#TellYourConquerStory – Nwamaka Iduh

My name Nwamaka Godwin Iduh, i am Nigerian from delta state precisely. I am in my thirties, and I have a degree in Geography from the University of Lagos. I have work experience in the financial services sector, and I also have keen interest in the news media. For hubbies, I love to read, especially biographies, because I am curious about people lives, I love movies, fashion, dogs,I like to be driven, but hate driving in lagos.

I grew up as the only child, needless to say, that gave me a lot of time to myself. Sometime around my early teens say around twelve/thirteen, I began to notice a protruding, on the right side of my rib cage and that the left side of the hips stuck out more than the right side. At that age, I was really skinny, so seemed to me to be very prominent. This is a period in time where most girls become aware of their bodies and are pretty self-conscious, so this was a huge deal to me. After observing it for a while, I approached my mother, and told her I thought there was something wrong with me. Now, my mother and I are very close, infact I am almost like an extension of her, but she was pretty dismissive, like you are still growing, it will adjust itself. So I let it go. But after a couple of months of no change, I became very insistent, to the extent that we had to go see a doctor. At the hospital the doctor prescribed an x-ray, which we did the same day, and we were asked to return after a few days. On returning, the doctor had the x-ray with him, immediately he raised it up, it was obvious something was wrong. Long story short, we were referred to Igbobi specialist hospital.

With the assistance of my mother’s school mate, who was a nurse in igbobi, we were able to book and appointment at the hospital. This was my first experience in a general hospital and I was shocked by the enormous crowd. When we eventually saw the doctor, he was with a student doctor. I was asked to take off my top, and asked to bend forward, When I did, he asked the student doctor, have you ever seen anything like this before, to which the student replied no, and the doctor said, this is what we call “Scoliosis”. This was the first time I had heard of it, as well as my mother. From then on, began months long journeys to that hospital. I was told that my curve was not that pronounced to require the spinal fusion operation. However, I would require a cast, if not to correct it, but to prevent it from becoming more pronounced. We went there often, and in the process, I got to see so many different cases and that was the first time i became aware of how frail, the human body is and how things can change in peoples life, it was definitely my first real world experience.

I finally got my cast, around age fourteen/fifteen. I was told to wear it constantly, everywhere except when taking baths. I had no idea, how much it would affect me until I started wearing it to school. Let me tell you, those were some of the most difficult and self-conscious days of my schooling life. I tried to keep it a secret, but it was inevitable that someone would try to touch you or hug you, and you would end up having to come face to face with someone with a confused expression. I hated having to explain to people, because I felt like I would be laughed at or pitied. And even till today, the feeling I hate the most is that of being pitied.

After a while, I went to my parents and said, I can no longer wear my cast to school. My mother asked why, I said it made me feel self conscious and unhappy, my mother  understood but my father raised hell, he concluded that I was starting to notice boys that was why I no longer wanted to wear it. However, after a  long talk, my mother and I persuaded him to allow me wear it anywhere else but in school. And so I did, until I was eighteen years old. I didn’t have any bad experiences with the cast that I can recall after that, except maybe when the weather would be hot, and it would heat up and some of the marks it left on my body.  Infact,  i enjoyed wearing it as long as it would keep my back from getting worse. But I was glad to be rid of it once I turned eighteen, because then I was going to the university and I did not want  that baggage with me. The cast did not help to straighten it, but I believe it would have been worse without it.

As for living with scoliosis, like I said earlier I am in my thirties and you will find that as you get older, you face more challenges, just with day to day living in Nigeria, that you just have to keep pushing. It does not occupy a huge part of my life as it did in my teens, and I have been fortunate that I don’t experience any pain. I am hoping that it continues like that, but if anything changes, I will just have to deal with it as it comes.

Scoliosis is basically curvature of the spine into an S or C shape, which is abnormal as  it meant to be straight. The resultant effect could lead to back pain, squeezed organs etc. Unfortunately, the awareness of these disorder is very limited in Nigeria and this is where a support group such as this would be of assistance to patients and also in awareness creation. Healthcare provision for scoliosis patients suffers, just as the general health care system in Nigeria has suffered years of decay. Only one orthopaedic hospital exists and the facilities need upgrading, at least the last time I was there.

For anyone, living with scoliosis or just recently diagnosed with it, I would say, be strong. Scoliosis does not define you, in life, what does not kill you, makes you stronger. We live and we learn. Surround yourselves with few family and friends that build you up. And leave no room in your life for those that lower your self esteem. Join any scoliosis support group you can, it could help.

God has got you. Be happy. Cheers!

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