Man who regained sight after 21-year blindness: I can stare at plants, animals all day - NATIONAL TRUMPET

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Man who regained sight after 21-year blindness: I can stare at plants, animals all day

Edmond Eli, 24, who recently regained his sight after 21 years of knowing only darkness, is learning to wear shoes correctly and walk without his crutches. He shares stories about his new life with HINDI LIVINUS, including his new loves

How did you lose your sight?

I don’t know as I was just a little boy when it happened. But my father told me that when I was three years old, he heard me crying one day and when they quickly rushed to see what was wrong with me, I told them that the other little boys I was playing with poured sand in my eyes.

It was after that incident that I lost my sight.

What did you miss while you were blind?

I missed so many things. One, I missed not being able to see. I could not see; I could only hear voices. Two, I missed not being able to go to school with other kids and wearing uniforms. I missed out on a lot of things. I could only hear my parents’ voices; I couldn’t see what they looked like. But now, I can see them and I’m very happy because of that.

I missed quite a lot. I missed out on education which other kids have. I also missed out on not being able to help my parents on the farm. I always heard them complaining of backache each time they returned home from the farm. Had it been that I could see, I would have joined them like other kids who assist their parents after returning home from school. I had to spend my entire time here at home.

How does it feel to be finally able to see?

I am very happy. Before, all I could see was darkness but now I can see with both eyes. I feel very happy now because before now, I only heard the voices of things like animals and didn’t know what they looked like.

How did you regain your sight?

My father’s friend, who has been a benefactor, learnt about a free medical outreach organised by the senator representing our zone – Senator Binos Yaroe. My father took me to the venue of the free medical outreach in Demsa. I was operated upon and two days later, they asked me to open my eyes and I regained my sight.

Can you describe your experience when you could not see?

I always felt sad. Anytime I heard people having a conversation, it made me really sad because I grew up hearing people jeering at me and talking about me. Most times, I heard them describing how I walked. I heard all those things though I could not see.

Did you imagine that you would ever see again?

I am still very surprised that I can now see because I never imagined that after 21 years, I could still regain my sight. I am still amused and that’s why you see me laughing about everything.

What was your immediate feeling or thought when you regained your sight?

I thank Almighty God that I can now see very well. I was first frightened. But look at me, I am now laughing. Everything was blank and dark before but now I feel very happy because I can see. I am amused by the things I see.

How well can you see now?

I can see well; I can identify things. But more importantly, I can now go to the river by myself.

Why was the eye problem not treated when you were three years old or until now?

When I complained about the sand in my eyes, my father bought eye drops for me and continued to use for me. I was taken to the clinic here and then to General Hospital, Numan. We were referred to Yola from there. Then my father met with his relatives to try to raise some money for my medical treatment. When he got some assistance, he took me to Yola and from there, we were referred to Kano. But unfortunately, because my parents could not afford the trip to Kano, my eyes could not be operated upon.

What kind of discrimination did you face during the time that you could not see?

Well, I was always sad. My younger siblings used to stone me or put things on me and run away. I was an object of amusement for them.

What were your dreams as a child?

I had no dreams; I was just three years old when I lost my sight.

What do you think being blind at a young age deprived you of?

It made me miss out on being educated. I would hear some of my friends saying they were going to school. I would wish to join them but I could not see. I do not know how nice the dresses my parents bought for me were because of the visual impairment. I could not see the colours. I also wished to see animals but it was not possible. Being blind also made it impossible for me to run errands for my parents, especially when my siblings refused to run such errands.

What other unpleasant experience did you have when you were blind?

All the boys poked fun at me; they would touch me and hide. Whenever there was a gathering of children, they would abuse me and make fun of me. This went on and on for years. They were difficult times for me. But that challenge is now gone.

Your dad has said you will go back to school, do you hope to get university education someday?

By God’s grace, I will try my best to go back to school and get an education. My only challenge is my speech impediment which makes me unable to speak clearly. I hope I will be able to overcome it and get secondary education before thinking of going to university. I am interested in doing business, so maybe I will study business management if I am fortunate to go to the university. I want to go back to school now.

Would you like to continue your education?

I want to be able to go to a secondary school after completing my basic education. And if I am fortunate enough to get to a stage when I can go to a university, I would like it.

What are your dreams now?

(Laughs) I want to go into business and be a businessman.

What was the first thing you saw when you regained your sight?

I felt like I was in another different world. I first saw objects. I was frightened when I first opened my eyes. I didn’t know cows were very big because I only heard them mooing. I also didn’t know people were of different sizes. I used to only hear voices and I assumed that people were of the same size. I never imagined that the cows I always heard mooing were very large animals. Now that I can see, I got to know that some cows are black while some are white. I also got to know that people are of various sizes; some are tall and others are short. Some live with disabilities as I did. I was able to realise that motorcycles and cars come in different colours; I never knew that before.

What was the first thing you did when you regained your sight?

I used to hold my father’s hand but suddenly I realised I didn’t need to hold him anymore. I realised that I could see everything around me unlike before when I relied on others. Before, I depended on my father; sometimes, he would tell me to be careful or warn me that a stone was ahead so that I would avoid stubbing my toe against it. He could tell me to move to this side or that side to avoid a hole. Sometimes, he would say ‘don’t move’. But it is no longer like that; I can see everything on my own.

What do you enjoy doing now that you have regained your sight?

I enjoy watching people as they come and go. I can spend a whole day looking at plants, trees and animals. I can just stare at people and try to identify the colours of their clothes.

Can you still identify colours?

I can identify red, white and green colours.

What will be your advice to any visually impaired person you meet?

I will advise such persons not to forsake any information they come across, especially if they hear about anyone offering free medical services to people with visual impairment. After we learnt about the free medical service being offered by Senator Binos Yaroe, my father did everything he could to take me there. I was once blind but now I can see because of the information about the free medical outreach organised by our senator.

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