It was 31st July 2003. I followed my uncle to the farm. I was seven years old. My mum didn’t want me to go to the farm with my uncle but I went regardless. I enjoyed my time at the farm till we returned in the evening. As I did every ordinary night, I took my bath and went to sleep. But that night was not an ordinary night. It was a night that changed everything for me. A night that set my life on a different path. We go to bed every night and think the morning will come and the sun will rise again. It’s almost automatic so we go to bed and what anyone wishes for us is just a good night and nothing more. But some nights are different. Until the morning comes and the sun rises, something else happens. A tragedy that changes a life forever. You remember it as eventful, fateful, tragic. In my case it was tragic.
Nobody knows how it happened. Out of nowhere in the middle of the night, our room caught fire. We lived in a compound house that had no electricity. We didn’t have a lantern, candles, or even ‘bobo’ in our room. There was nothing that should start a fire but I woke up inhaling nothing but smoke.
There was fire everywhere. Our room was a single room divided by a screen bar. I couldn’t see anything. I went around trying to find my mother but she was nowhere to be found. Because of the intensity of the fire and the thickness of the smoke, I didn’t know how to get out. The curtains which were burning wild fell on me. It caused a lot of damage to my skin and even restrained me from finding my way out. Everyone was afraid to come through the fire to rescue me. The men couldn’t brave the fire and the women were beside themselves.
To date, I still hear their voices outside the house shouting my name. I hear them screaming; “Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!!!” It haunts me sometimes, their screams. The fire service came but they couldn’t reach our house. There was a railway standing between us. From what I heard, they didn’t try to take a different route either. From all indications, I was going to burn to ashes with the things in the room.
When all hope was lost, I heard a voice calling my name from the inside of the room. It was a familiar voice. The voice of my mother. I was almost unconscious. My strength was almost gone but I gathered what was left inside of me and responded to her call. Her hand found me somewhere on the floor and she lifted me up and run out with me.
Had it not been for my mother’s bravery I would have burned to ashes. When everyone had given up on me, my mother poured a barrel of water on herself, walked straight into the burning room, and shouted my name. She braved it all for my sake. This is the kind of bravery I want the whole world to know. When the world talks about Yaa Asantewa, they have to speak of my mother too. She did what men couldn’t do.
When she found me, I was burned within an inch of my life. They quickly rushed me to the hospital. The hospital tried their best but they couldn’t do much so we were referred to KATH. They were better equipped to handle my case and they did. There was an improvement in my condition. There was hope. One of the doctors who attended to me was preparing to leave for abroad to further his studies. He offered to take me along with him so I could get surgery. My mother wasn’t with me at the time. It was my aunt taking care of me. The nurses told her, “The doctor will need his mother’s consent to start the process. He will ask if you are his mother. Say yes and give consent so that he can help your nephew.” The doctor came around and spoke to my aunt, “Are you his mother? I want to help him but I need your consent.” My aunt looked at the doctor and said, “No I’m not. His mother is not around.” That was the end of it. The doctor left and we never saw him again.
Life wasn’t easy at all. We lost everything. Family and friends abandoned us. While I was admitted my mum was running up and down looking for money to pay the hospital bills. I even overheard a family member say to her, “Why are you going through all this trouble over a child who has no hope to survive. Just throw him away and move on.” She must have not heard of a mother’s unconditional love for her child. After trying and failing to raise the money for the bills, she budged into the MCE of our district’s office with her pastor in tow. According to my mother, the MCE looked at them and asked, “Who are you? How did you enter my office?” My mother walked straight to his table and spread photos of me across his desk. The man looked at the photos and shivered. He helped with some necessities, enough to keep us afloat for a while.
I’ve lived with my scars since that night in July. I wear them with confidence. They are my battle scars. I survived the fire. Not many have faced fire and lived to tell their story. It hasn’t been easy but I smile through it. People treat me like I’m a zombie. I am treated as if I am less a thing than everything God created. I have been discriminated against and lost opportunities because I’m a person living with a disability. People like us don’t want to hide our potential from the world but the world wants to shut us down and pretend we don’t exist.
I am now a young man of twenty-six. I have completed some courses but when I applied for jobs, employers doubt I can match up to the potential they are looking for. They just take a look at me and write me off. I know they are wrong about me and there are persons with disability out there who have great potential too.
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Have you got any relatives or friends in my situation? Don’t make them feel inferior to you. It only makes us hate ourselves. I remember a time in my life when I hated mirrors. I looked through it and see something that was not me. I’m more than my scares but it’s the only thing the mirror reflected back to me. Apart from that, it reminded me of what tragedy took from me. I was a very handsome child and mirrors only shows me the look I got from the fire.
My mother passed away at some point. My superwoman. She got tired. Life pushed her to the edge. She couldn’t keep fighting so she gave up. She did her best but she couldn’t change the way I look and the way the world should look at me. It’s not her job. If she could she would have done it without thinking twice. I miss her dearly and I am always thankful for her courage and her bravery. I wouldn’t have survived if it hadn’t been for her.
I understand that people come here to share their love stories. I have come to share a different kind of love story. A story about a mother’s love that pushed her to brave the raging flame for her child. It’s also a story of my encounter with fire and what it did to me. Love can touch a heart and destroy it, just like fire touched my skin and destroyed it. In that vein, this is also a love story—a relationship gone bad. A relationship with fire that ended up consuming me. I’m here wondering if my life will ever get better. If the discrimination will ever end?. Thanks for reading, please share