By Elizabeth Uwandu
WHEN little David, seven, was being presented a wheel chair donated by Benola Cerebral Foundation, at the fifth National Cerebral Palsy Week Forum by the Special Adviser to Lagos State Government, Mrs. Joy Onafowokan, torrent of tears flowed as the nurse who took care of him told the tale of how his mother abandoned him after being diagnosed of Cerebral Palsy.
“I and my colleagues have been the ones taking care of little David from the time he was born up till now. After efforts to trace his mother failed, he was named David LUTH by the hospital. Despite his condition, David lightens our mood by his smile, and we have taken him as our family,” sobbed the nurse.
What bitter reality than this that a mother leaves her baby at the mercy of strangers because of an assumed incurable ailment? This has most times been the case of victims of one infirmity or the other who were either abandoned by their loved ones or their loved ones get abandoned for taking care of them.
One of such impediments is Cerebral Palsy otherwise called CP. Dr. Gbemisola Boyede, a consultant neuro developmental paediatrician, LUTH explained that CP was a medical condition where children between the time of birth to age five, have some weakness in parts of the body as a result of damage in the brain.
Boyede said,“ Cerebral palsy is gotten from two words. Cerebral means brain while palsy stands for weakness. Put the two together, it means weakness of the brain. And mind you, it is not a spiritual attack. So, it is advisable to seek medical attention to enable one properly care for these special children.”
It was from the desire to show love, support to victims of cerebral palsy and to encourage families and loved ones of people living with the ailment on the need not to give up that Air Vice Marshal, AVM Olufemi Gbadebo, OFR, and his wife, Mrs. Alaba Gbadebo hosted the fifth National Cerebral Palsy Family Forum themed, “Cerebral Palsy: We are all involved.”
The forum organized in conjunction with departments of Pediatrics, Psychology, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy, Nutritionist & Diabetics, and Medical Social Services of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, and in celebration of Gbadebo, Olaoluwa’s 21th birthday, who was diagnosised with CP at birth, but whose life has continued to be an inspiration to many.
AVM Gbadebo said the need to celebrate the life of Olaoluwa and to create an inclusive environment and equal opportunities for CP people birthed Benola,” Benola main vision is to create an inclusive Africa in which those living with Cerebral Palsy get recognition and are given equal opportunity to fully develop and exploit their potentials.” added the founder of the NGO.
Pursuing their dreams
The family forum which saw the giving out of 21 wheelchairs and walking aids to selected CP victims, also had a session where individuals with Cerebral Palsy shared their experiences of pursuing their dreams and of how they have became leading advocates of people living with disabilities.
Cerebral Palsy incurable, not the end of our world – Victims
Mr. Dada Afolabi Olawale, a real estate consultant and a disability advocate, who clutched his walking stick to aid his shaky frame said although he was diagnosed with CP at age three after suffering from Measles, he never felt disabled until 2010. “I grew up doing what a normal child does, attended same school with able people. However, it was in 2010, I realised that I truly have CP as I do things at a slow pace and have my body shaking unconsciously,” Olawale said.
Asked if his disability has affected him in any way, Olawale said, “ Never. Today, not only am I a real estate consultant and an advocate of PDA, it feels great to find a woman who is set to be my wife and who loves me.” For Miss Tobiloba Ajayi, a lawyer and an author who was born with CP, being disabled was a thing of the mind and moving beyond what fate put on your table. Today, people don’t refer to me as that disabled lady, but, I am known more through my works and my writing.”
Oluwabusola Akinsola achieved what many physically able people could not achieve- a Masters in International Economics and Trade. “ Aside my desire to obtain a doctoral degree, I want to make a difference. We are differently abled.”
Like stars on earth, everyone is special – Guests
Guests at the family forum that included Mrs. Joy Onafowokan, Special Adviser on Social Development to Lagos State Government; Mrs. Ogunlana Adenike, representative of Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf ; Mrs Helen Ekwueme, wife of Dr.Alex Ekwueme, former vice president among several dignitaries stated that the children with special needs are like stars on earth that needed to be given all the love, care and privileges.
Mrs. Onafowokan who thanked Benola for putting smiles on people called on parents to desist hiding their children, added that anyone caught or reported will be punished. “Indeed, we have to give them strength and courage to live their dreams,” said Mrs. Onafowokan.