Deliver us from ignorance.
By Adaobi Oniwinde
I feel compelled to share the following profound experience in the hope that this experience will be shared and maybe even save a few lives–if not from death, from ignorance.
Friday, January 16th: Approximately 8:30 AM–Lagos, Nigeria
I’m running late to work because my 4 month old decides he wants to play and my nursing schedule gets thrown off. I call my trusted nanny whose sole job is taking care of Tobi to come and get him so I can leave for work. No answer. I call her again, no answer. In utter frustration, I make my way to my daughters’ room to look for her. No sign of her. I call her again and she answers in a muffled voice, “Ma I’m here.” Where? I ask. “In Kemi’s room,” she muffles, sounding drunk or high.
Furious now, I yell, “You are NOT in Kemi’s room. I AM!” I make my way downstairs with the baby and there she was. She had a deep, fleshy gash on her forehead, scratches on her arms, clinging to my Christmas tree reindeer (yes, my Christmas tree was still up in mid January!). More horrifying is that there was blood on my walls and vomit at the base of the stairs. My nanny was cold and staring at me extremely calm. She was oblivious to the fact that she was bleeding. I also notice that her movements were jerky, and she seemed confused.
Scared, I go back upstairs to put Tobi down and away from any potential drama! I immediately go back to attend to the nanny. By this time my second nanny has arrived at the bloody scene and screaming. She takes a look at the injured nanny and is yelling at her, asking her what she has done to herself. My injured nanny is still conscious but non-responsive. Then came the bombshell–this is a spiritual attack! My second nanny– I’m confusing myself with nanny 1 and nanny 2. This is not fiction–Bunmi and Kachi are their names. Kachi declares, hand on head, “Aunty this is spiritual attack!” My entire staff of drivers, gateman and nanny are scared at this point and have declared Bunmi a freak, possessed and evil using various names in local tongues I will not attempt to spell.
I take her outside and very calmly tell her that I am not angry, but am very afraid and need to know what happened to her. Again, very calmly, “nothing ma.” I ask her why she is bleeding. Her response? “Where ma?” I tell her to touch her forehead and look at her arms and all she says is “Nothing ma.” At this point I ask her if she understands what I’m asking her and she says yes. Progress–she can communicate. I tell her to go and take a bath and instruct Kachi to stay with her.
In the meantime, I am making frantic phone calls –to my sibblings, her family and doctors I knew. I see blood and a fleshy wound and I’m thinking–medical attention. I also call everyone I can on her phone and can’t reach anybody. I finally reach her brother and ask him if she is sick or has any illnesses I need to know about and if such a thing has occurred before. Of course the answer is, “No ma.” Luckily, I instruct her brother to inform the parents that something has happened and that I am taking Bunmi to the hospital…
Bunmi takes a shower and comes back to my view. Meanwhile paranoid drama is playing out on my compound. Ogbanje! Spiritual attack! She is possessed! Ekwe-nsu! Hew! Tufiakwa! And no one will go near her. I calmly try to reach her again and ask her if is she hungry, “No ma.” Are you hurt? “No ma.” Silly me–did you wound yourself? You dey fight with somebody? “No ma.” At this point I am crying and just want her away from my home. Then came my Eureka moment. In a whisper, she says, “I just know I fall down ma.”
In a second, it all came together. I remember a loud thud while I was nursing Tobi and I remember thinking, “Oh Gawwd! What have these jokers broken now?!” But I thought nothing of it. It all made sense to my educated non-spiritual attack believing self. I wanted to hug her! Bunmi fell face down about 10 steps and hit her head on a stone floor and passed out! The poor girl had a concussion and must have come out of it when I was yelling her name. I cried out of guilt. This poor girl was obviously in pain and confused and there she was being condemned by people standing over her. Everything made sense now. Like an investigator, I put all the evidence together–the cracked stone at the base of the stairs. The loud thump. The bloody finger marks on the walls that led to a guest bedroom. She had obviously been wandering in her confusion. The vomit. The muffled response that sounded like she had stuffed her mouth with food. The foaming around her mouth (to be explained later).
It all made sense and I felt so bad. My guilt turned to anger and then fear. Anger, that someone’s child lived in my house and could have died as a result of a lack of compassion from the same people who care for my children. Fear at our collective ignorance as a people and our instinct to always turn to the para-normal to explain what we don’t immediately understand. The girl had a concussion, people! There was no spiritual attack whatever the heck that means!
Half relieved, I call an unclce who runs a hospital. I brief him and he confirmed my theory. She had to get to a hospital right away for observation. Scans had to be done to rule out any internal bleeding or injuries as a result of the fall. Meanwhile, in my frantic search for an explanation, I had called everyone in her address book looking for parents. “Broda Femi “was the only one I could reach who understood English. He was later instructed by their mother to get her out of my house and bring her home. Fine with me. Thank you Lord, I didn’t have to tell her she couldn’t work here anymore–the fall was still not explained and I was just freaked out by the whole thing.
Bunmi comes out to a waiting car with bags packed. I tell her family she will leave quite alright, but not from my house–from a hospital after she had been seen and discharged to a family member. My Nigerian peeps understand this very well! Before they say….
Mind you, it is now about 11 and not a day in which working from home is an option. I have to send Bunmi to the hospital and I have to get Tobi to my sister’s as Kachi couldn’t handle 4 kids alone, plus school runs–the baby being in the car without me was not an option anyway! So one driver takes Bunmi to the hospital with strict instructions not to leave her until Broda Femi arrives and they call me to confirm.
I sit in the car finally en route to Freeman House and the mind games began. What if she had been carrying the baby? That player was soon banished from my thoughts (and I now understand how people use the mind to erase ugliness!) Then there was what if she died? What if I wasn’t there? What if she had been left to suffer or worse still the warriors against spiritual attacks caused her more harm? Or killed her.
There was no spiritual attack!
Finally get to work and settle in to work around 1 PM (NOT!). Told the story to a few colleagues, who jumped the gun with the “spiritual attack” theory! Educated people o! Then came the phone call from the hospital. She had to be admitted and observed for a minimun of 48 hours. Worse still, I had to put down a whopping deposit of N XX, XXX before she was seen. Two things were wrong with that–A) Can we respect life first? and B) I had never spent that much on medical for myself or my kids!!! So I call uncle. He explains that they need to do scans, tests, observe her for two days, the works! The good news was that I would ONLY have to pay the deposit and cost of drugs for the whole treatment! My head said, “you’re effing kidding me right?” But my mouth misunderstood the message and I heard my self say, “Thank you sooo much uncle.”
THEN, came the real shocker (did I say that already?). Bunmi has Epilepsy and had suffered two major seizures in the space of about 4 hours. The foaming of the mouth, the shaking (which thank God I didn’t witness). The collapsing and confusion after she came out of the fit! There was no spiritual attack!
Bunmi was discharged on Sunday night with strict instructions from the doctor, translated by Broda Femi, (she understood English, but this extra insurance) to take her drugs and that this is not a shameful thing. Turns out there’s even a word for the condition in Yoruba. The family of course denied any knowledge of such a thing or Bunmi having it. I could actually believe that ( I hear you all screaming “come on!!”) because in the three months she worked for me, it had never happened to the best of my knowledge. Its possible that she had a mild case (as my eight year old always says, “Bunmi is so clumsy!”) I’m willing to believe it was a mild case aggravated by the fall.
There was NO spiritual attack!
My nanny/aunty relationship with Bunmi ended on Sunday night after hanging up with her mother (and Broda Femi as translator). She’s a great kid–has genuine love for Tobi (less patience for the older ones, but they did like her and even begged to go to the hospital) but her job was solely the baby and I couldn’t keep her trusting she would never skip a pill or not carry the baby she had grown to love (I think!). Most importantly, I don’t want to ever have 3 nannies again (been there and no fun feeding my family of 6 and 3 women each of whom eats more than my husband and I put together!)
Monday morning en route to work and the “what if “games begin again. What if she had been carrying him when this thing happened–I actually completed the thought and this time there was no banishing the player. She wouldn’t leave. I cried and then called my sister and brother who admitted they thought it but couldn’t say it. Everyone had the same scary thought but wouldn’t even utter it, understandably.
There was NO spiritual attack. But there was an attack–a severe, brutal and potentially fatal attack. It was an Epilectic seizure. Not fatal for the most part, if controlled by medication. Yet this girl could have died. She could have been left there to bleed to death while everyone took cover from satan! Worse still, the warriors against spiritual attacks could have waged a just war and killed her to protect madam’s family!
How sad. How very sad. I now find myself praying that God not only deliver us from evil, but deliver us from ignorance.
Hmm maybe we should add that line to the Catholic “Prayer for Nigeria in Distress!”
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, with almost 90% of these people being in developing countries. Epilepsy is more likely to occur in young children, or people over the age of 65 years; however, it can occur at any time. As a consequence of brain surgery, epileptic seizures may occur in recovering patients.
Culled from wikipedia
“Epilepsy is usually controlled, but cannot be cured with medication, although surgery may be considered in difficult cases. However, over 30% of people with epilepsy do not have seizure control even with the best available medications. Not all epilepsy syndromes are lifelong – some forms are confined to particular stages of childhood. Epilepsy should not be understood as a single disorder, but rather as syndromic with vastly divergent symptoms but all involving episodic abnormal electrical activity in the brain.”