look of Benita Okereke has not made her warm disposition grow cold and
hard. Rather she remains optimistic that God would still open her file
which has been lying on His celestial table since December 2015.
in Obulor Ihetu village, Ishiagu
of Ebonyi State, while many people were bubbling, cleaning their homes
in readiness for the Christmas and New Year celebrations, the joy
associated with the yuletide eluded the family home of Mrs Celina
Okereke. Rather, on that day, sorrow was planted instead as her
22-year-old daughter, Benita, suffered ill-fate as she was preparing
stew. At that most inauspicious moment, she had an epileptic seizure and
slumped into the fire, unconscious. She was in the fire for close to 20
minutes. By the time somebody noticed what had happened and came to her
aid, she had practically roasted in the red-hot flames.
that little children who were at the scene watched her burn without
raising the alarm until some good spirits ministered to her mother that
something might be wrong in the kitchen. Expectedly, the weird
experience spread shockwaves throughout the community.
flesh of the affected parts of the neck, face and upper shoulder
‘joined together’ as a result of tissue adhesion, thereby producing the
pathetic look she has today. Yet, there is hope that she can regain some
visual appeal if help can come to her today.
recalling that she went to the kitchen about 4pm on that fateful day to
prepare some stew she uses to sell a local food item called agidi, made
from partly fermented, boiled and hardened corn starch, wrapped with
special green leaves. According to her, her mother had retired from the
business as a result of old age. And with that being their only source
of livelihood, she took up the business so that the family could, at
From the proceeds of the business, the family was able to foot some
bills and probably cleared debts owed in the past. But on that fateful
day, the weird incident occurred.
while she was standing by the fireside, waiting for the stew to properly
cook, she lost consciousness and slumped into it. For about 20 minutes
or so, she lay in the fire burning and roasting unconscious of what was
happening to her. Given the gravity of the burns, a side of her face and
other parts of her body were disfigured. The once beautiful Benita is
today, a shadow of herself.
agidi the next day. The stew was almost done when I suddenly lost
consciousness and didn’t know when I fell into the fire.
rescue. Little children who were around did not raise the alarm or do
anything; they were just moping at me. My mother who was inside the
house decided to come to the kitchen to know how I was preparing the
stew. She was shocked to see me inside the fire.
rushed and carried water and poured on my body. It was at that point
that I regained consciousness and realized that I fell into fire.”
and appropriate medical attention. She revealed that she was subjected
to traditional medication which was casually carried out.
back on the bed. And I would sleep on one side. That’s why I can’t stand
erect” she said.
eight children (now seven following the untimely death of the first
daughter), revealed that she resorted to begging. She said that the
family depended on the little money she made from begging to feed. But
as the financial muscle of the family grew very lean, their mother,
Celina, gave out some of her children to live with some privileged
families in the cities.
out to beg so we can buy food. All my siblings were adopted by some
privileged people. It has been about three years since my father died.”
received benevolent people, she decided to go to a hospital for
treatment. As Benita put it, she crossed the seven proverbial seas and
forests to reach the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH),
Enugu. The hospital, located in the sleepy Utuku-Ozalla community in
Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State is quite far away from
Benita’s community in Ebonyi State.
Enugu for treatment but I was rejected by the hospital management. The
doctors and nurses avoided me like the plague because of my condition
and asked my mother to check elsewhere.
when the wound I sustained had healed because according to them, I was
suffering an ailment other than the burns. The doctors and nurses
completely isolated me. In frustration, I told my mother to take me
home. I went home without getting any treatment.
private hospital in Ishiagu community, Favour Hospital and Maternity,
Mrs Igwe Justina Obiageri, took it upon herself to dress Benita’s wounds
every two days at almost no cost.
Mrs Igwe said that as a mother, she was emotionally moved to assist the
girl. She condemned the medical officers at UNTH for rejecting a
patient, saying it was unprofessional.
victim, she was already decaying. She said that she scooped out a number
of maggots from the wound.
condition wouldn’t have worsened. I found maggots in her wounds and they
were biting her. I had to give her tetanus toxide injection.
pervade the area around her. You could not even come near her. If you
had seen her before now, you would not have believed that she would
survive,” she added.
Ebonyi State Government to come to Benita’s aid as she needs surgical
operation to restore her looks to normal.
of her womb, Celina said she had sought for solution in the available
traditional medicine homes which the family could afford without
have been finding it very difficult to cater to her needs and that of my
grandchildren who were abandoned for me by their mothers. I have no
helper; I have been managing Benita’s problem without help,” she said.
She was delivered through caesarean surgery. From one problem to the
other, the mother and child spent five months in the hospital before the
doctors certified them medically fit to go home.
caesarean operation in a hospital in Abuja. We spent five months in that
hospital before the doctors said we could go home,” she recalled.
From the day she was born to her present age, it has been a tale of
agony. In fact, if her life were to be a book, it probably would be
half-filledl with stories of pain.
her challenge in school was that she was forgetful. She said that her
learning capacity was slow and as such relied on her classmates to put
her through when their teacher had finished on the blackboard.
Community Secondary School stopped at JSS3 due to the high degree of
burns she sustained.
when she was 12 years old. She recalled that she falls down about seven
times every day. She said that the condition has defied several
medication. She added that they sold their family land to raise money for her treatment.
said that my future is very bright; hence, the enemies are hell-bent on
cutting it off,” she lamented.
Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu and other good
spirited individuals to come to her aid.
appreciate vocational skill training in the making of clothes. With
skill acquired she would be able to fend for herself and take care of
should be sent through the account of the nurse that is caring for her,
using the following details: Account Name: Igwe Justina Obiageri.
Account Number: 0718525424, Access Bank.