Adenike Oyetunde is an amazing lady lawyer, media personality and amputee like no other, her heartwarming personality shines through all interactions with her. I was finally able to sit down with her for a very informal chat about her journey. I kept our interview below almost as it was when we chatted; it is a long read but inspiring. Pls Enjoy and kindly leave comments!
Me: So tell us your story...
Adenike : So my story....( Pause)
Me: it's a long one, yeah?
Adenike: My story is the story of an ordinary person who's been through an interesting life changing experience, who's had to continue after the experience, not understanding fully what it meant, coming to terms with a new reality, accepting it and now gradually owning it. It's a story of new, not a story of the future and I still am very “Life is too short, let's live now".
From the hospital bed, I just wanted the next day I wasn't concerned about what will happen, what the future will hold , if I'll ever go back to school, if I'll ever live how I was supposed to live my life , if I'll ever walk again, if I'll ever date again, if I'll ever have kids . All those things were not there. I was just concerned about who I am now, what do I do?. Now the only thing that I had to do was "can we just sleep today and wake up tomorrow "... So It's a story of finding God. It's a story of accepting that God loves me. It's story of grace, a story of favour, it's a story of love . I have seen love, I've experienced love and I still am. It's a story of disillusionment, it's a story of confusion , it's a story of peace and now it's a story of adventure ...it's an adventure that I am learning to accept.. Yeah... That's the summary
Me: Okay but can we dive into a few specifics
Adenike : Alright... Mine is a story of adventure. I'm learning to... I wish I had all the money in the world. I'm learning to travel. I'm learning to know places around me, visit places, go on an adventure with God.
The story of love... I've seen people show me love like never before. I have shown people love because I'm trying my best to put love at the centre of who I am...
The story of favour... Wow. I've seen favour and I know that's this is not me, it has to be God. It's been basically God. What God has done, the people He brings, the people I meet that don't know me already. It's the story of grace... I think me waking up everyday is just grace; grace not because I have life, grace because I know that there's more to me than just the physicality. I know that there's an assignment, a reason, there's a purpose. The story of tenacity for the things I don't want to do.. There are days I wake up and just think about when I had both my legs.. Those days come but you see I'm learning to have people around me that I can just reach out to. If I don't feel good today, my mind is in so many places I'm learning to use worship as well... Music..
Me: Hmmn which is very good
Adenike: Yeah, a story of Faith... I've seen faith like never before. Twice I have travelled out of this country for my prosthetic limb; one dollar of mine wasn't there.
I have seen favour, I have seen money, I've been broke, I've been lied against all in these 11 years of having lost my limb, I've been fought for, I’ve seen the Holy Spirit speak to me, I've felt Him, we’ve conversed. I've asked questions, if you ask me what my 2 year plan is for instance, I don't have one. I'm just trusting God and asking him to lead me. I'm sure that there will come a time where I will know these things clearly. But for now, I think God is teaching to me just take one day as it comes.
Me: But what was the episode that led to you losing your leg?
Adenike: Cancer, I had cancer of the bone and there was no other way than to cut the leg. I had to undergo chemotherapy. I was in my second year in the University, and I had just had a domestic fall at home and I just went back to school. I fell on aSunday, went to school and by Thursday morning I couldn't get out of bed
Me: So even before that, you had no inkling that you had it?
Me: So obviously, you had to go to the hospital to see what's going on as at Thursday?
Adenike: I got to Lagos on Thursday, I was taken to the hospital on Friday; they did the test, they did X-rays. They said the fall had caused a trauma, the blood wasn't flowing.
Me: Please what kind of fall was it?
Adenike: I was carrying a bucket and I just fell.
Adenike : Not bathroom, I was just carrying a bucket and I fell. They said I needed to do a drainage, take out the bad blood. I took out the bad blood, went to school, was getting better. Under two weeks, it started to get worse. I came to Lagos, did X-rays again and scan they said they didn't take out the blood completely then I went back to the hospital and that hospital referred me to Igbobi, from there they told me that there was cancer and the only way out was to amputate my limb. We went to another hospital, same thing, went to another, same thing. Finally got myself to the University college hospital in Ibadan (UCH) and the first time the doctor set his eyes on me, he just said " young lady, it is an orthopaedic emergency and we have to amputate it "
Me: What was your initial reaction?
Adenike: I just wanted health, I just wanted peace. I had been through months and months of constant pain. I had been in so much pain that, seeing a syringe.... I became numb.
Me : So whatever it was, whatever procedure, oya let’s go.
Adenike: I just wanted calm, I wanted some form of normalcy back.
Me: I know right
Adenike: And I knew without a doubt that this was something wrong because my leg had swollen, it was big....
Me: This was 11 years ago right?
Adenike: From my knee upwards, was big. I did not even argue. I just said “Yeah, let’s do this”. So the next day I got to UCH, we were about to do my surgery but they couldn’t because, at that point, I had already been wheeled to the theatre and because of my blood level ,cause I needed bloodMy story is a story of faith. People I never met.... till tomorrow I don’t know the people that donated blood to me. My friend was very particular, He said that “There’s no need to know”.
Me: Those were your friends?
Adenike: I never met them. I only know one person, Dr Laolu. I don’t know people who did but he just said “Don’t worry I’ll get friends to donate it free”. They donated blood for me and the next day I underwent the surgery and it was successful. I just wanted to rest. Because I was doing chemo, l started to lose my hair, started to be nauseous, started to go dark.
Me: Of course, obviously that meant School was on hold for another six months to one year.
Adenike: Thank God that ASUU (ASUU strike)....
Me: ASUU had your back. (laughs)
Adenike: It was a new semester. So exams were about to come again, so I told my father that “If I miss this second semester, that means I’m going to have an extra year, please let me go back to school”. Everybody in school knew what that meant but then from the hospital after taking chemo, I told my father to take me to school. He took me to school. I had just cut my hair, I was “gorimapa shine shine”, no hair, nothing, I was dark, I had lost so much weight, I was so skinny. But I just wanted to go back to school. I went back to school. My roommates had been coming to see me.
Me: In Ibadan and Lagos
Adenike: I had a birthday in UCH. So they all came.
Me: You have the best friends ohh...
Adenike: My secondary school friends showed up and I’m like “wow”.
Me: Best friends!!!
Adenike: My secondary school classmates showed up.
Me: Oh wow! The best.
Adenike: They cooked, came with food. In fact, in the hospital, they drove me out of the ward, “Just go outside, your guests are too many”. You know that story of my friends..... My classmates donated money, I just found out maybe, like a year or two ago that they actually did a fund raiser in class for me. At the moment where we’ll literally had just ten thousand Naira as a family, all of us, somebody will just show up with an envelope of money. God, literally, came through. And then, leaving the hospital, going to school, it was a different experience but I was very eager, I wanted to go back to my life.
Me: So now you had to figure out how to go to class.
Adenike: Exactly. My colleagues were so good. They were taking turns in picking and dropping me off. From my third year, till I finished my fifth year, my colleagues were picking me up and dropping me, they were taking turns. In fact, there was a particular one, Damola. Damola Adekoya was taking me to school and bringing me back almost every day. Damola, Gbenga Adeosun and Michael.
Me: So they had cars?
Adenike: They had cars. And I started to take bikes again. And they were like “why are you taking bikes?” I’m like “you guys I can’t be waiting for somebody to take me home”, especially when it wasn’t a class or maybe there was a tutorial class or I needed to go somewhere, go to someone’s house. So settling down into my new reality was just something that, because I wanted it, it wasn’t difficult and I had not micro-analyzed it. I was so focused and determined.
Me: ‘Cause I was going to ask that, if it was not difficult trying to now figure that out?
Adenike :Absolutely, the first day they gave me crutches, I stood up and walked. In fact, my doctor said “Wow, you’re really ready to go home”.
Adenike: My mind was so made up. I was so determined that this was what I wanted to do and there was no changing that. Everything was just my mind.
Me: That’s amazing. I mean, I could preach a whole sermon on the issue of the mind. Cause I was going to ask that... please that transition, how did you do it ... because it could have beaten you down
Adenike: It made me know God more. Simple answer was it was my mind. I didn’t know God as much as I do know Him now but I had a relationship with Him. My mind, I was so determined.
Me: That was all you needed.
Adenike: I was so determined to do everything. Go back to school, drive again, go to classes, my hair had started to come out.
Me: This was how many months or years after the surgery?
Adenike: After I did my surgery, I did Chemo back to back. I only had I think three weeks interval. So from when I did my surgery in February till June.
Me: That was 2006?
Adenike: Yes, by June I was done with my Chemotherapy courses because I had done Chemo, there was no problem with it. So there was no rush for me to settle back into this new reality everybody just wanted me to recover, take my time, which I was very grateful for because that’s another thing a lot of people don’t get the privilege to do. People are rushing them....
Me: To get better
Adenike: ...into their new reality but when I meet new amputees, I tell them “take your time, don’t let anybody rush you into getting a prosthetic limb”.
Me: Ok, that’s optional?
Adenike: Yes, cause I’ve been able to meet quite a few people around me. Even though virtually, people in the advanced and western world Some people are just bent on “it’s not mine, I don’t want to”.
Me: Does it feel very different?
Adenike: It’s not your leg. It’s aesthetic. There are days when I’m wearing it and I’m walking so perfectly not that I will always have a limb and a bulge by the side, it gives me extra hip but but there are days where I’m very bad, I’m dragging.
Me: So you’re not super dependent on it?
Adenike: Yes. Well, I stopped wearing it consistently in November last year. I’m hoping I can get money to buy another one. I think it’s time for me to get another one. I need money, like maybe $55,000 to $60,000.
Me: Oh! (Shocked).
Adenike: Naira ke.
Me: What! It’s that expensive?
Adenike: There are more expensive ones, way more expensive.
Me: In the way they crafted them to look? To make it look natural?
Adenike: There are different types. Nobody even does natural again if you look around. Everybody is wearing robotic looking limbs. It’s either they’re purple cover or pink
Me: so you can see the setup in it...
Adenike: Yes, that one is even cheap.
Me: I had no idea. What! Wait, did you say $55,000?
Adenike: So I was going to say.... now you have it together in a place of peace, you can talk about it freely and then you’re encouraging other people but I know that it was not so easy.
Me: It wasn’t but the thing about me is I am very grateful that I never had those episodes....
Adenike: Like mental breakdowns?
Adenike: Thankfully. Then, I only had symptoms of depression about three years ago and a friend of mine who identified it said “Babes, I think there’s something wrong…”. Which is one of the genesis of my hair and the colour.
Adenike: The colour of my hair. I just wanted a pop of colour. I wanted something different. I didn’t do it because I wanted to be noticed when I walk into a place.
Me: But its funky
Adenike: I just did it because I’ve always had a hair cut all my life. The first time I coloured my hair I was 18. That was my 18th birthday gift to myself. And my mum has always been receptive of it. In fact, when I coloured my hair few years ago, I thought she was going to all ballistic.
Me: You know that’s usually their way.
Adenike: She saw me and she loved it. She said “Ah! let me use you as screensaver on my phone”. (Laughs)It’s been a story of joy. Joy because I’m gladdened when I see that my everyday living is breaking down walls in the hearts and minds of people.
Me: Yup and encouraging people
Adenike:I don’t wake up thinking that ‘today we’ll change the world’. No, I’m just living my life one day as it comes. Which is why I may not have a five year plan because literally I’m learning to follow God’s plans daily basically.
Me: Would you say the amputation hindered you from anything?
Adenike: No.I never used to wear heels. Not like I never used to wear heels but I wasn't a heels person, I was a sandal and flat shoe person so I cant say I'm missing heels but with technology now, I can wear heels.
Me: Has it helped you to do some things?
Adenike: Things that I never knew I could do. I have become more daring. I walk to places, I meet people and because I I'm thinking to myself, what's the most that can happen? I'm not scared of death. Howbeit I’m very particular about "God just let me number my days and apply my heart to wisdom “
Me: I'm sure you have your own fair share of stories to do with discrimination . Any particular striking episode?
Adenike: Well I usually tell people that I think I'm lucky. Until recently there was an episode in some place where I used to stay and one of the aunties from out of town came and told me to my face that I'm very lucky I'm an amputee because on her way from Abuja her plan was that when I went to Lagos she would “bite me and beat me” for things I didn't do. The people I stayed with... their aunty. And I was thinking to myself Ah ah "kini mo baati se (what could I have done?) so it wasn't discrimination per say but that kind of inappropriate. And it was at that point I thought to myself, "she doesn't know any better" some days I'm in a good mood, you know how inquisitive children are so you'll expect that adults would know better.
Someone was telling me, I know she works with kids.. " I work with children so sometimes I act like them. But I told her "you should know better" because I think I know where she was headed. Well I just moved on. There are days I'm in the mood and others I'm not. I just tell them " I'm not in the mood" and you try to say it with respect so I don't make them look stupid. And incidentally, I heard it makes people feel stupid. Well I just tell some people "as we grow as a people, we don’t know how to handle... "
Me : In fact, I was going to ask what advice you have for people so they just behave better in dealing with amputees.
Adenike : Mind your business. It's not your place. It's absolutely rude to go about asking people "Oh so what happened " and we need to learn as a people that we need to start to segment disability. It's not a generic. It's not just physical disability. There are so many forms someone with down syndrome, cerebal palsy etc. For the average Nigerian, another thing we need to learn to stop telling people “sorry”. Sometimes I actually go out to say I didn't fall, stop telling me “sorry”.. But I realise that it's their only means of being empathetic so...
Me: yeah I think a lot of people don't know how to ask so that's the first thing that comes to their mind is...
Adenike: "Sorry" then "It is well". One thing about Nigerians is that until we learn to allow people to say their own stories when they're ready.. You don't have to meet me the first day or even in ten years to know my story. It's me who has to be comfortable enough to share my story with you because what happens is, we are now a community of nosy adults everybody wants to be in your business, everybody wants to know if you've had sex, if you will ever have sex, if you have dated. By the way I'm not dating. I've never in my life doubted that I would get married. I've never doubted it. Never. One day my boss at work asked me "Can you carry a child to full term? " and I'm like if people on the wheelchair can, what’s stopping me? So out of curiosity, I started reading up, I spoke with my doctor, and the guy just started laughing and said "of course, you can". I have never ever doubted that I can and all my friends know how much I talk about my fertility like I might just get pregnant the day I get married. I've never doubted all those things which is why following God just makes it easier. I'll try to hold God's hand sometimes to choose.... but I know in my heart... Just yesterday my mentor sent me a message and said" when last did I ask you about this boyfriend* project". I started laughing and he said " I knew that question was going to make you smile and I just wanted to remind you that God knows what he's doing and I'm like" you know me, I'm not bothered, I've never been bothered about it and if there's anybody in the world I'm honest with, it’s this one individual, So I think life will throw things at you.. I hear people say it all the time
Me: Pls tell me about the Amputees United. I can imagine that you've met all manners of people. How do you handle it?
Adenike : we reach out to you, give you a call, "oh I hear you've been amputated". There’s also a foundation I work with which provides children with free limbs which I support The way this thing works is, because know that people know my story , they always tell their friends so when I will speak to them, they'll say" oh yeah, I've heard your story, my friend has told me about you. I met someone lately at an event, who said " Ah there's a lady I want you to meet" and by the time he mentioned her, I told him I was the one that invited her. So I say that as many amputees in Lagos who want to be reached, my goal is to know them all. We don’t provide you'll money or give you limbs because it's very clear what God told me, "You're not raising funds" . Very soon, we would meet, we'll have a photoshoot session, do make up, just a sense of beauty for ashes
Me: So basically you speak to them, encourage them
Adenike: Seun who was amputated in February , she still cannot stand using one crutch and I'm like “what is all this..”? So I invited her over and I seized her crutches and she fell down, she was begging me, we were laughing. A person with two limbs would not have done that and gotten away with it but because I'm in her shoes, I keep telling her, I'm pushing you, you have to settle into this new reality , your legs start first in your mind.
There’s Babafemi,the most energetic 3-year old, I have ever seen, she has two nannies and doesn’t sit still and she has a prosthetic limb, there’s Beulah who is 8, there Isaac there’s engineer Amosun, there a woman I haven’t met yet who is 80, whose daughter reached out to me etc
Me:What word of encouragement would you give other amputees?
Adenike:I saw a guy the other whose lower leg needs to be amputated fast, a street guy, hes still carrying it around.
If there’s anything I would tell any one who has been advised medically to amputated, it would be “please do it as soon as possible”. I lost someone last year who was told that they could “call” out the cancer and he died. I’m not doubting the power or prayer, I believe in miracles but please lets use our common sense.
You are the start of your healing. if your mind isn’t made up of yet, absolutely nothing will happen, the healing starts in your mind, with you
It starts with you deciding that it’s time. I allow people grieve the loss of their limb or whatever the loss is; you need time away from everyone so you can accept your new reality. Don’t pressure people too much, sometimes people need to be pushed, but for someone who has just lost a limb, allow them grieve. Just show them love, it’s the only thing that will transform their heart otherwise, the resistance will be tough.
Your not knowing what to do is not tied to your limb loss, it was because before your limb loss, you did not know what you were going to do. Once you can sort that out , I promise you, even with your limb loss, you are going to be fine.
Are there people who inspire you, who have gone ahead of you whose journey inspire you?
Oh yes, Engineer Amosun, a lecturer in Yabatech who has been amputated for almost 10 years, she has business and is doing well., there’s Akin sugar of the sugar band. who is living with a different condition and many more. It’s been an amazing 11 years.
Interview conducted by Ayodotun Rotimi-Akinfenwa