If you live in Nigeria, you’re probably aware that our country is one where minorities are either misunderstood, and/or explicitly discriminated against. Because of this, BellaNaija presents Living Your Difference, where sexual, gender and physical minorities tell their stories about living and surviving as Nigerians in Nigeria.
We’re hoping, with this series, that Nigerians see that there are several ways to be human, and that no matter how different we may be, we all feel the same emotions on the inside.
Vivian is a Nigerian living with disability. After a fatal accident that almost claimed her life, Vivian had to embrace her difference. Vivian’s story is one of inspiration, strength and determination.
Who is Vivian Emuophe?
I am a wife, mother and entrepreneur. I am 39 years. I have a strong, positive and beautiful personality. I am vivacious, a happy person and always love to see people happy. I consider myself selfless – when there is a need to fulfill, I go out of my way to make the provision because I believe I can always get by.
I am hardworking. Sometimes I work too hard and too long. I think I am a workaholic – this is a weakness I probably need to put in check.
I am a good listener, I love to listen to people especially when they need someone to talk to, to change their mood positively and uplift their spirit. I have the God-given ability to counsel and talk someone out of sorrow.
I did my elementary education at Army Children School, Warri. I did my first year of junior secondary school in my village and two years of junior secondary school at Ogbe Secondary School and my senior secondary in St. Alfred High school all in Warri. I then proceeded to Delta State University, Abraka, where I obtained a degree in Physics Education.
Vivian’s childhood was filled with glorious memories
I am the first of 5 children. I did not quite live with my parents, I stayed with a couple of family friends and extended family members. In retrospect, some of the families I lived with were verbally abusive, but those experiences made me resolve, even at a young age, to do all that I could to be successful.
I also have beautiful memories. Perhaps the sweetest part of my growing up was when I traveled to the village with my Dad to visit my grandparents. I opted to stay back in the village while my Dad returned to Warri where we lived.
My maternal grandparents, my uncle and aunties were very nice to me; they showered me with so much love and affection. I was special to my maternal grandpa, he nicknamed me ‘Nwachi’, meaning ‘God’s child’. I felt so much love from my maternal home. That experience enhanced my self-confidence and self-esteem.
I learned a lot from living in the village: fetching water from the stream, going to the farm, processing farm produce, making brooms, fetching ropes and so on.
But my most valued experience would be entrepreneurial experience. I learned to do business in that period of time I spent in the village. I would go out early to the bush before school to pick palm fruits, cherry etc. which I took to the market to sell and I would buy groundnuts, biscuits, sweets etc. with the proceeds to sell at home.
My experience in the village contributed a lot to being who I am today.
Although Vivian lived with her grandparents, her relationship with her immediate family has been awesome!
I am my parent’s first child and first daughter, I love my parents dearly and they love me too, I have a close relationship with my parents. I am a daddy’s girl. The time I spent at home with my parents and siblings were quite memorable. We shared our evenings as a family, we had dinner together and there was always something funny to laugh about. School was also fun, I had my circle of friends, I was sociable, I still am. I and some of my secondary school friends are still in touch.
Not different. Unique!
I do not think I am different; I am just like everyone else capable of emotions, with abilities and talents, capable of achieving and not less a person than anyone else. I am just a person living with disability.
I am, however, a unique person with the courage to accept me for who I now am. I am intentional about living life to fullest and using my life and experience to inspire others who may be in similar situation.
The journey to being ‘different’
On the 22nd of June 2008, my husband, I and some friends all went out for a drink. After the outing, while we were saying goodbyes, a drunken driver ran my husband and I over. I was eight months and two weeks pregnant.
While I was being rescued from the accident scene, I discovered that my right leg below the knee was broken, almost severed and dangling, only attached to the rest of my leg by some muscle tissues. My husband and I were rushed to the hospital that night but we were not given any major treatment, so by the next morning, we were referred to Igbobi. My husband was accepted and I was further referred to LUTH, because of my pregnancy.
I arrived at LUTH about past 9 am and was not taken into theater till midnight. 13 hours after I got to Igbobi and 28 hours after the accident.
At Igbobi, I was told my case was no longer an emergency. I was practically left to die, each department kept rejecting me until my ‘Daddy’ in Church intervened by making series of calls. He eventually got the medical director of LUTH sometime in the evening. Only then did they start attending to me. Eventually,my surgery was done early hours of 24th August, by which time the baby had died and gangrene had set in for my leg.
The safest thing to do was to do above-the-knee amputation.
Dealing with this discovery with faith
Before I was wheeled into the theater, one of my mummies in church who retired from LUTH as matron, who also had been there all day, was asked to tell me about the proposed amputation. She told me that there was a strong likelihood that my leg would be amputated. The only question I asked her was if I would be alive after my leg had been cut off. She answered in affirmation, I then gave my consent. I could see the relief on her because she was really afraid to come and break the news to me.
So I woke up on the 24th of June – a day to my birthday – without my baby and my limb, I went through two major surgeries, the amputation of my leg and a C-section for the baby.
When I woke up, I saw my mom and my sister-in-law crying, I raised my leg and found out that my limb had gone. Before I went in for the surgery, I also knew that my baby’s heartbeat had stopped. I told my mom to stop crying that I was not dead, that I was alive, and I thanked God for giving me a second chance to live.
My husband was receiving treatment at Igbobi. His left ankle and his right tibia were fractured. We both stayed in the hospital for eight weeks before we were discharged. In fact, we were discharged the same day. It was a very traumatic time for us, but we accepted our situation and kept our faith in God. We know He has a reason why he kept us alive and that purpose must be fulfilled.
Vivian’s kids understand mummy’s ‘Special Challenge’
Oh yes, I have two gorgeous sons: Ruro and Marho, I call them my bundle of blessings. They are the most beautiful thing that has happened to me.
Though they are still young, my boys are aware of ‘my special challenge’, like I call it. I have told them the story times without number, and they have asked lots of questions to which I have given answers. My boys are very affectionate and sensitive to my challenge.
Through determination, Vivian is living with her difference
Because I accepted my present condition quickly, it has been a little easier to adjust to my normal life activity.
I had to learn how to walk again, I also learned how to drive again with my left leg. I was a teacher before the accident but after I recovered, I went back to teaching for a while but eventually resigned and settled for a business so I can manage my time.
I am a very determined person. My strong determination to make good use of my ‘second chance’ challenges me daily to get the best in everything I do. My husband has been very supportive and my children have been amazing, they are always ready to support in the little way they can.
There is absolutely no shame in being ‘different’
Everyone that knows me, know that I’m an amputee. If you don’t see it, I will let you know. I don’t hide it at all. I tell my story to inspire people and tell you what, a lot of people have been inspired by hearing my story and seeing my life activity. I strongly believe that having an amputation is not an excuse to be lazy, plus I’m a very strong person both physically and emotionally.
Vivian is inspiring people through her disability
I will say that most people I know do not react negatively to my disability, rather, they feel inspired. I believe it’s just the way I carry myself. I do a lot of work due to the nature of my business, I strongly believe that my amputation should not be a setback.
Finding love and compassion in the midst of it all
People don’t always notice my amputation but on this particular day, I entered a tricycle in my neighborhood, the rider waited patiently for me to sit – unlike the other ones that would not let me sit before they zoom off. After I sat, he greeted me nicely with a smile. I was wondering if I knew him somewhere but he said he does not know me. When I got to my destination, he asked me if I was going to cross to the other side of the road, he took permission from other passengers and patiently took me to the other side of the road with a smile on his face. I was amazed. I’m not sure if I have ever been treated like that by any driver, it meant a lot to me, and may God bless him wherever he is.
On the flip side…
People often think that people living with disability do not deserve to have some certain things in life and I wonder why it’s like that. When I was pregnant for my second son, a friend of mine said to another friend: “can you imagine, Israel is still sleeping with that girl to impregnate her in her present condition”. It was very surprising to me and, at the same time, very funny. It also shows how much ignorance there is in society about people living with disabilities (PWDs)
Vivian’s difference is an ‘opportunity’ to educate and inspire other people
People who are ignorant need to be aware of what it means to have an amputation, or any other form of disability. Many people think what PWDs need is sympathy, but it’s far from that. What we need is a society that recognizes that we are not less human because we have disabilities. We don’t lose our emotions, sexuality, potential, productivity and functionality because we have disabilities.
PWDs just need to be reasonably accommodated and supported so they can become fully functional again. I tell my story with the intention to make these points and also to inspire people. I have inspired able-bodied people to work hard at their business, to be able to confront the fear of driving. Many more have experienced some level of joy and comfort at very challenging times because they heard my story.
Vivian is confronting her difference head-on
I really don’t think there is a ‘best part’ of living with a disability. Giving a choice, I would have my leg back right now. Having said that, I do not let my disability become a setback for me in any way. I confront it with all the resources at my disposal and take good shots at my goals.
Unstoppable, unhindered, unlimited…
I do not let my disability define who I am or how I live your life.
I am unstoppable, unhindered, unlimited.
We are absolutely inspired by Vivian’s story and the strength and determination with which she has navigated through her journey. We are very grateful to Vivian for taking time to talk to BellaNaija on this series. BNers, stay tuned to this series because we have many more inspiring features for you. You can join the conversation on social media with #BNLivingYourDifference. We welcome your suggestions and feedback on the series, so send us an email: submissions(at)bellanaija(dot)com.