One afternoon in 2003, Benedicta Ogbonna was reading a novel when she lost sight in her right eye after scratching it slightly. In a bid to prevent the second eye from being affected, she lost her sight completely to an Ophthalmologist during an operation. Festus Iyorah in this series tells her wrenching, but ultimately, inspiring story.
Ensconced in a wooden lecture theatre seat, Benedicta Ogbonna pays rapt attention to the lecturer, thrusting her tape recorder in the air, in a bid to capture the information needed for her first semester examination.
It’s a revision class at the final year classroom of Public Administration and Local Government (PALG) department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the topic of revision was hinged on Nigeria’s foreign Policy since 1960.
“Nigeria’s foreign policy is Africa,” the dark skinned lecturer declared in a loud voice that reverberates through the sun-lit lecture room.
With exams due to hold in a couple of week, Benedicta was still paying attention. Her recorder, this time, was positioned on the wooden lecture table before her—keeping details she would listen to during her own personal revision time.
“I was reading a novel when my eyes started scratching me,” Benedicta says, recollecting how she lost her sight. “So I say let me scratch my eye. Immediately I open one to scratch the other one, I couldn’t see anything at all,” she said, her face contorting at the memory.
In medical terms, Dr Modupe Idris, an Ophthalmologist consultant at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) said this is impossible but there’s a chance that she lost the eye to Glaucoma, which she say “does not cause pain or discomfort, it creeps in to damage the nerve fibres and the damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible.”
The second eye was not damaged until 2007 when she underwent a surgery. Benedicta said she was advised to go for a corrective surgery to prevent the second eye from being contaminated with what Dr Modupe idris calls “Sympathetic Ophthalmitis”
Dr Idris, an Ophthalmologist consultant at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) said
“If one eye is bad due to trauma and some part of it are exposed, the other good eye is set to be sympathizing with the bad eye. The good eye can become inflamed—which can be severe as well.”
“So what we do in such cases is to remove the bad eye (through operation) so that “Sympathetic Ophthalmitis” will not happen to the good eye.”
In order to avoid “Sympathetic Ophthalmitis” Benedicta underwent a surgery.
It was not successful.
When Ogbonna lost her sight completely 10 years ago she said some of her friends and family members thought she’d never return to school again.
They were all wrong.
Ogbonna enrolled for Special School for the Blind, Umuahia in Abia state. At the school, she learnt how to use the typewriter and how to read with her hands. After mastering the art of writing and reading as a visually impaired student, she headed for senior secondary school where she learnt how to bake pastries and confectioneries during Food and Nutrition classes.
Despite her willingness to learn, Ogbonna told Ynaija how her friends tried to discourage her due to her predicament. They’d always launch a long tirade of baking-is-not-meant-for-blind people.
She didn’t give in.
“I know I don’t have eyes, but every other part of my body is working, I insist that this (baking) is what I want to do,” she’d always respond to her critics discouragements.
“So I joined them (food and nutrition practical classes). Whenever they are doing their practical I will be there monitoring what they are doing,” she added that she would return home to practice what she learnt in school.
“When I notice I can do this (bake) I just pick it up.”
Benedicta says that was the light bulb moment—she decided to learn how to bake instead of trolling the streets to beg for money to settle small expenses in school.
Brave Women is YNaija.com’s citizenship series for the month of March. Find more stories in the series here.