Living with Epilepsy: My Journey So Far

By Zunzika Thole-Okpo

Martina was a young and healthy girl at a boarding school outside of Abuja when it happened. She was showering and the next thing she remembers is waking up at the hospital, confused, multiple wounds, her mother crying while the dad consoled her. 

She asked her mother what was wrong. It was then that her mother told her that the school administration called to tell them that their daughter had fallen in the bathroom and was badly injured. They went further to tell her that one of her friends said she just fell and started shaking. Needless to say, Martina was terrified. The hospital said save from treating her wounds, the only other thing they could treat her for was malaria and typhoid and nothing else. Martina was treated but that did not change anything.

Armed with this information, the parents set out in search of answers and took their daughter home. The convulsions continued, they took her to church where she was prayed for but the ‘demons’ refused to let her go. She was a member of the choir and was asked to step down but she refused. One Sunday, as she was singing, she had another seizure. That did not deter her from singing though or participating in church activities. She went to help to prepare for an event at church. She was frying chicken when she had another attack and three of her right fingers were in the frying pan as well. She sustained burns but as soon as they healed, she was back to helping. One day, she was riding on a bike when she had another seizure which threw her off the bike and once more, she sustained visible injuries on her knees.

Undeterred, the parents continued to search for answers. In a bid to find more means of healing, her parents decided to search for answers traditionally. The first traditional healer they met gave her some concoctions but she still had violent seizures. After several months, the traditional healer confessed that the illness was too strong for him to cure. He claimed his ancestors told him the illness was beyond his power and so he let Martina go.

Her parents decided to take her to yet another traditional healer. He was well known and had ‘cured’ a number of ailments. His approach was even weirder. He asked Martina to take off her clothes. She asked him why. He said that the only way to cure her was by sleeping with her and transferring his ‘energy’ into her. Martina was torn. The traditional healer approached her as though to help her with her clothes and she screamed. The parents, thinking the traditional healer was doing his job, sat outside and did nothing until they saw their daughter running out of the shack half clothed. This episode ended their seeking for help with traditional healers but not before the traditional healer told them what caused the illness in the first place. He said someone from her past, a man, cursed her because she refused to sleep with him. Martina recalls no such incident.

Having epilepsy has stopped her from pursuing her education. She says being on medication helps a lot and she can go months without having seizures. Sometimes she gets tired and stops taking the medicine; that is when she has the seizures. The doctor she saw advised her to keep taking the medication and to start school if she wants. However, she stated that some people are afraid of her but she doesn’t blame them as people are often scared of what they do not understand. She is passionate about her situation and hopes people will eventually learn to accept and understand epilepsy.

Martina, the newly appointed secretary of the just formed Self Help Group busy taking notes of the meeting.

Martina, the newly appointed secretary of the just formed Self Help Group busy taking notes of the meeting.

Martina’s determination could be seen in the way she immediately took up the responsibility of secretary at the Self Help Groups formation that took place in Mpape, on Wednesday, August 31st. She further promised to stick her medication strictly and thanked the Foundation, a BasicNeeds franchisee, for reaching out to the community.