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Isioma Dogo, back from the dead with my story

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Isioma Dogo is a trained architect, she, however, explores the artists’ side of her through photography. In 2014, her piece, Fallen hero, received rave review at the second edition of the Kaduna Art Fair, Together Again. The event, which held at the Nigerian Air Force Club (NAF Club), brought together artists from across various specialisations and levels. In 2019, she was on and off the hospital. This ugly event is told in a 30-page pamphlet, titled, My Story. GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR captures her story of ‘visit’ to the world beyond.

She did not hear the news many women were used to at the clinic. Her pregnancy test was negative. She was already nine years into her marriage, yet no baby. The news brought sudden abandonment and pains in her mind. She leaned forward, suddenly. Her voice broke into sobbing falsetto.

Was nature cheating her out from being a mother?
When the grief had spent itself, she went home hurt. At home, she locked the door and turned up the TV very loud that nobody heard her sob. After awhile, she left the living room like a lady in trance. She sank into the chair in her room, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that seemed to reach into her soul. She sat, motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as she continued to sob. She could feel a new breath of life — The breath of hope after the storm. Doctors have failed, she wondered, now is the time for God to prove himself.

Yes, the child came after.
But Isioma Dogo’s story is not what many live to tell. She is one of the few who went to the dead and came back to tell their stories.

In 30 pages, she tells her story of ‘visit’ to the world beyond — Her survival story. It is not your normal book, just a pamphlet that details 10 years after her wedding in 2009.

With vivid pictures, concrete imageries and lucid language, Isioma journeys across planes narrating the events in a candid manner. She shuns abstruse, convoluting language.

On December 19, 2009, she got married to the love of her life and best friend. Exactly nine years and one month later, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, her first child.

“Apart from the fact that she (the baby) came out almost after a decade of marriage, she is special because she was conceived naturally after failed fertility treatments and in spite of medical conditions, which should have made spontaneous (natural) conception impossible,” she writes in My Story, A Celebration of God’s Faithfulness And Power.

“During the Cesarean section to deliver my daughter, my intestines were perforated and I developed sepsis, a life threatening infection,” she says.

This infection has been known to shut down vital organs and kill within a few hours, but she carried it unknowingly for 12 days before she became semi-conscious and had to be rushed back into the theatre.

“Over the next eight months, dozens of doctors in several hospitals in and out of Nigeria battled to save my life. I had five additional major surgeries to repair my damaged intestines, four of which were emergencies and were sometimes within days of each other,” Isioma explains in the book.

She took antibiotics and medication worth millions of naira to be able to subdue the infection ravaging my body, eventually, she developed an enterocutaneous fistula, “a physically and psychologically draining experience; a nightmare of a condition where undigested food poured out from a hole in my stomach. I had to be hooked up to all kinds of machines and had tubes of all sorts, taking things in and out of my body.”

She continues, “my wounds were dressed in painful sessions that took place several times a day. I could not eat or drink anything without having excruciating pain and for several months, my main source of nutrition was a special milk, fed to me through a tube on my neck.”

She says, “at some point, I went completely without food or water for almost three weeks. I lost about half of my body weight and my muscles were so wasted that I had to learn how to walk, life and squat again. I spent time in ICU and high priority wards so that I could be closely monitored.”

She had to undergo several painful and invasive procedures and bear the pain of over a thousand needle pricks to draw blood or administer drugs. Worse still, prolonged hospitalisation made it difficult for even the most experienced nurses and doctors to locate viable veins in her body for drug administration.

“Some of my nerves were injured during the many futile attempts and this led to nerve damage. I experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, severe amnesia and hallucinations,” she writes in the pamphlet.

To this day, Isioma reveals, she does not remember a few days of 2019, and at some point, she even forgot that she had given birth to a baby. The baby yearned to have and cried to God for. Such was the severity of the trauma that her body went through.

“Sometimes, I spent days in agony before any medication would work, even if very briefly. The word ‘pain’ became tangible to me; it took on a new meaning. So much more happened and it would take several books to adequately describe everything I experienced in those months,” she recalls.

And now, here lies her hope and reason for the book…
Before all this happened, she had noticed an increasing skepticism among young Nigerians, especially on social media, about the existence of God. Many said there was probably no God because a good and powerful God would not allow pain and suffering on earth. During one of her most difficult days in the hospital, she began to wonder why the whole thing was happening.

“If God was there, why would he allow all this thing to happen to me? Why wouldn’t he stop the pain? Why had he abandoned me? What if the skeptics were right? What if there was no one up there looking out for me? What if I was completely helpless and there was no point to the whole drudgery that my life had become?” she asks.

“I had trusted God through many years of waiting for a baby but this fresh ordeal brought so many difficult, unanswered questions,” Isioma says.
Just like the breaking of a new dawn, as she was down in the pit of despair, several things started to happen at the same time. Loved ones came with reminders and assurances that made the load so much easier to bear and her body strangely started responding to treatment.

She reveals, “even when things got worse again and again, I would somehow pull through.” It became obvious to her doctors and family that though things were bad, “there was an unseen hand preventing my death.” The realisation gave her renewed confidence that even though the night seemed very dark; she would make it to the dawn.

“At every point in time, during the long month in different hospitals, my journey astounded the doctors. There were times that I was so critical that they would later confess to me that they did not expect me to survive beyond 24 hours. Others said, if I survived, my organs, especially the heart and kidneys would be wrecked. Muslim and Christian doctors alike exclaimed how that God was on my side and many dared to use the phrase ‘medical miracle’ to describe my case because going by their professional judgment, I should have been dead many times over,” she says.

She says, “I do not by any means have all the answers to the issues of life, but I am fully convinced and reassured that the skeptics are wrong, and that there is a God that rules and reigns in the affairs of men and his jurisdiction is far beyond the realms of science and logic. As far as this statement is concerned, I am a living testimony.”

Conclusively, she says, “today, I am grateful to the king of kings, the one who has kept us for 10 years and counting, filling our home with peace and laughter in spite of the pressures that waiting for a baby brings; the one who gave us a miracle child, who brings smiles to our faces and warms our hearts everyday. The one who was there with me through the fire and through the storm and was the reason that I did not lose everything. The one who’s marvelous works astound seasoned physicians; the one who still works miracles, in all of this, no one can take his role, no one can share his glory.”

Isioma, a staff of National Gallery of Art (NGA), Abuja, trained as an architect, but now a photo artist, had a great show in 2014, which received rave review.

Isioma explores the artists’ side of her through photography. Her piece, Fallen hero, was motivated by the fact that there are people who once stood tall but have fallen just as the tree had, as a result of various reasons. Regardless of its current state, she adorned it with stones, beads and other jewellery, which represent its one time magnificence and making it a mixed media piece. The fair featured a collection of 60 works of 42 artists out of over 100 artists working in NGA.


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Isioma Dogo
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