Ajibade Hannah, 23, who was hit by a car on her way to school, talks to ABDULLATEEF FOWEWE how her boyfriend and close ones left her when she needed them most and the challenges she is facing
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Ajibade Hannah and I am 23 years old. I hold a National Diploma certificate and I am from Ilaro, Ogun State. I belong to a family of four and I am the youngest. Before I had an accident, I was a student studying food technology at Ilaro Polytechnic.
Could you please provide details of the incident that occurred to you and explain how it unfolded?
The accident happened on July 12, 2022, during my time in Higher National Diploma at Ilaro Polytechnic. I was returning to school for the second semester when I arrived at the school environment. To reach my hostel, I decided to take a bike. It was at that moment that a car collided with me, causing me to fall off the bike and hit the ground. This startled everyone present at the scene, and nobody was willing to assist me initially. However, my friend eventually came to my aid and accompanied me to the hospital with the person who hit me. The people at the scene pressured him to ensure that I received medical attention, otherwise he would have ignored me and fled. I am unsure about what happened to the man afterwards. However, I was informed that individuals residing in that community had turned his car over to the police. Unfortunately, by that time, my leg was already displaced, and despite the pain, I had no other option but to endure it. The doctor administered an injection and falsely assured me that I would be able to return to school within a few days. However, two weeks later, I observed that my leg was producing dark blood, making it difficult to clean. Although I was unaware of its significance, during that time, I approached the person who hit me and told him what I was feeling, and he mentioned his intention to sell his car to assist with my medical expenses.
Subsequently, I discovered that he had not sold it, but had deceived me. Around September 11, when I noticed my leg had become severely discoloured, I pleaded with him to take me to a different hospital as the doctor seemed unresponsive. However, he claimed ignorance about any other hospitals and expressed concern about the expenses. Undeterred, I decided to go to an Orthopaedic Hospital in Igbobi, Lagos State.
What did they say when you got to Igbobi?
Unfortunately, when I arrived there late on September 12, 2022, I learned that they intended to amputate my leg. Surprisingly, I felt a sense of relief at that moment, as I realised they were offering a solution, oblivious to the fact that my leg would indeed be permanently lost, I felt horrible. However, I informed the man who collided with me that the doctor had mentioned wanting to sever my leg, and I explained to him that I understood that his decision to drive on the express road instead of the designated field was a mistake as a learner. Nevertheless, I underwent surgery and had my leg amputated months afterwards.
Did the man who collided with you contribute to the surgery?
After the amputation, I did not receive any form of communication from the man. It was at that point I reached out to him, accusing him of neglecting to visit me or assist with my medical expenses. In response, he dishonestly claimed to be unfamiliar with the location of Igbobi. As time went on, I underwent two additional surgeries to address a detected infection and an external fixator in my thighs. Consequently, my hospital stay was extended for over three months. Nevertheless, my friends were already in their second year at HND while I was stuck in the hospital. Despite feeling depressed, I couldn’t conceal my emotions and resorted to sharing everything on TikTok. My followers continued to encourage me not to give up on myself. There was even a time when someone asked about my occupation and I honestly replied that I solely create content on TikTok, hoping to find assistance through it.
Do you believe the car intentionally hit you?
I would have to say yes, as there was a pothole on the driver’s left-hand side; Instead of going into it, he purposely drove towards me, using my presence to halt the car. Initially, I believed he had good intentions in looking after me. However, soon after hearing that I was being taken to Igbobi for a leg amputation, he completely severed all ties with me. He made no effort to visit or call, and he refused to pay any of my bills as well.
What was his immediate response after the incident occurred?
I can’t accurately describe his reaction as I was in great pain, but what stood out was his reluctance to take me to the hospital right away. If it weren’t for the people who knocked on his car door and insisted that he take care of me, he might not have shown any concern. He seemed somewhat indifferent and took his time before attempting to carry me. However, I cannot speculate on his intentions as fear often clouds one’s judgment in such situations. Given that I did not know him or have any prior acquaintance, I cannot claim that it was intentional.
How is your physical condition after the accident and how is your recovery progressing?
When the accident happened, all I could think about was how my life was ruined when I saw my shattered bones on the floor. It felt like I could no longer lead a normal life or be with my friends, especially after having my leg amputated. I was worried about how I would be able to achieve success like my peers. In the current state of our country, it is quite difficult for individuals with disabilities to find employment or engage in various activities. It took me a long time, months, and even a year before I could start taking care of myself again due to depression. However, I do post content on TikTok, and my fans encourage me, reminding me that life isn’t over. Although I can’t say that my recovery stage is going exceptionally well yet, making myself happy has been a positive step. For now, I am striving to become a content creator and influencer, as it seems to be the only viable option considering my financial constraints. Unfortunately, my mother cannot support me financially to resume my education, and my father has died, unless I come across someone willing to sponsor me. Additionally, I have already spent a considerable amount of money on surgeries, which has put a strain on my family’s finances. Hence, my recovery process is not going as smoothly as I would like. However, I believe that with God, all things are possible.
What has been the most difficult aspect of dealing with a broken leg after the accident?
It is challenging for me to compare my previous abilities and aspirations with my current limitations. I feel excluded and sometimes experience periods of depression. However, I find motivation in sharing my feelings on TikTok, where my followers provide support. As a result of my mother’s high blood pressure, I hesitate to confide in her about my pain.
Did anyone humiliate you due to your condition?
Yes, I have faced humiliation from close individuals who have insulted me for my leg, even going so far as to label me as a half-human. Despite this, I still consider myself a strong woman. That is one of the reasons why I use the username ‘Sexy one leg’ on TikTok, to avoid unnecessary insults. Even if someone wanted to insult me, I have already insulted myself with my chosen username. However, some of my friends have also insulted me for begging for money online. But I am the kind of person who doesn’t let others’ words affect me. Although I may think about it personally, I don’t let insults from others bring me down.
Did you face any unexpected challenges?
Yes. There was a time when I had a bone-related issue where my bones weren’t joining together, which required another surgery. I felt ashamed to have to ask for money from people again after already having begged before.
Apart from TikTok, what other things prevent you from feeling depressed?
The only thing I do to bring myself happiness is to braid hair for others. After the accident, I didn’t want to feel worthless, so I decided to learn how to braid hair. Also, my friend, who works as a hairdresser, assisted me by sending videos of her hairstyles. However, I wished I could confide in my siblings about the pain I am experiencing but at times, I hesitated to burden them, I still tell them occasionally to ensure they understand that I am still in pain and haven’t fully recovered. Additionally, when people perceive you as strong, you feel obligated to act accordingly, even though there are moments when I feel completely devastated, like when I saw my classmate leaving school. Nevertheless, I had no choice but to pretend as if nothing had happened.
Are there any specific instances or memories from the accident that remain vivid in your mind?
Sometimes, when I am sleeping, I wake up and recall how the accident happened. It occurred at a time when I only had nine months left to complete my HND. This incident has instilled in me a fear of travelling or pursuing further education. However, seeing sponsors will motivate me to return to school, but it can be difficult for me to move forward when I remember that the accident happened while I was on my way back to school.
In terms of my daily routine and activities, the accident has had a significant impact. My family, who are already managing with very limited funds, had to spend all their money on my surgeries. Even that wasn’t enough, so we had to turn to others for help to purchase medication and food. It was embarrassing for me to have to ask for money online, and it continues to disrupt my daily routines.
Did you receive any support from your friends?
During this challenging time, my family has been a great support to me, even though we are not wealthy. They have provided immense support. Some friends eventually showed support as well, but it wasn’t until July 2023, when I needed to undergo another surgery because my injuries were not healing properly, that they provided a small amount of assistance.
Can you share any positive experiences or unexpected blessings that have arisen from this challenging situation?
When my leg was first amputated, I initially believed it marked the end of my life. However, through my consistent posts on TikTokk, I receive uplifting messages from my followers, encouraging me not to lose hope and to continue pursuing what brings me happiness. These words of encouragement have been incredibly motivating, helping me recognise that even in difficult circumstances, positive outcomes can still emerge.
Do you have any specific aspirations or milestones you have set during the rehabilitation period?
I have set various goals for myself in this year. Although financial constraints may pose a challenge, I have faith that things will work out for me with God’s guidance. I aspire to become someone whose stories captivate an audience’s interest, and I also dream of achieving fame as a content creator. Additionally, I have a personal ambition of establishing my hair salon this year, although I am unsure of how it will unfold. Nevertheless, I pray that it aligns with my plans and comes to fruition with God’s blessing.
How has this experience impacted your outlook on life and influenced your priorities?
I have come to believe that life’s challenges can arise unexpectedly for anyone, and it is important to not give up in such situations. We must strive to work hard, remain resilient, and seek strength through prayer, trusting that our efforts will eventually pay off. Additionally, I have realised that people may criticise and bring us down, but with determination and divine assistance, we can overcome obstacles and even witness those who doubted us coming to acknowledge their mistakes and celebrate our success. Moreover, this experience sparked my interest in hairstyling and guiding individuals with disabilities.
Has any of your friendships ended due to your condition?
Yes. Concerning my boyfriend, we were together for two and a half years. When I had the accident, he wasn’t in Ilaro but his friends were. He used to visit for a while, but then he started cheating on me, and ever since, we’ve been having problems.
When I was transferred to Igbobi, I informed him that my legs had been amputated. He claimed to have told his mom, but I noticed a change in his behaviour. He stopped calling and texting me, and it felt like I was forcing myself on him. Eventually, I grew tired of it. Many of my classmates also stopped coming to check on me. My boyfriend left me without even visiting me. I last saw him on September 12, 2022, which was the day I left Ilaro. It took time to get over the situation, along with the depression that came along with it. Going online and seeing people realise that the person I was dating was no longer with me, coupled with the fact that my leg had been amputated, was difficult. However, I am grateful to God for helping me overcome it.
In which way do you think Nigerians can help you?
Nigerians can really help me in the aspect of money; because all the things I want to do require money, I want to return to school and have my HND certificate, and I am planning to have my hairdressing saloon. Also, the place where we’re living is not conducive because my dad had died; it is only my mom who is providing for us. Nevertheless, I am still struggling to have a prosthetic, because my doctor even recommended it for us, so that it can also help my bone to join faster, but the absence of money restricted us from purchasing it.
What advice can you offer to individuals who may find themselves in a similar situation?
My only suggestion is to not let life’s challenges impact you negatively. Don’t allow your disability to determine who you will become or what you can achieve in life. With determination, you can accomplish anything. Additionally, when faced with such circumstances, it may be necessary to adjust your goals. It is not that you are incapable of achieving your initial aspirations, but rather, it is important to be practical and realistic considering the societal attitudes towards disabilities in our country, specifically Nigeria. Unfortunately, even if disabled individuals are fully capable, they may face prejudice in certain situations. I apologise for being blunt, but honesty dictates that if you are competing for a job with someone who has two legs and you have only one, the employer may favour the person with two legs based on the assumption that you are incapable.
( Interview culled from The Punch)