Blind Nigerian Doctor Chibueze Anugwom Married To A South African Recounts How He Lost His Sight

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Doctor Chibueze Anugwom

March 25, 2017 – Blind Nigerian Doctor Chibueze Anugwom Married To A South African Says He Would Have Died If He Married A Nigerian Woman

Doctor Chibueze Anugwom Recounts How He Lost His Sight

Laughing excitedly at intervals as the reporter engaged him in a chat last Thursday afternoon, you could feel the energy in his voice even from meters away. Blessed with an intelligence level that would leave many go green with envy, his liberal nature and positive outlook to life makes him an almost perfect blend. His fine built and height add even more colour to the entire ‘package’. But beneath the charming smile that has endeared him to dozens over the years is a wound that has simply refused to heal.

Born and raised in Benin, Edo State, the parents managing to get by, life, over the last 10 years, has been quite tough for Dr. Chibueze Anugwom, a native of Isiokpo in Ideato North Council Area of Imo State. Since he completely lost his vision in 2010, things have never been the same for the father of one popularly known as Buski by friends.

“I was not born blind,” the middle-aged medical practitioner said, as he shared his story with our correspondent from his base in Owerri, capital of Imo. “I had a normal childhood just like any other child in the places I was raised. I had so much fun playing football and running around. Even at such young age, I had the passion for helping people in the best ways I could. But then I never knew that it would come to a point in my life where everything would change suddenly,” he added.

Even though there was no history of visual impairment in his family and also no pre-warning sign of what was to befall him in the future, Anugwom’s journey took a different bend in 2003 when his sight started to get blurry. In his final year at the University of Calabar studying medicine at the time, the incident changed his life in no small measure.

“The sight became very problematic that I had to go in search of a solution in South Africa but after I was told it’s a degenerative condition that has no cure for now, I had to accept my fate and learn to live with the situation.

“I had to stay back over there for 10 years trying to gather the pieces of my life. It was in the process that I met and married my wife. By 2010, I couldn’t see anything at all again. That brought a new challenge as I couldn’t move on my own anymore,” he said.

The weeks and months that followed threw loads of new problems at the Imo native. Apart from losing friends, especially those he had helped and stood by in the past, adjusting to the reality before him was equally frightening. Anxiety, confusion and depression – it was an almost hopeless situation – a period when sun simply refused to shine again.

“I lost so many friends immediately my vision went blank,” Anugwom cut in, shock still rife in his voice. “Even though some of them came around initially to see me and make promises to me, I have never heard from them again since then.

“It is even more difficult for a person like me to deal with the situation having gone from an able-bodied person to being visually impaired. I cannot count how many times I thought about suicide. The depression I passed through was harsh but my knowledge as a doctor helped me in handling things,” he said.

But beyond his knowledge of medicine, the pains Anugwom has passed through since returning to Nigeria two years ago cannot be quantified. Besides dealing with the barriers created by the Nigerian environment, he has also had to contend with ridicule in several forms.

He told Saturday PUNCH that he has managed to forge ahead by the mercies of God and his resolve to never give up on his goals in life.

It is an experience that has tested the depth of the love and strength he shares with his wife, Jasline.

“On several occasions, people have indirectly abused my wife for standing by me. There was a day a lady at a shop I once went to buy something told me that she would never marry a blind man no matter how rich he was. It was quite demoralising but I just had to shake it off and move on.

“On another occasion, I went to follow up on a letter I dropped at the Imo State Ministry of Education and a lady told me to my face why I think I can help others when I have not helped myself. For me, visual impairment is not the end of the world; it is just an obstacle that I have to overcome in my quest for success. I pass through such depressing situations every day.

“Apart from that, it has been so difficult moving around here in Nigeria unlike in South Africa where there are infrastructure that support people living with physical disabilities.

“Also, nobody has been willing to employ a ‘blind’ doctor like me. Since I returned from SA, I and my family have been surviving through the mercies of God. We have been managing with the little resources we came back with two years ago. It has been very tough for us I must confess,” he said.

Besides the love and support of his wife which has kept him going over the last seven years since he completely lost his sight, the arrival of his daughter three years ago has been one of the biggest sources of strengths for the Imo native during this period. Even though the two of them share a special bond, Anugwom has and may never know how she looks like. He lives with the thought and feelings every day.

“Even though I have never seen what my daughter looks like, I can feel her in my soul, spirit and body. It is the energy I feel from bonding with her that in fact helps keep me going many times. If peradventure nature wishes, maybe I would set my eyes on her in my lifetime otherwise I really do not wish to regain my sight. I feel peace within me without my sight because I am on a mission. Perhaps if I regain my sight today, I may not be able to achieve that mission anymore,” he said.

Since returning to his fatherland two years ago and without a regular job to put food on the table, the medical practitioner, following the pains of losing his sight, has committed his life in helping young students to avoid what he has passed through by conducting free impairment detection tests.

“Even though I am visually impaired today, I let people, especially the young students I go to conduct these free tests for, that I am still not blind because of the power of education. I try my best to use my personal experiences to motivate and help them live quality life.

“The parents of many of these children who may be victims to all sorts of impairment in the future cannot afford the medical bills and that is why we are helping in the detection of visual and auditory conditions early enough to prevent tragedy.

“I am using my experience as someone, who could once see with his two eyes but has now gone through emotional and psychological stress as a result of losing his sight. It is my own little way of letting people know that no challenge can overcome you if you stay resolute to your mission in life.

“The best thing that has ever happened to me was to leave Nigeria at the time I went to South Africa. If I were married to a Nigerian woman, maybe by now, I would have been dead or hiding away in the village because of how people would have used my condition against me. I am happy with the path my life has taken because losing my sight has shown me what life truly is,” he said.

[Credit: Saturday Punch & Gibson Achonu]