Before The Light Went Off
The meaning of my name is ‘Mama’. So, now I know why I was named after my dear mother; Mama Zara was a fighter, a true survivor of life, so am I.
In our small village of Jajimaji, few kilometres from the busy town of Gashua in Yobe state, we are always not so lucky to eat those sumptuous meals other children eat in big cities, perhaps because our parents couldn’t afford fish, meat, milk and all sorts. But then, we ate starch like it was manna from heaven. Few months after my first birthday, Mama Zara weaned me off breastmilk—she said time was right for me to start eating our local food like other normal children in the village. Afterwards, I had refused to grow like I should. There was no problem anyways, my other siblings also had initial slow growth. Within a blink of an eye, I began to take ill; time after time, I had run fever and watery stool. While many children of my age were walking by themselves, I was still quite comfortable crawling as taking those heavy steps became my greatest phobia.
After many bouts of sicknesses, I was finally baptised into malnutrition in the similar old manner that the wicked plague had enslaved many newly weaned toddlers in my village. Mine was to the extreme! At the small clinic in my village, they told Mama Zara I was suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition and advised her to visit a bigger health centre. We rarely had enough Naira to buy food, so how was Mama going to foot my hospital bills? Besides, the closest general hospital to Jajimaji was almost a hundred kilometres away, who would pay our transport fare? After all my condition didn’t look as bad as they said, so Mama and I quietly went back home to continue feeding on the remaining starch in our store, the day we had meat by sheer luck, she gave all to me and I was happy.
By my second birthday, the unbelievable started happening, I began to gain weight or should I say I began to swell up. Mama Zara was very happy and always singing my praises. Her happiness became endless when I started walking, even though it was a little later than everyone expected, she was sure God was gracing her faith with favour.
Unfortunately, the weight gain wouldn’t stop, I began to bloat like I was being pumped with some kind of vulcanizing gas. The swelling took up my feet up to my face and wasn’t retreating, it filled every tiny space within my body. You know, I was sure it would have filled the large space in my mind if I had given it that chance but it didn’t, at least as at then. The little light of mine began to dwindle and wouldn’t twinkle any longer. Because everyone saw I was dying, the village people contributed some money so Mama could take me to a hospital in Jakusko where she heard they treated only children for free.
Wining In The Dusk Of Sunset
Through the chunk of my stay at the hospital, each day had looked like night, and nights were no longer time for sound sleep but to cry and groan in pain. As the swelling gradually took up the remaining space in my mind, I began to lose the grip for survival. All the doctors and nurses were afraid I was losing the fight but Mama Zara would not give up on me, somehow I could hear her pray to God for sunshine. Fresh light was all I needed, I knew it.
First five days on admission, I waited for sunshine but it didn’t come. My skin was peeling the more. Because the swelling had filled up all spaces in my eyes, I could no longer open them. It was as if my throat was water-logged, I could no longer swallow anything, not even those drugs and the special milk the hospital people were giving me. They said only if I took the milk well would those swellings go, they decided to stick a rubber tube through my nose to feed me. Eight times a day, seven days a week for two weeks I was fed their special milk through the tube which they re-passed too frequently. Within these two weeks, the same set of doctors and nurses had come doing same routine every morning – checking and pinching my swollen body. They asked Mama if I took the whole milk, and with the way they had left my bedside each morning, I knew I wasn’t getting better.
At The Crack Of Dawn
One morning, after the doctors had left our bedside, Mama Zara carried me into a small room and bathed me for the first time. I suspected the doctors had told her something different that morning. Mama had washed all peeling skins from my body, that day I felt fresh breeze blow over my body. I did feel somewhat lighter as she carried me. Not long after, the last tube was removed from my nose and I was given the milk by mouth. For the first time in almost three weeks, some food had to pass through my mouth. The truth is, the milk didn’t taste better than those drugs, but I had that fresh determination to fight on. I was ready to drink or eat anything the hospital people gave me so that the swelling could finally disappear. They even later stopped bringing milk and started serving some kind of sweetened paste, which I loved so much. Day after day the swelling continued to disappear. Everyone would come to my bedside with their big smile and play with their favourite Ummi Awana. The doctors and nurses would take pictures with me turn after turn, then I realised the sun Mama prayed for was finally rising.
I Miss My Friends Back Home
Today is my 26th day on admission. Mama Zara has just been told we have been discharged and we would be going back to Jajimaji. May be I’m the most happy girl on earth, may be I would once again stamp these happy feet on the ground without faltering. One thing still worries me: I ask myself if going back to Jajimaji means going back to eat starch and falling sick again? May be I really do not have to worry about that after all, Mama Zara has just collected many of those sweet paste. I truly wish they would never finish even if it would take Mama to keep coming back to collect more. I can’t wait to see all my friends in Jajimaji once again, I have missed them and wish to share my sweet paste with them all but only if Mama Zara would agree. I want all my friends and other children in our village to be very strong and healthy. I want us to no longer die of malnutrition. Tomorrow, I want to go to school; I want to become a minister tomorrow; and tomorrow, I want to provide for my people free foods and health care.