THEY CALLED ME ‘ONEDAY’…….
As I sit on the roof terrace of my loft on 5th avenue, I take a look back into how it all started, way back when I was just 16 years old……
I was truly unhappy, why weren’t things working out for me, my mother had worked so hard when my dad died just to make sure that the 3 of us, my brothers and I went to school, had clothes on our back and a roof over our head, it wasn’t a nice palatial place but it was our place. My dad had started building the house before his demise, my mother put a roof over it and plaster the inside, the windows were wooden and the floor was bare, but we had 4 bedrooms, a sitting room, and kitchen, one fitted toilet and one bathroom, so we all took turns having a bath.
I remember the days when we would come home and mum would have cooked beans and corn, we would serve ours and also drink cassava flakes with cold water, which would last us until the next afternoon. Most mornings, we didn’t eat before we went to school. Thank God for having rich friends. My friend Timothy always brought a spare sandwich or biscuit for me. I would eat it for hours, taking nibbles every ten minutes, trying to prolong the satisfaction I derived from the snack.
Once I finished secondary school, my mom wasn’t sure I had the common sense to decide my future, so she took me to the Catholic priest, who advised her to let me join the seminary and become a priest. I would not hear of it. I wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor, not a priest and no matter how hard my mum cried, I told her that was not my portion. My mum was strong-willed and felt I took after her, so each time I ran away, she kept taking me back to the seminary, saying she knew what was best for me.
Every time she took me to live with the priest, I would run away the next day, or week, or month. Soon the priest said she shouldn’t bring me anymore. She should just pray that God softens my heart towards the idea. She prayed and prayed, forced me to fast and pray, but the more we prayed, instead of my heart getting soft, it just got hardened.
Then out of the blues, my old schoolmate Colin came back to the village two years after we finished secondary school. He was one of the lucky ones who got taken to the city by a relation tolas soon as we finished. Colin had a car and looked good. I was shocked and was wondering how quickly he transformed. He laughed at my surprise, said I was not smart and told me all the good things that were happening to him in Lagos. I was happy for him, but it all seemed too good to be true.
The fact is, I had two older brothers who had already gone to Lagos; the eldest was working and sending money to the middle one to see him through university; he said to me when your older brother finishes you can then go, as he couldn’t afford to pay for both of us in university at the same time. So Colin’s sudden success was dodgy. My brothers had told me so much about the goings on in Lagos that I could tell so many stories. You would actually think I had lived there. The thing is, they wouldn’t have told me all their struggles, but my mum always asked them when they came around, “why can’t you be successful like so and so, why does so have a car and you don’t, how come so sends a suitcase of clothes to so, the other day?” She would go on prompting my brothers to talk about all the doggedness people got up to in Lagos.
I was determined not to get carried away by Colin, the rabble-rouser, or let him convince me to go to Lagos with him and come to work for his boss. I was going to go to Lagos, stay with him, but sort myself out. We agreed on one of the two. I could stay with him, but he still insisted his boss would give me a job. Anyway, I packed my stuff and went with him to Lagos.
His flat was in Surulere, Ericmore. It had 2 bedrooms, a sitting room, and each room had its own bathroom. That was a far cry from my house back home. I settled down quickly and took to the streets of Surulere to find a job. I walked all day and saw a few job vacancies, but I didn’t have the qualifications. The ones I had the qualifications for, I didn’t have the experience. I was slowly considering the idea of working with Colin’s boss.
Then one Saturday morning, I took a walk around again. I came to a shop, it was a business centre and there was a vacancy sign for a chef. Confused they would need a chef for in a business centre? But I knew I was qualified because my mum taught me how to cook when I was 10, not out of interest did I learn, but by force, because she was shorthanded, she couldn’t afford over one staff, so when she got this catering jobs, I had to do some of the cooking. In time, I got really good. I never knew it could come in handy. Anyway, I walked in to make inquiries. The lady was friendly and asked me if I could cook really well and for how long had I been cooking. I said yes, one, I could cook very well and two, since I was 10. She told me her boss was the one who needed a chef and his house was in Apapa. Would I mind going for an interview now? I said I wouldn’t, so she called the driver and he came to get me.
We stopped in front of this big house. As the driver got out of the car and walked into the house he asked me to wait in the car. A few minutes later, he came to get me. As I walked into the living room, I froze out of shock, as in front of me was a white couple and their son who was about my age.I remained rooted to the ground. The couple smiled, asked me not to be afraid and beckoned to me to come over. They took turns to ask me questions about myself, my family and my cooking skills. The interview ended with them asking me to cook some sauce, which I did perfectly, and they hired me on the spot. After confirming their desire to employ me, they showed me to a room in the boy’s quarters and said this will be my home from now on. I asked for some hours to pack my things from Colin’s house. They instructed the driver to take me. Within an hour, we were back. The next morning, the lady of the house asked me to remind her what my name was. I said ‘Wande’, she said ‘One day?’ They called me one day after I said yes. I didn’t mind. I even kind of preferred the way my name sounded when they said it.
After that, I settled in really quickly and started cooking for them. Their son was always sleeping. He hardly ever came down to play. I was told to make sure he ate properly, so I had to take food to him in his room. he would just ask me to sit with him for a while, eat a few spoons and then fall asleep. Soon I got curious. I asked the driver what was wrong with him. The driver said he had a bone disease, but he could not explain it properly. When I asked why he wasn’t in the hospital, he just shrugged and walked away.
So I investigated this disease that won’t let a boy go out to school, play or even stay awake all day. So one day after serving him lunch, I took his laptop downstairs and went online. I was very good with computers. I spent most of my time in a cyber café when I wasn’t helping my mum to cook. A youth cooper who came to serve in my school when I was in the final year, Uncle Sam I called him, had told me that information was power, anything I needed to know was on google. I searched for bone illness and Google told me he had leukemia. The intriguing part for me was that further investigation into the disease revealed that a bone marrow donor could give him a new lease on life. I kept reading further about donors and how you can become one. Don’t forget that medicine fascinated me, my dream was to become a doctor first, then if I couldn’t, a lawyer.
My next move was how to talk to my boss about it, an idea came to me, I wrote him a letter, stating that I had read up online about their son’s condition, I would like to get tested to see if I could help if I was a match. I left the note on their dressing table. For days, I heard nothing. I went to check where I left the note it was no longer there. A week later, my boss asked me to come for a ride with him. We drove straight to a hospital. After some tests, it turned out I was the same blood group as their son. My boss was ecstatic, the doctor said they would start the paperwork immediately. I didn’t understand, what does that mean I asked my boss, he just smiled with tears in his eyes, gave me a big hug and said, “I will explain at home, thank you One day”
Once home, he sat me down and explained that their son had been waiting to be flown to America to get the operation done, but he was too weak to fly and the fact that they hadn’t found a donor made it risky to just fly him, now that I was a match, the operation could be done immediately. But first, they needed my parents’ consent. The next day, the driver took me to the passport office to apply for a fast track passport, my boss had sent a car to pick up my mum from our village. The driver left very early in the morning and by that evening, my mum was at my boss’s house.
Once she had settled down, He told her their story, how he came on a contract to the country, then their son fell ill so they couldn’t go back. They have been praying and waiting for a donor for 3 years and now I walk into their lives and volunteer to be a donor. His wife got up went over to where my mum was sitting, knelt down, stretch out both hands and held my mum “One day is an Angel sent from God to bring back our Joy. Please don’t refuse us.” My mum lifted her hands up and said she could never refuse them a favour, as long as it won’t harm me. She explained that since I started working for them, her life has been easier. I send money regularly and she can see how well I have been, so what do they need from her?
My boss cleared his throat and said they needed my mum’s consent and blessing for me to donate some bone marrow to their son. At first, my mum was reluctant she could not believe that everything was as simple as me giving some fluid from my body to their son and he would get well. She wondered if she will ever see me again. But the reassuring voice of my boss and his wife put things in perspective and cleared up a few misconceptions. Anyway, she eventually signed the consent form. To compensate her, my boss gave her a cheque for half a million naira and promised to sponsor me to any level of education I desired.
Three days later we were on a private plane. It was an air ambulance heading for New York, in the United States of America. As we landed, a helicopter flew us to Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital. I had to redo the test, and they found me to be a perfect match. We got ready for the operation within 8 hours they were done. When I finally woke up, I was alone in my room surrounded by flowers, chocolate and thank you cards. I tried to get up, but I still felt weak from the anaesthesia. Eventually, I drifted back to sleep.
That evening, my boss and his wife came to see me. They kissed and hugged me several times to express their happiness that the operation had been successful. My boss called my mum back in Nigeria. She was delighted everything had gone well and I was safe. She asked when I was coming back, and I said I don’t know, but will ask my boss. As soon as I dropped the phone, his wife said she had something to tell me. “We did promise our son that if he survived, he could have anything he wanted and he already asked for what he wanted. He wants us to adopt you, and send you to school. What do you think One Day?’’ My boss added
Wow! I couldn’t believe it, my mouth was ajar, “really” I asked. From a cook boy to an adopted son of an American rich couple. I had so many questions but I had to confirm one key question, “are you going to pay for my university in Nigeria, I asked”. “No son, we are going to pay for your university at New York University, here in America. You will stay here with us as our son’s brother. Part of you is already in him and that makes you brothers for life’. As I listened to him explain my new path in life, I got off the bed, laid on the cold floor and cried.
After that life was great, I Wandeoluwa Babatope graduated from medical school, specialized and became one of the few doctors in the world who can perform surgery on a fetus. God Almighty turned my mourning into dancing and he lifted my sorrow. Paul understood how God makes a way when there seems to be no way when he wrote, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13, 14) In order to be more like Jesus Christ, we need to allow the Lord to motivate us and enable us to do the things that are humanly impossible. Know that the word of God and the Spirit of God are constantly at work in a believer to motivate and to enable one to accomplish all of God’s will for their life. Allow the Lord to use other believers, service and personal devotions to transform you more into what God wants you to be.
Have a blessed day.
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Great read, lesson learnt.
I wish things turned out for everyone this way.
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