By Ibrahima Yakubu
Jasmine Tolulope is a young Nigerian who chose to show courage in the face of stigmatization which thousands of Nigerians face due to alopecia. Alopecia is an auto-immune condition which results in unpredictable loss of hair in its victims.
It means that Alopecia is a condition which leads to partial or total loss of hair and it can occur at any point in time in the life of the victim irrespective of the victim’s age. At times, it can lead to complete loss of hair on the scalp –it called Alopecia totalis and in some cases, the loss of hair occurs throughout the entire body -meaning all the eyelashes, hair in the armpit, hair on the hands, legs and chest would fall off.
This condition is called alopecia universalis That is the worst-case scenario and that was the condition that young Miss Jasmine Tolulope Oguns finds herself in. There are over 100,000 persons living with Alopecia in Nigeria and there are looked upon with suspicious, disdain and rejection.
Some are seem as afflicted with demons while others are seen as possessed with evil spirits. Most of the victims becomes withdrawn and at times contemplates or committee suicide.
MY HAIR CAMES OFF 13 YEARS AGO Jasmine told me how she got to know that she was afflicted with the condition.’ Anytime, I braid(plait) my hair, I noticed that a patch would go off, but I thought it would grow back, however the hair did not grow back’. It got to a stage that she had to shave her hair off totally hoping that it r would regenerate but it did not.
She was taken for spiritual counseling by her mother who thought that Jasmine was under spiritual attack. When prayers did not suffice, she was taken to the hospital. At the hospital, she was told that it was a condition called alopecia and that her hair may and may not grow again. Her dermatologist placed her under medication which cost over N18000.00 in a month and the treatment took her nine months yet nothing came out of it, Perhaps, pushed the stigma, jeers and taunts she Was subjected to, Jasmine consulted a new dermatologist who promised her that her hair would grow back in no time.
The dermatologist then prescribed a drug called Dexamatazone which should be administered as follows :10 tablets of 0.5mg should be taken at once or 5 tablets of 1mg should be taken at once.
After a few weeks of taking the medication, Jasmine told me that she started going insane ..Forgetting names of friends ,dates of birthday of loved ones and started having fits of tantrums and getting violent too .So at some point ,she had to stop using the medication.
REJECTION, DEJECTION AND SUICIDE CAME CALLING In Nigeria it would amount to sacrilege for a woman or a young girl to go outside her house with her scalp totally devoid of her. she would be openly ridiculed, despised and she may lose her friends. And all these was Jasmine ‘s lot . In the higher Institution, many students would come from other departments to see the lady with the bald hair, taunt and mock her. And it got to the point where she had to stop going out for any social meeting .She became a recluse.
Jasmine recalled that during her National Youth service in Kano, she met a young man and felled in love and planned on getting married after their service year. Three months to the traditional marriage, the mother of the bride to came to her house and told her mother that her son was no longer interested in getting married to someone with alopecia. The world came crashing for her on that day and it was in that state that Jasmine thought of ending her predicament.
She calmly walked in to the kitchen when no one was watching her, grabbed a naked water heater which was plugged and whoosh…. she was.
Today, Jasmine is alive, strong and waxing stronger. She has a foundation that raises awareness and counsels people living with Alopecia in Africa and Nigeria.