Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Bye, Fatima :)

Hello dear,
How’s it going?

I had a beautiful experience yesterday night, and thought I’d share with you.

My friend Azeezah (Zee) and I were on our way home from work, gisting about stuffs when we passed by this little lady on the floor. There was a bowl of money beside her, water and some medications. She looked darkened, like she’s been sun burnt for months, she was superbly thin and her hair was scanty, just mere strands, here and there. Her eyes were shut but you can see the pain in her face. She had some clothes on and had a wrapper small enough to cover just her legs. Like everyone passing by her at the bus stop, we looked at her with pity, dropped a few change in her green bowl, and walked away. After all, we didn’t know her. It’s Lagos, you have to be careful, they say.

You know that feeling where it’s easier to say something but the ‘doing it’ part is difficult, that’s how I felt last night (I’m being honest). It was so funny, I had just posted on ‘true me’ that we have to be heroes. ‘That someone somewhere needed saving and we might be perfect for the heroic job’. And now, here’s a lady who needed help and I was walking away :(

Zee and I stopped and decided to help her. We contacted some of the NGOs we knew but no one could come ‘cos it was late. And then we started asking people around how she got there and someone said she’s been lying there for 2 days, that she was naked at first and then a nice person clothed her and some other kind hearts dropped the medications as well as water for her, though it looked untouched, ‘cos she was too weak to take them. The person also said that we can talk to her but he suspects that she had HIV ‘cos of the way she looks and that probably her husband dumped her there ‘cos of her illness. Apparently, she lives elsewhere; someone left her at the spot where we found her.

Well, we decided to take her to the hospital but the people we spoke to advised us to go with a policeman in order to avoid unnecessary attention. Fortunately, we saw a police man hassling an ‘Okada’ rider some minutes earlier, around there, so we walked to him and asked him if anything could be done about her and he said ‘Ah!! She’s just a beggar, leave her there.’ (Sighs)...

But we couldn't  so we walked to her and woke her gently. Her eyes. Her eyes were really white and she was crying. Zee started talking to her in Yoruba, and she said her name was Fatima and she wants to go home.
 We had to walk to a police station and they said that we don’t need a police report to take her to the hospital, but if she dies in the hospital, we would be contacted and questioned since it’s assumed that she was in our care.
We decided to leave her there, at the bus stop and return tomorrow with any of the charity organisations. We bought her a blanket and fruit and energy drink. Fortunately, a man walked to us and offered to help. He started taking to Fatima in her language and in tears she said she wanted to leave. She said that at night, the ‘touts’ around her steal from her, and they move her from place to place, using her as a muse for their pity party and get rich scheme. The crowd around did not help. Everyone was just staring and shaking their heads.

At that point, we decided to take her to the hospital and thankfully, our new found hero accompanied us. We got to the emergency ward in LUTH but was met with the news that they were on strike. We asked to speak to someone and finally we saw a nurse. We begged and begged, even suggesting that they let Fatima sleep on the floor, till the NGO come tomorrow but they refused. The doctors and nurses were laughing and talking, no one had the courtesy to even check on her.

It was late. Zee called her family to tell them the situation we were in and they were mad. I could not even tell my family. It was a crazy night. Fatima was seated in between us in the tricycle, the man helping us and the driver were in front and then Fatima started coughing. She coughed so hard and was trying to bend over. She said she wanted to sleep. The man in front kept talking to her. I was giving her some energy drink while Azeezah was comforting her. Everyone was scared; what if she dies, what would we do?

Since the hospital didn’t want her and we could not take her home, we decided to leave her at the stop and then come for her tomorrow, praying that she would still be there. She was in so much pain. She could not even walk. We carried her out of the tricycle, by then, a large crowd had gathered around us again, asking what happened at the clinic, and it was like in the movie, the way they raised their hands over their head when we said ‘the hospital is on strike’. And then, they suggested that we should go elsewhere or call the emergency number. It was really late and our families were worried. And we wondered why the person who suggested going to another hospital could not take Fatima there herself?

We prayed that she would be there the next day and then we can find help.
This morning, on my way to work, I was so happy that she was there, sleeping, her blanket covering her up, though, still sad that her bowl of money, drinks and all were gone. I called the NGO again and they promised to be there. When I got to work, my colleague gave me the Lag emergency number, 767, and immediately, we told them about her.

Glad to tell you that Fatima is in a hospital now. I got the number of one of the people we talked to yesterday and I've been calling him to make sure the ambulance shows up and he called me as soon as they came, though, he’s not so sure of the hospital they've taken her to.

Azeezah and I don’t know if we will ever see her again. We hope to see her though (trying to see if the emergency guys can help us with that), but we are glad she’s receiving proper treatment. I don’t know her story so well, like, why she left home, but I hope she smiles again and finds her family too.
Bye, Fatima. Be strong wherever you are.

I learnt a lot from yesterday:
Being a hero isn't easy. You have to be ready for a lot of judgmental talk and I understand that in a way the judgments are true, because like someone said ‘If she had died, no one would understand that you wanted to help, you would be pinned with murder’. Someone even called us ‘Stupid people’. But still, I choose to think positive. Help because you want to. Just help someone in need.

Don’t judge. Don’t discriminate. I couldn't take a picture of Fatima, but the only way, I could describe her is that she looked like ‘Gollum in Lords of the rings’. It was scary. Her eyes. God. But again, do we help people by the way they look? Do we show love all the time? So what if she’s contracted HIV, can’t she be cared for? The 3 hours we spent trying to help Fatima changed my perspective on certain things.

Surround yourself with selfless people. My respect for Azeezah and that ‘Unknown hero’ skyrocketed yesterday. Not many people would have done what they did.

Appreciate what you have. Are you healthy? Do you have water and food? Can you feed and clean yourself? Do you have a bed? Can you find a reason to smile now? Are you secured at night? Thinking about Fatima’s situation and what’s happening in the Philippines (the typhoon situation) has made me a different person. While brushing last night, for the first time, I was glad that I had hands, water, a home and even a paste.

And those doctors. One questions, what business does medical practioners have with strike? L

In Nigeria, I know it’s difficult to help. Some stories have made us scared of helping people. But, please, help if you can. Money isn't everything. The money you give to people like Fatima might be aiding someone’s bad habits. People like Fatima are helpless and some wicked people are using them for their selfish ends. Please, if you can, call for help. Pray for them. Care for them.

Wish I’d see the new Fatima again. Till then, thank you Fatima. Bye for now.

(Sorry for the long post, just had to share the story with you)...Hope you are inspired to help. It’s not easy sometimes but it’s worth it. My heart is full of joy. :D

Thanks so much for reading...Hugs!!!