By: Richard (Iron) Baayeh
Let me commence my story with the very beginning of my life. I was told and I believed that I was born on a Sunday, at one o'clock at noon. It was said that the clouds began
to gather, thunder and strike. I cried out loudly. My presence was acknowledged by my parents and others around at that time. I was born Richard Kwesi Kootibe Baayeh, in the remote areas of the Northern Region of Ghana, the
son of Patrick and Florence Baayeh.
I grew up so quickly and developed a deep love for athletics, which I later realized I was great at. I discovered this talent in the Bishop Herman College (BIHECO) with the aid of
my school coach. Soon I reached the athletic dream, which I worked hard to bring hope and meaning to. An important part of that dream was to become a world champion some day. By the end of my second year in BIHECO, for short time,
I had become the school, zonal, and the regional champion in the 100 and 200 meter races as well as the discuss throw. Before I graduated from Bishop Herman College I had become the National junior champion in the discuss throw
and was running 100m in 10 minutes and 11seconds and the 200meters in 20 minutes and 21seconds respectively. At 21 the future was bright for me and my ambitious dreams of becoming a world champion was definitely in reach. I wanted
to be like Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Maurice Green, Donovan Bailey, and Frankie Fredricks.
Time passed and it was early October 2000. The rains had stopped and the dry season had begun setting in. Every year in the dry season, the town of Koforidua in the eastern region
of Ghana, where I lived experiences water shortages, and as such preparations were being made to contain the situation. It was in view of this that my mum, whom I love very much and would gladly do anything for, asked me to mend
and paint her licking barrel for her. But when she asked me to mend and paint her licking barrel, little did she know that it would turn out to be a tragedy, one that would change my life.
On the 14th of November, I decided to honor my mum's request. The responsibility of painting barrels has been mine since time immemorial. On that fateful day I had finished melting
and mixing the coal tar with petrol which was a little less than a liter. I have taken it away from the fire and had left it to cool for an hour. Now the temperature was down and I didn't anticipate any unexpected contingencies. I
had started painting and was almost halfway through the painting when suddenly and unexpectedly, I heard "whoop!" the coal-tar (Bitumen) which was not on fire and no where near the fire caught flames. Instantly I quickly redrew
my hand and face but no matter how hard I tried luck seems to have run out of my side as I slipped and fell. Still desperate to escape unhurt, I struggled from the ground but as hard as I tried it all seemed fate and circumstances
had all combined against me as my leg kicked the container with the coal-tar in the process and the whole content poured on my legs. Aaaah! What a pain it was. During this period it was as though time never existed. I felt as if I
never existed. It was like the world never existed. Groaning with pain and terror, I managed and made my way to the tap which mercifully was flowing. At the tap I painfully extinguished the flames that had caught my shorts and the
heated coal tar that stuck my pitiful flesh. I didn't know why but I tried to pray but as hard as I tried I couldn't. After a long struggle, "God have mercy" was all I could say.
Running from the spot of the accident to the tap was enough to cause damage to my already miserable skin. The chocolate layer of my inner thigh had peeled off leaving a horrifying
white layer with greenish blood vessels and veins neatly woven right beneath the white layer around my thigh. It was an artistic masterpiece of God. Amazing wonderful nature of God was at it's best . It was a stunningly beautiful
work of aesthetic art by the all-knowing eternal merciful father in Heaven. A blend of beauty and pity "God is wonderful". Even in the midst of this unfortunate devastating situation I found myself, I still gave credit to God because
it was due. So I did pitifully but, without regret because I knew in the horrendous journey towards recovery I am going to need him for sustenance. I got frozen at the spot, I stood up with a feeling of trembling sensation in my knees.
As I stood there trembling pitifully, the thought of a possibility that I may never be able to run again engulfed my mind. I had big dreams. Dreams of growing up to like Donovan Bailey, Maurice Green, Michael Johnson and Frank Fredrick.
My grandmother had also predicted before her death that I was going to be an outstanding athlete when I grow. My late grandmother's prediction and wish was on course of coming to light and her soul would have had a perfect, sound and
everlasting peace. But how? How am I to make it all happen? Rage and frustration blurred my vision. My heart was filled with hate for life, because without athletics there was no life for me. As I stood there trembling like an injured
bird, I felt an agony of pain in my heart. It was so painful that I shut my eyes; I gulped with hurt and disappointment as agony of despair begun to fill my entire body.
When I came back to myself, or when I was restored to the land of the living from the wonderland, or which ever it was, I found myself surrounded by neighbors ready to help me. While many
assisted, others stared at me in shock and fear. The mood of the atmosphere had changed into a pitiful outlook. By this time, my world was shading down into darkness. The good neighbors of mine tried to help me by cutting the remains of
my jeans shorts with a pair of scissors. At this moment in time, there seems to be fire burning in my throat which was spreading very fast through to my chest. I was getting terrified I will die as a result of shortage of fluid in my system
as my legs were discharging some colorless fluid. A bottle of iced water was made available which I gulped greedily like a mad dog before seconds and was asking for more. My legs looked like I have been playing in the mud while my thighs
looked as white as snow. Pitifully enough, the incidence took place in the absence of my dear mum. Then suddenly there's a shock moan behind me. It's my mum. She looks at me with wide starring eyes. The way my mum stared at me from the back,
I wondered what other injuries I have.
She even frightened me to death the way she coiled her hands on her head as if I was dead. She even made me think that it was over for me. "If only I had known this will happen I wouldn't
have asked him to do it" She laments bitterly. I have every reason to be loyal and obedient to her. I remember as vivid as memories of yesterday when she used to carry me at her back with gallons of "Akpeteshie"(palm wine) then she would
walk great distances climbing mountains and stuff like that. She walked, and walked until the sole of her foot developed horrible and painful blisters. I became guilt-ridden because I thought I was smart enough to have escaped unhurt.
How could it happen? Why me at this point in time in my life? Is that a price I pay for being obedient? Is this the price good people like me pay for being respectful? My mind, in that confused state was jammed with questions that I couldn't
really figure out the answers. Why does it have to happen this way? But that's a real loser's attitude. But I knew I have never been a loser, neither do I expect to become one. Not now, not tomorrow, and not ever. After all I chose to do it
because it was right.
As I sat in the taxi, I started thinking I was never going to see my father. I could die any moment without getting the opportunity to say goodbye to my father. To tell him how much I love him.
He was away on trek. "Don't worry, I will get you there soon", says the driver. In this state of uncertainty nothing looks soon enough for me. The roads were narrow, rough and jammed with cars. Now the blinding heat of the sun burning me is worsening
my predicament. Maneuvering was virtually impossible. We were stuck. Now the sun was scorching and I felt like my body was burning in eternal fire. The pain was getting worse. I try to speak, but when I speak, nothing happens. I became confused. What
has burns got to do with my speech? But my voice wasn't working. Then I realized something terrible was wrong. My mum stared at me bitterly, while eyes were welled with tears. I thought hitting the dashboard was going to solve my problems. My mum tried
to calm me down but it didn't work. She thinks I'm delirious. Again it was as if there was fire in my throat, while my heart started to beat faster and harder. I have to put that fire which was burning in my throat out now. I was beginning to feel giddy.
I was dying from great thirst but the lamentable fact was that I couldn't speak. I point painfully to my mum. As she gives me the water I gulped greedily. I must have more but I feel a little better. But still, I'm thirsty. Now I was sure I would get to
the hospital alive no matter what. But how soon, I never knew. The pain was getting terribly worse again. But I must fight it.
Eventually, we were there, the hospital at last! They got me out of the taxi and lifted me upon a wheel stretcher. I moan with pain, fear, and regret, while crowd of other patients at the OPD kept gawping at me.
Then suddenly there was a look of terror in my eyes. "Don't cry my brother", said one of the nurses. "You are going to be alright", she said again but, this time in a rather gentle and kind voice. "Don't cry, we're
going to take very good care of you". The compassion in the little nurse voice for a moment eased my pain. I began asking myself thoughtfully. Yet still in the blend of painful guilt and sorrow, I wasn't quiet sure if I really deserve such sympathy and pity from this
nurse. She looked rather pretty and determined in her mid-twenties. I thought that I knew better and was much smarter I shouldn't have allowed myself to be a victim of such a dream shattering horrible accident. This was my pre- conceived idea and this was exactly the
source of my guilt. I just couldn't forgive myself. But I had forgotten that life is full of uncertainties and unpredictable circumstances and that it's the unexpected that happen. "Life is full of ironies". I refused to give up and continued to torture myself. I felt
resentful that I have lost control of my life.
Thoughts of my dreams, dreams of growing up to become a world class athlete were flashing my mind over and over again making me want to give up on hope for the future. My dreams, reminds me of my grandmother. It was her
wishes that I grow up to become a great athlete. I have to get out and build my dreams for the sake of my grandmother, mankind and to the glory of God in whom I have absolute trust. Now I didn't want to think that this is the end of my dreams as I knew I would get out of
this mess, run again and even soar like an eagle. "Mum do you think I can run again when all this is over?" I asked. "Yes my son, the lord will course you to run even faster than you used to".
As to how far this is true, time will tell. Many sedatives were shot into my body to calm me was so much that it almost rendered the drugs ineffective. It was casualty at the Koforidua Central Hospital. There's a sharp
piercing pain in my arm as they hook me on an intravenous. I watched with eyes that really didn't see, the intravenous tube that was hooked to my arm and into my vein, my eyes were fixed upon the rubber sachet with the pale yellow liquid as it's contents that seemed more
water than anything else, so quickly it was depleting. I couldn't believe it. I thought it was suppose to just trickle into my arm. It was running out very quickly too, so quickly it beats my imagination. I was getting scared. Something was terribly wrong but, I didn't know
what. At that point in time, nothing was safe or was certain either.
Within a period of thirty minutes I had taken nine of the big sachet. The nerves were calming down and I could feel the sedatives taking control. I remained stable but out of focus. My physical being was present among the
living but spiritually; I was far from the living. Since I was out of focus, I could not see.
But, I heard different voices. I see human beings in the form of gigantic shadows. I heard my mum's voice. That was it. My mum's voice was the last thing I heard and could remember.
Burn Survivors Throughout The World, Inc.