By Job Osazuwa
His story is a pathetic one. It is a sad tale that evokes gloom and courage at the same time.
Jude Ikegwuonu, a broadcaster, is the man at the centre of it all. He has been confined to a wheelchair for four years after he was involved in a car crash that nearly cost his life.
When the reporter visited him recently at his Flat 3, Block 477, Amuwo-Odofin Estate, Mile 2, Lagos, he lay on his neat special bed. He was surrounded by many drugs, which he has been using to sustain his life. There were other medical aids and equipment that have been his companion and lifeline.
It was clear at first sight that all was not well with him. His upper and lower limbs looked dead. The last time his legs and arms were put to their natural use might have been four years ago, shortly before the accident occurred.
Recalling the little he could before he went into coma that fateful July 1, 2013, he let out a heavy sigh and paused for a moment. He was obviously resisting the flashback; then he continued in an unstable and discordant tone.
Remembering how a herd of cattle appeared from nowhere and took over the main road on which he was travelling was like he was stepping on an open wound. It devastated him.
“On that fateful day, l was travelling from Abuja to Minna, Niger State.
“I left Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, for Abuja by air to connect to Minna by road since there was no direct flight from Port-Harcourt to Minna.
“At Lambata, just after Suleja, we saw some Fulani herdsmen with over 100 cattle by the roadside. Then, suddenly, we saw a single cow in the middle of the road. Our driver tried to dodge it but lost control and the vehicle somersaulted. I can only recollect the second somersaulting before l passed out,” he said.
Four years down the road, he remains incapacitated, although his mental alertness remains sharp. One thing he now yearns earnestly for is to walk again. He is optimistic that this would happen sometime soon.
Ikegwuonu had worked at Channels TV, Superscreen, NN24 TV and Nigeria Info Radio. He said that the victims of the accident were lucky to have been rescued on time but couldn’t tell if they got prompt and quality treatment at the government hospital where they were rushed to.
He said that the Lambata Medical Centre, a government hospital, where the victims were taken, was a mere empty clinic. The few nurses there were helpless and couldn’t do anything to even stop his bleeding.
“When my relatives wanted to take me to a better hospital, there was no ambulance or any other vehicle to do so. They didn’t even have power supply. They were using the torch on their phones for illumination.”
He recalled that he was abandoned on the floor bleeding profusely. It took some hours before his relatives got a vehicle to take him to Maitama General Hospital, Abuja. He said some doctors later revealed to him that if he had been given prompt treatment, the harm done to him by the crash could have been less.
The Maitama hospital, where he was taken, didn’t help much. He said that the hospital admitted that his case was beyond what it could handle. And the search for a better hospital to handle his treatment continued till the following morning, while he remained unconscious.
According to the former broadcaster, an Indian hospital in Abuja, where he was taken, had no doctor, as the only surgeon there was out of the country. From there, he landed at the fourth private hospital.
He remains grateful to the hospital for performing the first surgery on him, though not without a deposit of N1.8 million, which was paid before he was brought in.
While battling for life, he said he was placed on the oxygen for one month when he couldn’t breathe on his own.
From Abuja to LUTH
From Abuja, Ikegwuonu was brought to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). He told the reporter that he spent over N5 million during his month-long stay at the Abuja hospital.
He was later flown to Lagos, where he spent another one month at LUTH. He said he felt he was going to die at some point due to the excruciating pain he was going through.
“After the surgery, it was difficult for me to believe that l couldn’t walk again. It was like a dream. But I thank my family members for being there for me.”
Shoots inspirational videos from sickbed
Ikegwuonu told the reporter: “I told God that I needed to positively touch people with my condition. I’m reaching out to whoever feels that their situation is unbearable. I have learnt to live beyond the pain that I’m passing through.
“Once you search for the ‘quadriplegic broadcaster’ on the Internet, you will see my inspirational videos. I want people to realise that no condition can actually make one completely useless. God has been using the videos to save lives, especially one young man who wanted to commit suicide over a debt of N25 million,” he said.
Last month, he invited friends and family to a thanksgiving Mass, where he shed tears of joy for being able to attend church for the first time in four years.
Ikegwuonu explained that he wanted to reach out to a wider audience but he needed N25 million to acquire a wheelchair, mobile ramp and a wheelchair van, while waiting on God to heal him.
He could be assisted through donations to FCMB account number 4243090018, in favour of Jude Ikegwuonu; phone number, 08033710933.