By ALICE FESTUS
SOME might call this a miracle, others might say she is favoured, but whichever category you’ve chosen to classify this, it is however interesting to know that this young girl Binta Danjuma, 17, could walk again after being paralyzed for over six years by a strange illness termed “Tuberculosis (TB) of the spine”.
Findings by Saturday Vanguard revealed that the girl in question was born without any disability or illness as such. She took the necessary immunisation as a child and health care treatment the parents could afford, but at a stage in her life Binta started missing her steps, and at 11, she lost control of her legs completely. This deprived her of mobility, thereby denying her education.
The awful situation placed Binta’s parents in a tight position. The family, who couldn’t even afford three square meals in a day, was completely helpless, dashing hopes of any medical care for the fourth daughter out of the six.
Consequently, the father deserted the family, remarried and moved to Nasarawa State with his new wife, leaving Binta with her mother and other siblings, to live with their grandfather, Baba Ibrahim Ladalo in Gaube village, a small community in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
Two years later, a Non Governmental Organization, Action Aid Nigeria in partnership with Society for Community Development, SCD, came across Binta’s case during its child message collection in 2011 and took it up.
The Programme Advisor Action Aid, Mr Albert Pam, who was among the team that intervened in Binta’s case, while speaking exclusively to Saturday Vanguard narrated their experience in helping Binta access quality health care facilities, from the Abuja National Hospital.
His words, “We have about 98 children in Gaube community that supporters actually provide some funding for us to do activities. Binta is one of the children. When this was reported to us by the partner SCD we flagged it off with management which they approved, so I went there and saw the way she was.
“We did a preliminary assessment and discovered that they were very poor and could not even afford food to eat talk less of finding medication for her.In fact, the general conclusion in the community was that it was a witch that slapped her, so, she was possessed or something because suddenly she would lose control of her legs and won’t be able to walk and would stay there for 10 to 20minutes before it will come back again.She has this friend Jumai that is always with her, so when it happens Jumai will now stand by her when she gains strength again she will get up and start going.
“We also did preliminary questioning and even went to the primary health centre, to find out whether they were aware of such situation and they said no, that she has never been taken to the hospital.They just concluded and then resolved that maybe it was faith, so she should just remain like that until maybe she dies, it was really a very sad situation.
“One of our focal points was that, we needed her to get on her feet, we wanted her to go back to school and continue learning, because it has implication for our women and our children’s lives, and for her as a human being, she shouldn’t be deprived of education because of her condition.We also work with persons with disability so our passion was as an organization, as a person, we are emotionally attached to the situation.
“This is a human being that because of her situation, and the kind of family and community she found herself, the future can just die off like that, so, we now said the best thing we can do is see how we can support her access to health care, very advanced health care for her condition, and let us investigate and see if it is something that can spread within the community, we should be able to deal with it and put an end to it.Those were some of the inspirations that we had.
“We took it up, first and foremost after the preliminary assessment we met with the chief in the area discussed with him and told him our intention.So we took her to the National Hospital,it took a long while.We ran different tests on her the most expensive test was MRI.For almost six months,she was strictly on test, and some preliminary medication, because they had not really discovered what really was the issue.
“Finally the test came out and it was discovered that it is not spreadable, and that it is a rare condition, so they said the best they can advice, is to put her on some physiotherapy, and this was like nine months after the whole thing.So we said okay we should just put her in some physiotherapy for the next six months, then they collected some medication that they will be collecting every other week.
“When the test came out they said there is an option to do surgery outside this country and then even that option comes with a 50 50 percent option of being alive or even regaining her mobility or losing it completely, and it is irreversible, so we were like if that is the only option we have, then, what is the sence of actually embarking on such high risk procedure?
“They were saying something about some of the vertebra and some of the spinal bones were deformed, as a result of the disease, they now said to get this girl back to walk again might not really be possible, so there wasn’t any categorical statement, regarding whether she will be able to walk or she won’t be able to walk, they didn’t mention anything categorical concerning that.
“Finally, they suggested we get her a wheelchair.Getting her a wheelchair, one, the mother will have a relief from backing her, because she usually backs her in the hospital from one ward to another. Two, she will become a little bit independent, and three; she will surely get back to school which of cause we have been anticipating.
“We did the presentation of a brand new wheelchair, and since we were disengaging from providing further physiotherapy from the National Hospital, we put them through how to do some simple massaging of the legs at home.She was very excited and promised to get back to school immediately”.
“When I heard the news that Binta can walk again, as a person I was completely dumbfounded, because before I went I actually called my boss Hajia Suwaiba Yakubu to go and find out. Immediately, she went there, the first thing she also asked was how did it happen? And the narration was that ,immediately Binta started seeing people’s care, not people in the street or the environment, as in, seeing fresh people not from the area every day, showing her care, taking her out of the community, maybe that actually pushed her to begin to say yes I can live.Obviously the mother was all out expressing the fact that immediately Binta started rolling that wheelchair to school, she saw a new determination in her face, that this girl wanted to live , not just live, but stand up on her feet and walk, and apparently the medication might have helped some bones, some muscles began to have life again no one can actually say.
“Binta said she wants to be a doctor for whatsoever reason. She wants to be a doctor so that she can help people.Out of forty something in the class, she is coming first, that shows that she reads her books.She is very intelligent and her teachers attest to that.
Binta’s class teacher at the Local Education Authority, LEA, Primary School, Gaube, Mr. Enesiok Idopeyen, also acknowledged the impressive performance of Binta in his class, and noted some of the subjects which Binta finds very interesting.
“I have been Binta’s class teacher since last year, and she was on a wheelchair at that time. Binta is in primary 5, and based on her performance in class, Binta is so wonderful, she is really upgrading her skills in academics in the sense that one of her best subjects is mathematics, and I am the mathematics teacher and I am also taking her basic science.
“We have other teachers that are going under rotational subjects taking social studies and others but based on her performance last semester that just passed she took first position and apart from the first term I just told you that she took first position.Presently she is really working hard and she is an intelligent girl for real because at times based on her disability at that time I am even surprised that such people will have such high intelligence.” Idopeyen stated.
Binta, who seems to be an introvert, while narrating her feelings in Gbagi language expressed her gratitude to God for His good works in her life, and also appreciated those that saw her through her ordeal.
“I was not happy whenever I found myself on wheelchair, I will feel sad seeing my mates walking on their two feet, but I thank God that now that I am walking, I am happy to join my classmates and I can now move from one place to another, I give God the glory, I feel like a complete human being and this has brought joy to my heart,” she said.