A 27-year-old amputee bus conductor from Enugu State, Ifeanyi Okoro, shares his story with ABDULLATEEF FOWEWE.
You were seen in a viral video working as a conductor in Onitsha, Is that what you do for a living?
My name is Ifeanyi Okoro. I am 27 years old, and I am from Enugu State. I am a bus conductor in Anambra State.
Can you explain the incident that resulted in the amputation of one of your legs?
It happened when I was on my way to visit a friend. Unfortunately, a car malfunctioned and crushed my leg.
When and where did the accident occur?
The accident occurred in the Oye-Agu Abagana area of Anambra State on August 24, 2021.
What kind of medical care did you receive or did you consult a traditional healer?
No, I did not consult a traditional healer. Instead, I was immediately taken to a hospital for treatment. The medical workers there gave me immediate attention and treated my leg. However, despite their efforts, the affected leg did not respond to treatment.
What did the doctor in charge say was responsible for that?
The doctor concluded that the leg was too severely damaged to be healed, and advised that amputation was the best option to ensure my overall well-being.
How did you become aware that your leg would be amputated?
Initially, the doctor informed my family of the need for amputation. After I regained consciousness, the doctor personally relayed the sad news to me.
Were you immediately open to the idea of amputation?
I felt sadness about it, to the point that tears started dropping from my eyes, as I was scared about what my life would look like after recovery and the things I would no longer be able to do as an amputee.
Were your parents also open to it?
Unfortunately, my father is dead, but my mother is still alive. She was devastated and even collapsed on the hospital floor, crying uncontrollably.
How was your treatment and the surgery funded?
We borrowed money from people, and my mother contributed what she could. Unfortunately, I don’t have a father to rely on. At one point, I even had to sell my phone after exhausting all my savings on medical bills, but we are grateful to God in the end.
Did you explore the option of getting a prosthetic leg?
Yes, I did, but the cost was too expensive. So, I had to settle for crutches for now, with the intention of saving some money for a prosthetic leg.
How long have you been working as a conductor?
I started working as a conductor a year ago, after recovering from my injury.
What were you doing before the accident?
I had a business. I used to sell imported used clothing.
Why did you choose to become a bus conductor instead of returning to your previous business?
Primarily, it was the lack of funds to sustain my previous business. Since I didn’t have a job and lacked the capital to start a new business, becoming a commercial bus conductor was the first job that crossed my mind when I was thinking of the type of job to do with my condition.
What was the best option for you at that time?
It seemed like the most viable alternative for me. That was why I went for it.
Do you have a wife or family members who support you at home?
No, I am still single, but I am not living alone.
Are you in a relationship?
No. I think girls nowadays are after money, and I don’t have the qualifications as well. I think girls usually see me as half-human. So, they would not answer me even if I approached them.
What were some of the difficulties you encountered after the amputation?
The physical and emotional challenges of adjusting to life after amputation are extremely difficult and demanding. It was a struggle for me to become accustomed to using crutches, and I had to undergo a process of re-learning how to use them. Additionally, dealing with body image issues posed its challenges.
Did you feel hopeless?
Not really, though I occasionally felt frustrated and depressed to the point of wanting to give up. However, I constantly reminded myself that there was no hope in comparing myself to those who had passed away. Instead, I found strength in comparing myself to others whom I believed I was superior to. This mindset motivated me to persevere, as I had faith that I would eventually find assistance through my endeavors.
Being a conductor is considered a demanding job by some people. Has anyone ever discouraged you from doing such work?
No. People are aware that I was working hard on my own, and I take pride in being more driven than those who resorted to begging due to their circumstances. Even in the face of discouragement, I refuse to pay attention to detractors, as I have a family to provide for. I have remained dedicated to my hustle, choosing to ignore discouraging words and instead drawing strength from the encouragement and hope that others bestowed upon me.
Did you have supportive friends who positively influence you?
Yes, my friends are very supportive and offer their support in any way possible. However, I am mindful of their struggles for survival as well, and I don’t want to burden them.
How do passengers react when they see you on a bus as a conductor?
I often receive sympathy from passengers. Most of them encourage me not to give up on life, and sometimes, they even give me money as a form of assistance.
How does the driver you report to treat you?
He has been treating me with kindness. I am truly grateful to him for accepting me, despite my condition, to work alongside him. He is a genuinely kind-hearted person.
Did you acquire any skills or formal education?
I have not acquired any skills, and my education ended in Junior Secondary School Two due to my parent’s inability to pay the school fees.
If you were to leave this job today, what kind of job would you be interested in?
If I get any assistance, I would like to start a less stressful business that is easy to manage. I would greatly appreciate financial assistance from Nigerians. It has been challenging for me to work as a bus conductor with my condition. Most of the time, I return home late with aching legs. Nevertheless, this does not prevent me from going to work early the next morning. Also, I would appreciate financial assistance from the Anambra State Government or assistance in establishing a business.
Is there anything being an amputee has taught you about life, what would that be?
I strongly encourage anyone facing physical challenges not to give up. Although life can be frustrating at times, they should not let those challenges bring them down. They should never underestimate themselves, and they should not hesitate to pursue any lawful employment.