positive for humanity. An estimated sum of six hundred and twenty five thousand dollars is required to cover just the medical bills for a treatment that would last six months, including surgery. Every five years, the implants to stabilize her muscle will be filled with some liquid to strengthen her muscles.
Mr Adesanya said he was inspired by the story of Tobiloba Ajayi, a lawyer and author who lives with cerebral palsy. With good support and financial backing from her parents, she began to walk at 12. That gave Adesanya the confidence that if Nicole gets the funding her treatment requires, she will live an independent life. Most hospitals in Nigeria have no technical knowledge of Nicole’s condition nor are they equipped to handle the severe nature of it.
“Once Nicole had a seizure, and we took her to a Lagos hospital. She was given a sedative, something in the range of Valium 5. We transported her all the way from Ikorodu to Victoria Island and all she got was a sedative,” he recalled.