My name is Efezino Patrick. I am from Agbarha Otor community, Ughelli, Delta State. I am 23 years old. My mum and dad are divorced. We’re six kids in the family – two boys and four girls. I didn’t finish secondary school. I stopped at SS 2. I had to stop because I was poisoned by someone at that time and had to suffer for seven years before help came.
When exactly did this happen?
It all began one day in March 2013. I just woke up one morning with a terrible stomach ache. I told my mum and she said, perhaps, I was about to see my menses. I was about 13 years old at that time. But the ache didn’t stop. It grew worse and I couldn’t even walk. I was practically begging for my life. It was excruciating. So, my mum went to the pharmacy, got some drugs and I took them. The pain subsided a bit so I could sleep. The next day, I woke up to see that my stomach had become hard overnight. It was now protruding and was as though I was pregnant.
What did you do when you saw that?
My mum quickly rushed me to a nearby clinic for medical attention. Tests and scans were done but the doctor did not seem to detect anything from the medical examination. He told my mum to seek alternative opinions from religious houses. He, however, gave me some drugs to calm the pains.
On hearing this from the doctor, what action did you take?
That same day, because the pain did not stop despite the drugs and my stomach had increased in size, my mum decided to take me to a native home to also find out what was going on. That was where the spiritual healer said I was poisoned by a relative. My mum did not believe that because I was only 13. Why would anyone want to poison me? So, she took me home. But she then recalled that a pastor had told her in a church that she should be careful because there was a plan by a family member to poison me and destroy my destiny.
Did you believe any of this?
Honestly, I don’t know if I believed it or not. I was too young to form an opinion. I felt depressed and lonely because I could not go out again. I had to stop schooling. I just stayed at home and tied a wrapper around my breast. I looked like a woman who was approaching her due date for delivery. The pain was unexplainable. I felt like taking my life.
My friends then called me all sorts of names. One of the native doctors even said I was a witch and asked me to confess. I was beaten and forced to confess to what I knew nothing about. It was a really hard time for me. I suffered.
How supportive was your family through this time?
I was able to pull through all that because my mum and siblings never gave up on me. They stood by me and believed everything I told them. Despite what people said they saw about me, my mum never believed them. She would tell them, “My daughter is not a witch. She is sick and she will get better.” She even lost her marriage because of me.
How do you mean?
She was not with my biological father when this whole thing happened. They had separated. She was remarried to my stepdad. He was the one who left when the situation became dire. He said he couldn’t cope with all that. He was even accusing my mum and siblings of being witches since they refused to believe the prophets and seers who claimed that I was a witch from the underworld.
Did these spiritualists reveal who exactly poisoned you?
They said it was a family member. I would not like to mention her name. They said she was not happy I was going to school, and that she had seen my destiny and wanted to thwart it. I really went through hell. Even my former classmates, who were now in university, stopped talking to me. They peddled all forms of false rumours about me. I cried all day and all night yet nothing changed.
What other interventions did you seek?
One of my mother’s friends took me to one spiritualist whom they said was very powerful. He said I should drink my urine every morning when I woke up and in the evening before sleeping. I did that for six months but there was no change. They gave me all kinds of leaves. One herbal company, Greenlight or so, used to bring drugs for me. They charged me N40, 000 every fortnight but nothing changed. We had to go to another spiritualist who made tiny markings with razor blades all over my body, saying he wanted to take away the bad blood. I would be fully awake and he would strip me naked and begin the ritual. I would cry and cry but I had the hope that it would work. After making those cuts on me, he would apply some peppery substance on the wounds but all those things did not work. Another spiritualist then used dog faeces and alcohol to make a native medicine for me to drink. I drank it for some time, too, but it didn’t change anything. They also used frog and charcoal to make drugs for me to also take but it didn’t seem to be working at all. Rather, I became a shadow of myself. I was getting thinner because of the many things I was taking. I became addicted to alcohol because all the drugs I took had alcoholic content.
How were you able to fund these remedies?
My mum sold all her wrappers and jewellery. Her business folded up. She became a commercial farmer. My siblings who were older were also supporting in the little way they could. My biological dad was not in the picture. He was married to another woman and was part of the people who said I was a witch. All through that period, I did not set my eyes on him. I cannot even say how much we spent searching for a cure for this problem. It must have run into millions. What church did we not go to? What spiritualist did we not visit? What hospital did we not go to for help? We even went to a popular church in Lagos and bought some holy water for a huge sum but it didn’t work one bit. There was no remedy I didn’t seek in this life except the one I didn’t know or was not introduced to us.
When you saw that nothing was working, how did you feel?
Honestly, I just told myself that I had tried. I knew I didn’t do anything to anyone to deserve that much pain. When I was 19, I just told myself that I was tired. I stopped going to all those churches and spiritual homes. I decided to seek God for myself. I prayed on my own and read my Bible in my home. I began to feel that I was not alone in that battle. I felt somewhat comforted.
How did you get cure?
During the time of my illness, I never saw my menses for one day. I didn’t know what it feels like to go through that monthly cycle. One day, while I was home alone, after much praying, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. It was like my time to die had come. I heard a voice in my head telling me not to move because I would not make it out alive. I was so afraid. I looked down and saw that I was bleeding. Thick black blood was coming out of me and I was crying because it was painful. I kept shouting and my mum came and helped me. She cleaned me up. Later on, I found out that it was just me seeing my menses because it flowed for days before it stopped. I was encouraged that my miracle was near. It was during that time that one of my relatives confessed that she was the one that poisoned me using juju (black magic).
How did your stomach go back to normal?
On one of those days when I was home, I just decided to go for another scan. When I told my mum, she laughed it off because I had done over a hundred different scans but nothing was seen. What made me so sure this one would be different? I just didn’t know but I decided to do it on my own. I got some money from someone and went to the hospital and told the doctor on duty I wanted to do a scan. The doctor, who was familiar with my case, laughed and referred me to another clinic after doing his own examination to fulfill all righteousness. My mum refused to go with me. She said there was no need. When I got there, I was scanned and the lab scientist said he could see something. He drew it on a white paper. It was like a rock of some sort lying in my stomach. Just that it was made of flesh. He told me to go back to the first hospital which was a specialist hospital to conduct the operation.
What was the reaction of the doctor when you came back with a scan result showing that you had something in your belly?
He didn’t believe it. He kept asking me if it was really from a hospital. He checked and found out that it was real. I was then scheduled for a procedure where I paid over N250, 000. It was done on a Saturday in September 2019. It was successful. The doctor was so shocked that he named me Testimony. The doctor said if not that he was the one who had monitored me from when the situation began, he wouldn’t have believed that I would be alright.
What did this experience teach you?
I learnt that, in life, faith in God matters a lot. You don’t need a pastor to lay hands on you before you receive your miracle. You can approach God by yourself. This experience also taught me that it is only when things are bad that you can tell who your true friends are. Many people walked out on me when I needed them the most. I also learnt to never give up.
From your pictures, you still have scars and folds on your tummy area. Does this make you feel insecure about yourself sometimes?
It used to sometimes but I am always positive. The scars are part of the memories that I have. My boyfriend likes me the way I am. He even wants me to wear clothes that will show my scars to the world. He is proud of me. I just have to learn how to be proud in my own skin again. This situation stole my childhood from me.
Do you have plans of going back to school?
Yes, I do. I will take WASSCE next year. I couldn’t register for the last one. I am into makeup and fashion. I want to be a boss of my own and make money and take care of the people who were there for me in the time of my storm.
Credit: PUNCH Newspapers