My Okada Trauma, By Bamidele Johnson

Multiple fractures at the base of the skull, multiple fractures around the eye socket and nasal cavity, swollen gums and chipped teeth, swollen shin and bruises aplenty. That was what the inventory read after being hit by a speeding commercial motorcyclist, who rode without headlights at about 7.20pm on 10 March.

I believe I cheated death. Or blindness in one eye. Or permanent disability. My eye could have been worse affected if I had worn my glasses, as lens fragments could have pierced anything in their way.

I had stepped out of the car to cross the road. With no headlights and no streetlights, I did not see him and he did not see me. I got hit on the hip, probably launched into orbit, with the impact sending the whole of my 90 kg plus crashing. The left side of my face slammed onto the tarred road. For a brief while, I was unconscious. Somebody threw a bucket of water over me. When I came round, I felt fragments of my teeth in my mouth and I had to spit them out.

After a while, I could see that there was some hysteria around me. Many women, led by the one in front of whose shop I parked my car, were yelling. I could also hear what was clearly a call for some violent action against the commercial motorcyclist, who I was not sure was injured. His passenger, who got slammed to the ground like me, was in some discomfort.

From what I could see, no attention was paid to the passenger. The focus was on the rider, a Northerner. Brewing around me was a potential Hausa/Yoruba clash. The guy was asked why he rode without headlights and he said the bulb stopped working a few days back, something that angered the predominantly Yoruba crowd the more, a loud indication of the inter-ethnic tension that is currently gripping the country.

I was not interested in that. The pains were intense. I did not know the extent of the injuries and was desperate for treatment. One of the women asked if there was anyone that I thought should be notified. I said my wife should be and gave out her number.

My wife, with whom I’d spoken about five minutes before the accident, was called and she concluded that a scam was afoot. She was called again and she demanded that she wanted to speak with me. My jaw was already heavy and painful. I spoke through the pain. She drove down. My wife called my colleague, who lives nearby and she dashed down to join us as we headed for the hospital. She actually drove.

At the hospital, I was given first aid and advised to have an X-Ray, which I was unable to do till the next day. I was driven home, where sleep was hard to find.

Pain kept coursing through everywhere impacted. My jaw was stiff. It was when I went to have my bath that I knew I had bruises in so many places and they were low-impact because I wore a pair of jeans.

Had I worn the khaki shorts I had planned to wear that evening, it would have been much worse. With my stiff jaw, there was no chance of chewing anything. I had a cup of beverage, using just a side of my mouth, just before taking the drugs I took from the hospital. They were painkillers, anti-inflammatory, an antibiotic and a few others that I can’t remember their classification.

At about 2am, I drifted to sleep. I woke up around 5am, with immense pains, especially around my left eye and jaw. My head also ached, throbbingly. Food was pap, something I’d not touch in normal circumstances. It, however, met the need to take drugs. Before heading to where I was to have the X-Ray, I went before the mirror and I saw someone that looked like he’d been in a vicious prize fight.

Swollen face and bloodshot eye, the type I see in battered boxers. I’m familiar with boxers-because of my involvement in the sport in some capacity-and my respect for them soared a lot higher. These chaps have swollen eyelids and jaws on a regular basis.

I had the X-Ray in the morning and when the result came, it was condensed into contusion/ concussion and head injury, with advice that I should have a cranial scan.

I had the scan and it yielded more worrying outcomes: “Post-traumatic brain contusion/concussion, left blow out fracture, multiple base of the skull and left craniofacial fractures involving left maxillary walls, left zygoma, left nasal bone and left craniofacial soft tissue contusion with haematoma”.

I took the result to the hospital, where I was told I had been massively fortunate. A number of friends advised that I seek a second opinion, which I have been doing at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), my haunt in the last couple of weeks.

After examination by a courteous and clearly knowledgeable general practitioner, I was referred to the LASUTH Eye Institute where, I have to say, I have been impressed by the thoroughness and general attitude of all the doctors that have interacted with me.

I have been assured that the blood in the eye will clear up with time, with the drugs prescribed. They also insisted that I visit the maxillofacial unit, which can make the call on whether a surgery is needed for the fractures.

The three doctors I have met in that unit have also been immense and I have had significant relief.

Prior to now, I was a passable imitation of a special needs child. I could only eat amala, eba or fufu if it was cut into tiny morsels like those you’d find in a toddler’s plate. Meat was out of the question. I stuck to ponmo, which had to be soft and, importantly, cut into tablet-sized pieces. Even those took some effort to eat.

I am in line to see them at the neuro-surgery unit for the call on skull fractures. I’m hoping for the best, not expecting. You never know.

In the meantime, I have become very scared of okada, which seems to be the plaything of kids as young as 14.
Are they licensed? I doubt if there is even any strict licensing procedure. I have seen buses and other vehicles drive at night without headlights, which their riders apparently think are merely decorative.

Is there something in okada that persuades riders that they have excellent night vision and therefore need no headlights? Is there something the government can do to reduce mishaps of this sort? There has to be.
I have a silly assumption. I assume that there is a spirit, a malevolent one, in the okada. It works this way: However mild-mannered you are, the day you start riding okada is the day you will start believing you are invincible and will do stuff that even a drug-addled person would not do.

For instance, if Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Professor Wole Soyinka, as polished as they are, take to okada riding, the sprit will “catch dem”. Okada, I believe, messes up heads and something has to be done before people of little or no value kill or maim those of value.

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