She is an Intelligent Woman, She is Beautiful, She is Smart, Hardworking and Indefatigable, but guess what? She was born with Severe Profound Sensorineural Hearing Loss.
Yet this woman defied all odds, scaled through all the challenges that comes with such disabilities and made it to the top of the ladder and is enjoying a full, productive life today.
Meet Doctor (Mrs) Ijeoma Nnodim as she takes us through the journey of her life, her challenges, her successes and her vision for the next few years.
Can you tell us about yourself and background?
I am Dr Ijeoma Nnodim. A wife, mother and Paediatrician. I am originally from Ozubulu, Anambra State but was born in Lagos. I am married to a pharmacist from Imo state with two adorable daughters.
I was born with a hearing impairment, in medical terms, Severe-profound sensorineural hearing loss.
I had my nursery education at Imola Day School. I still have a report card from there that says “She does not pay attention in class” (Smiles). Teachers didn’t understand I was hearing-impaired.
I then attended St Leo’s Catholic Private School Ikeja. My Secondary School was at Command Day Secondary School Ikeja.
I got admission to study Medicine and Surgery at College of Medicine, University of Lagos.
I started a Post-Graduate Specialist program at Federal Medical Centre Asaba, Delta State which I have concluded.
Please Explain Sensorineural Hearing Loss to the Layman.
It is Simply Hearing loss is in stages;
What are some of the symptoms to look out for?
Hearing loss is an ”invisible” disability. You won’t know someone has it by just glancing at the person. It is when you try to communicate that you know. Activities of daily living can be affected, going to the market, bank, hospital, church etc can be stressful when you have to communicate with strangers. Asking someone to repeat what he said several times makes them think you are daft!
Symptoms can be noticed in a child such as;
Not responding to sound
Child may appear inattentive, distracted especially if you are not facing the child directly
Such children may also have a degree of speech impairment, not speaking clearly or not even talking at all.
They also tend to keep to themselves a lot.
How was your experience like growing up with such condition?
I became used to people saying I don’t respond when they call. Sometimes some made fun of me.
I learnt how to read lips and if someone wasn’t facing me, I wouldn’t know when I was being spoken to.
It made me withdrawn and I kept to myself a lot. Burying myself in books.
How about your education? How were you able to scale through to the level you are now?
At the beginning the hearing loss wasn’t too bad. I was able to cope with being average. Perhaps I may have done better if the hearing loss was addressed appropriately.
In secondary school I sat in front as much as possible so that I could see the teacher. I also copied notes from class mates.
It was after secondary school that I first had access to hearing aids. It made a lot of difference. However because it was second-hand, the hearing aid got spoilt several times.
I made sure I got to lecture halls very early to sit in front. I also copied notes from classmates.
You have really done well for yourself despite your condition. Far better than most people who do not have any of such challenges. What has been your source of motivation?
My parents, especially my mother have been wonderful.
They encouraged me in school to excel. My mom has cried with me several times in those dark periods when things became difficult because the hearing aid spoilt.
God is the ultimate source of my motivation
What are some of the causes of Severe-profound Sensorineural?
In many cases the cause of hearing loss is not known.
Some are hereditary.
Some are caused by antibiotics. A lot of people indulge in self-medication which is wrong.
Note the following when dealing with a hearing-impaired person
*Don’t shout. Volume is not usually the problem.
*Directly face the person so that they can read your lips.
*If they don’t know you are talking to them, draw their attention by gently tapping on the shoulder.
*Dont exaggerate your facial expression.
*Speak clearly and always try to do so in a well-lit place.
How will you describe the journey so far?
It has been a journey of ups and downs.
There have been sad moments but the happy moments predominate.
Any keywords you follow or practice?
There is ability in every disability. I believe that with God nothing is impossible. My life exemplifies that.
I also believe in hard work. There are no excuses to becoming the best you can be.
Is there anybody you look up to as a role model?
I admire Professor Beckie Tagbo, a professor of Paediatrics who has achieved so much in the field of Vaccinology. She also balances that with being a Christian.
Also, Prof Seline Okolo and Dr Bertie Ezeonwu who believed in me and spurred me on to become a Specialist in Paediatrics.
What is your word of advice for people out there who are going through one challenge or the other and are thinking they cannot make it?
Do not let anyone put you down. You are smart, intelligent and resourceful.
Pay attention to your education. It is a platform that can elevate you to any height you want.
Where do you hope to be in the Next 5 years?
A professor of Paediatrics, successful wife and mother and a beacon for people living with disabilities. So help me God.
We hope this story inspires you enough. You have no excuse whatsoever to fail in life. If she can make it this far despite her disabilities from childhood which could have been a genuine reason for her to relax and shy away from the challenges of life, then what excuse do you have? I am talking to you. Yes You.
Rise up to your feet and say No to Failure. You can make it no matter the circumstances.