I’ve been in pain since my wife, kids left – Cataract blinded diffuser, retinal bleeding
Josiah Nwankpa, a 56-year-old broadcaster from Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area in Abia State, who lost his sight to cataracts in 2021 and is battling retinal bleeding caused by diabetes, shares his ordeal with ALEXANDRE OKERE
How long have you been an animator?
I entered broadcasting in 1991 with Radio Nigeria; from then on it was Radio Nigeria 1 but now it’s FM choice. I was there when Bond FM has been created. I was a Pidgin English announcer and an Igbo presenter at that time. I worked with Radio Lagos. I went to OGBC 2 FM where I worked for over seven years. I was also a freelancer with radio stations. I worked with Star FM for three years, then I went back to Metro FM as an independent. I’ve featured programs like “Make We Talk Business” on Radio Nigeria and “Make us laugh little” on OGBC 2. Now I work with Daar Communications, owner of AIT, Raypower and Faaji Fm, where I am a presenter, presenter and producer. I present a family show, “Make We Talk with Josiah Nwankpa”. I also present news in Pidgin English.
Can you remember how you lost your sight?
I was sick for about a year and after the illness my vision deteriorated; the images appeared to be doubled. I thought it was due to the malaria and typhoid I had or the injection I had received. I thought my vision would improve, without knowing it was far from what I thought. I became curious and went to an eye clinic where I was told I had cataracts. I was referred to a Catholic eye hospital in Ago Iwoye. The doctors there did all they could, but finally said they couldn’t take it. They advised me to go to Ibadan University Hospital and specifically told me to meet a particular doctor. When I got there, I was referred to three private hospitals in Lagos and went to one of them, an Indian eye clinic. One of the doctors who examined me told me that I was bleeding from my eyes, that my retina was moving and that I also had a cataract. That’s how I found out I had cataracts. It was in 2021.
How did you feel when you realized it was so serious?
Oh, I felt bad. I thought about the things I had planned to do and I felt bad. The doctor said the solution was to have an operation.
When did you finally lose your sight?
I was going from one hospital to another when I found that I could no longer see; everything went white. Some of the eye drops were so peppery they left me unable to do anything for a day or two.
Did the doctor explain why you were bleeding in your eyes?
He said it was due to the pressure in my eyes from the diabetes I have.
Was it something you already knew?
I have diabetes. My mother was diabetic.
How has the condition affected your work?
I’m a news anchor but I can’t read news now. When the problem started, I felt bad because I knew it would affect my work. At one point, I had to memorize the news script, instead of reading the script. I used to use a flashlight to memorize the script. When I arrived at the studio, I kept making mistakes. It was difficult for me to tell my colleague that I had a problem. It was when the errors became unbearable that I had to tell the General Manager that I had a problem with my eyes and would need treatment. My condition kills my dream.
What did your MD tell you?
He told me to treat him as soon as possible.
Did you lose your job?
I’m still an employee but I haven’t been to the office. I last went to work about a year ago. I wasn’t fired because my employer expects me to come back.
Are you married with children?
Yes, I am married and have four children. I married a woman from Okene in Kogi State. I married an Igbira woman.
How do your wife and children experience your condition?
Hmm. It is a difficult situation. The woman hasn’t been stable since she found out I had a problem with my eyes.
Unstable in what way?
Not stable in the sense that I found out she feels bad about the situation. Sometimes the way she does things shows that she is frustrated and maybe she should give up on the marriage.
Is she still with you?
She’s not with me now.
Are you saying she left you?
Something like that. She lives with our children in Ibadan.
Did she tell you she was leaving?
I don’t know what to say because it’s difficult. I think she’s tired of marriage; she is frustrated.
Why do you think she’s frustrated?
I think it’s because of my eye problem and diabetes.
How did you find out that she left with your children?
She told one of my brothers that they were leaving.
Did she give him a reason?
She gave lame excuses.
Like arguing with me and not giving him a chance.
The chance to do what?
I do not know.
What was the last conversation you had with her before she left?
During our last conversation, she told me she wasn’t leaving, she just wanted to stay away for a while. She told me through messages she sent me.
Did you try to persuade her to stay?
I told her not to leave me because I still love her.
How did his departure affect you?
It’s painful. My brothers are not in Lagos where I live, so I still have the opportunity to learn how to do things on my own. I know the corners of my apartment well and have learned to do some things on my own, like lighting a gas cylinder, although I get hurt along the line. I also get help from some friends from the church I go to.
Did the doctor at the private clinic assure you that your sight would be restored after the operation?
That’s what the Indian doctor told me. He said I would be fine after the operation. I believe him because the doctors who referred me to him said that if the doctor said he couldn’t treat the problem, I should just go home and not lose my money.
How much will the treatment cost you?
I was told it would cost about 3 million naira and between 4 and 5 million naira if other expenses like expensive drugs were added. They said a lot of things needed to be done after the surgery.
Did you manage to raise the money?
It was very difficult. I spent what little money I had, going from hospital to hospital and taking tests and going from state to state. I went to different hospitals in Ogun, Akwa Ibom and Abia states.
How much have you spent so far?
I spent over N2m. An injection I get to manage the eyes costs N110,000.
Did you receive support from your family and friends?
Yes, I have received help, but not what I need to fundraise. I am appealing to members of the public to help raise funds for my eye surgery. I have suffered since the departure of my wife and my children. I don’t know how they measure the pain when I consider the emotions and the love I have for her and my children.
How old is your eldest son?
My eldest son is about 19 years old.
Who stayed with you when you were at the clinic?
When the problem started, my wife was there. I’m home now because I can’t afford to stay in the clinic and pay the bills.
Do your children contact you?
Yes, the younger ones call me.
Does your wife call you?
She only sends messages on WhatsApp but I can’t read them and I can’t tell someone to do it for me because they are private chats. I don’t want people in the neighborhood and at work to know she’s gone.
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