How I lost sight to malaria, ruptured my urethra in accident – Ondo graduate

Kareem Babatunde, a 30-year-old visually impaired graduate of Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo State, tells TOYOSI SANUSI how an accident that left him with a bulbar urethral stricture has changed his life

How did you become visually impaired?

I am Kareem Babatunde from Ondo State. I am a visually impaired person. I attended Owo High School, Owo, in Ondo state, before I proceeded to Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo. I graduated in 2016, and I am married with a child.

I was not born like this (blind). I lost my sight on July 19, 1998. It was caused by malaria. So, during that period other things happened after using the drugs and receiving treatment for malaria for seven days. Later, it resulted in me losing my sight. So, I lost my sight to malaria.

Did you receive any special training when you lost your sight?

After losing my sight in 1998 I received help on September 15, 2000, from someone who is also visually impaired like me. He came to my rescue and told my dad that there was a school for the blind in Owo, Ondo State. He said he graduated from the school. When my dad heard that, he said if a person with the same condition could attend the school then all hope was not lost for me as well. So, on September 17, I was enrolled at that school, Ondo State School for the Blind. When I got there, I mingled with my colleagues to learn braille – how to write in Braille, how to read in Braille, and the mobility skills with orientation skills.

Did you find it easy to get used to the school and its environment?

During my stay in school, I was a social person, even to the extent that I was one of the brilliant pupils as well. I held several positions like the head boy in Primary Six, and assistant senior boy in Primary Five. Meanwhile, when I was in Primary Three, I represented the Ondo State School for the Blind in a national competition on how to read and write in Braille in Lagos. My school came third. I’m a social person and that helped me up to the secondary school level. When I was in Junior Secondary School Three, I became the school librarian and in Senior Secondary School Two, I became the language boy in the school. Also, I became an assistant senior prefect in SS3. I’m a social person.

How did you thrive in the higher institution with your condition?

With my social life, when I got to the special college of education in Oyo State, I contested for the post of the director of handicap in the Education Students Association, which I won. I also contested for the position of the president of the Special School Association of Nigeria, but I lost the election. I also contested for the position of the president of the Association of Visual Impaired, College of Education Special, which I also won. I attended the Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo and I have a National Certificate in Education.

Did you get employed after graduating from the college of education?

When I graduated from the Federal College of Education Special in Oyo, I was unemployed but I refused to be dependent on anybody or to become a liability. I started gathering boys together in my area to teach them how to play football and that was how I became their coach in the community, though it didn’t earn me money. I just do it just to go out and mingle as a means of socialisation. I am unemployed.

How did you meet your wife?

Yes, I’m married with a child. I had my wedding on February 26, 2022, about a year before I had an accident. I met her when I was in school. She was kind to me and I saw her as the mother to my children and a wife who has a passion for building a home.

Is she also visually impaired?

Yes, my wife is also visually impaired like me but a low-vision type. The name of my wife is Mrs Roseline Babatunde. She is from Oka Akoko.

Did you have any fears about childbearing, considering that you are both visually impaired, before you decided to get married?

I had no fear. When I was about to have my child I had no fear. I believe that God is a great provider, so I have no fear. So, that was why I proceeded to have my wedding.

What type of accident were you involved in?

I had the accident on May 23, 2023, when I went for a follow-up of my employment letter. I had written to the State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, and the letter was treated immediately and sent to the Head of Service. The Head of Service treated it and sent it to the establishment training centre beside the governor’s office in Alagbaka, Akure. I went to check and when I got there, I was told to go to the establishment training board. So, I mounted a commercial motorcycle. The rider assisted me but didn’t know that there was a gully ahead of him. So, I fell into the gully that was filled with iron. I hit my buttocks on the culvert. I didn’t know that something bad had happened to me. I was rescued by four men. Immediately after I got rescued, I went to the board to check the letter of employment. I didn’t meet the director but I met the secretary who attended to me and checked the letter. She told me that the letter had passed their office to the circulation office. It was the secretary who saw that I was bleeding, so she helped me to get a motorcycle that took me back home. That was how it happened.

Was there any complications immediately after the accident or did you just go to the hospital directly when you got home ?

I had a friend who sold drugs and treated people, so I called him to just come and attend to me because I thought it was a minor thing. He came and checked, and saw that there was no physical injury but bleeding at the genital organ. So, he tried to stop the bleeding. At one point, it stopped, so I went to sleep. At about 4pm when I wanted to urinate, I realised that I couldn’t pass out urine. There was also intense pain and I started bleeding again. My wife and friends later took me to a hospital.

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Which hospital were you taken to?

I was taken to three hospitals and rejected. Later, I was taken to another hospital where I was admitted.

What was your experience at the hospital?

When I first got to the hospital, and the doctor saw me, he sent me to the Federal Medical Centre because it (the injury) wasn’t something he could handle. However, my situation could have worsened before my arrival at the FMC, so he called a surgeon from the centre who came and carried out the surgery. I stayed there for a few days.

How much did the surgery cost?

The first surgery cost N70,000 but after then I spent three days at the hospital, so the drugs and everything cost us N150,000.

What were you diagnosed with that led to the surgery?

What they called it was urethral rupture. A urinary catheter was attached to my bladder to pass urine and that was the first surgery they did just for me to pass urine.

How have you been adjusting to the changes?

It has not been easy. I feel pain every time; even passing urine through the pipe is excruciating. The pain increases every day. It has not been easy at all.

How has the incident affected your relationship with your wife?

It has affected it badly. I have not been able to make love to my wife. Everything seems frustrating. The erection is bad and painful. It’s just sad.

You said the surgery was temporary. Were you told about a permanent solution?

The temporary one has been done. The permanent solution now is the second surgery. The surgeon will have to remove the internal blockage caused by the blood then another surgery would be done to remove the tube from my bladder. According to the doctor who performed the surgery, the surgery has to be done within two to three  months and that timeline expired last month. The surgery must be done this month as soon as possible.

How much will the surgery cost?

The surgery will cost N1m. I was diagnosed with bulbar urethral stricture at the Federal Medical Centre, so the surgery I need to undergo is open urethroplasty.

What steps are you taking to get the money needed for the surgery?

My efforts so far are my appeal to Nigerians to assist me because we’ve tried to write letters to various agencies in the state and churches but nothing has been done. People are just saying nothing; even the state government said funding was tight because the state governor was not around. These are the efforts I have made so far.

How did you gather the money you used for the previous surgery and the drugs?

The money for the first surgery came from the church I attend. As for the drugs, it came from the Nigerian Association for the Blind. Some of the money came from my wife, her sisters, and her mother. The pain is too much. I have been taking a lot of drugs. I buy medicines worth N20,000 every five days. As of last week, I bought drugs worth N63,000, so it has not been easy.

What is the occupation of your wife?

My wife is a graduate. She used to sell items at home but since the incident occurred, she has not been selling because she exhausted all the money on my treatment. I’m appealing to Nigerians to help me with the money because there’s no help from anywhere. I have no one, and feeding is hard. Nigerians should please help me to get the money.

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