As the weekend draws to an end giving birth to a new week, the events of the passing week keep playing through my mind. In my minds eyes, I still see Mrs Ad as she sat in my office on Thursday.
She was sobbing as she talked. I tried to make her stop, but the more I tried, the more she sobbed. So I just held her hand and decided to let her, more like allowing her empty herself. Suddenly I realized that tears wear rolling down my eyes. I was crying too! I let the tears flow. For what seemed like forever, we both were crying with me holding onto her hand.
Briefly I let go of her hand, walked into the main room of the center, got paper napkins for us to wipe our faces. I must stop this crying, I told myself as I sat down. I need to be strong. But she was not done. She kept crying, telling me all that she has been and is still going through since her son, Ez was diagnosed of this “terrible illness”. As I tried to stop her and she wouldn’t, I decided to do something that always help to calm any mother that comes to me with tears over her “misfortune” of having a child with CP, particularly those that have other “well” children. I shared my story with her. The tears quickly stopped, the sobbing stopped. Good, let’s look at the issue and see what we can do. She did not even know that I have a child with CP and that is the reason I am running the center.
Ez just turned eight, you guessed right, he has cerebral palsy. Mummy Ez came on referral from Mrs Ak. who runs a home for people with epilepsy and mental impairment somewhere in the out sketch of Lagos. Ez’s CP is as a result of ill managed neonatal jaundice. I was slow at accepting Ez at the center because I was not sure the center will offer him much. At eight, I feel he is running late on the race of early intervention and I did not want to raise their hopes. Then the distance, they live somewhere after the trade fair complex, that is a considerable distance from here. One of the first questions mummy Ez asked was if we have a boarding facility even if it is for week days only. No, we do not have. I watched her countenance drop. I explained to her that for now, the center is not considering that, one of the things the center is set on doing is to encourage families to bring up their children with CP amongst their siblings and friends. Experience has shown that most of the children are abandoned in such facilities by their parents, even when they came professing not having such intentions.
I told her that we may not take up her son, one on account of age and secondly the distance, we are particular about attendance, she may not be able to keep up with daily attendance. Having said that, I immediately regretted it, how would I fee if Ziim is refused a service on account of her age, it’s like telling me that all hope is lost in helping her achieve anything no matter how small. I apologised for that but reiterated the need for daily attendance, it helps us to be sure that activities are done on the children daily as I know that most parents will not have time to do anything with the children at home. She assured me that she’ll bring in the child daily. I took time to explain to her what we do, we do not expect anything, but we have seen some progress on most if not all the children. I consulted with the physiotherapist, Mr. Dav. he agreed that we should take him on.
It’s been three weeks now and she has come every day. Thursday, Ziim did not wake early, I did not wake her, it was raining and I knew that many children will not come to center. I took my time getting to work. Only eight children were present, with Ziim making nine. Good, I can do some paper work I said to myself as I walked to my office. Mummy Ez is waiting to see you, I was informed.
I hope all is well Mummy Ez? Hm.. no problem ma, I wan talk to you. Ok..a..y.. Sit down.
In pidgin english, she told me that she heard all we discussed in the meeting, so she has brought her little contribution to the center. (we had a parents support meeting last week Friday and I prevailed on parents to try to support the center. Services are offered free, but they should see it as their responsibilities to see to the sustenance of the center). Ha.. thank you Mummy Ez very thoughtful of you.
Then she told me why she could only bring so little. Not to worry, I look at the thought. It was in the course of that she broke down. Before Ez, she had a big dressmaking shop with many apprentices. She was doing very well she said, but gradually, in taking Ez up and down, her business folded up. Now she is totally dependent on her husband, she said, “sebi you know how ebi if woman just dey wait for man to give am money for everything” (you know how it is for a woman to completely depend on a man for everything) To add a comic side to it, smiling I said, No .. me I know no, I no get husband now. She stopped. So how is it? I asked. Aunty, no be better life at all. To come to the center daily, she spends N1,000 on transportation. When she drops her son, she will not go back home, she finds some place and hangs around till the center closes at 4.p.m as going back home and coming back will mean double expense. There is also the problem of carrying Ez daily on her back, sometimes some conductors would not allow her and “this your pikin” in the bus. It happened that morning, making her stand for a long time under the rain. How long can she go on? Can the center run a week day boarding?
I do not have answer to that. Simply I held her hands and tried to pray. I told her to sit around and watch us work, lunch time she’ll help feed the children. She said she wanted to go buy something at Oshodi market.
Shortly after she left, the door bell went, I thought she forgot something. It was not her, it was a mother who had called earlier on the phone. She came in with her 6-year-old twin girls, one has CP!! They came all the way from Akute, around Iju. Our talk deserves a separate post. But it ended with her asking for the possibility of the center running a weekday boarding facility.
Tuesday, a parent came from out of town, from one of the oil rich states, can we take on his child, he’ll take him for holidays????? I am wondering; why cann’t the government do something with all the money they make from oil in that state??? That same Tuesday, a mum came from Isolo, her child is to resume on Monday, but for how long can she make the journey.
Having a child with a disability is a difficult assignment for any parent, it is a job that becomes even more difficult in the absence of services that might help your child make some improvement, no matter how little.
Sitting here waiting for the birth of another working week and welcoming yet a new month, I am wondering if the government can provide basic services for children living with disabilities in our society to make the job of parenting such children less difficult? I am making it a prayer, so please join me in this little prayer.