Now, I’m sure almost every superheroine you’ve heard of has some sort of out of the ordinary superpower. Well, this isn’t one of those stories. No, this is a story about a woman, a brave woman that took on the responsibility of saving the world, a part of the world.
I remember the night I heard this story, December 26th, 2008. My siblings and I had gone for our annual family retreat at our village, Ibiaku Uruan in Akwa Ibom. It used to be a 10-day vacation and activities like shopping, swimming in the streams, crowded sleepovers, catching up with relatives and drinking freshly tapped palm wine always made my list of anticipated events. “Leave no second unplanned for” my cousin, Akan would always say. Yes, we were very excited but nobody was as excited as my Grammy, hosting her grandchildren was her favourite thing to do.
We arrived on the 23rd, kicked off the retreat with love and then assigned roles for the activities. Everything was on track, until the night of the 26th, that night, we had plans for a movie night and some homemade snacks. I was in charge of tech support, which is short for “make sure the TV and every other thing works fine”. I did my job fine, in fact, I had three movies lined up just in case ‘my village people’ wanted to go surprise me. Everything was set, my twin cousins, Akan, Bassey and I carried the generator far out just in case the power went out, we wouldn’t have to waste any time getting back on track. As predicted, the power went out 80 minutes into the second movie. We rushed out to turn the generator back on and surprise, the battery was dead. It’s 8:26 pm and we don’t have a spare battery, there’s no light in the house and we all rested well during the day. You could hear the children sigh and cuss the power distribution company out.
After about 20 minutes of grumbling and pretending to have a solution to the problem, we decided to sit out and enjoy the good energy in our beautiful village. Mind you, we still had a lot of snacks left for the movie night. So, we’re all chilling outside and my grammy clicks her phone and walks out of the house to catch some air. Being the curious one, I walk over and ask her how they managed when there were no television sets or VCD’s. “I mean, life must have been really difficult and boring”, I said. She had a creative grin I didn’t trust, that basically meant “Boy, you have no idea what your generation is missing”. She started to explain how her parents, second uncles and third aunties would gather everyone around and tell them stories. Stories that didn’t just excite but taught life lessons, life lessons that guided them as they grew up. Her passion for storytelling made me want to go back and listen to all these amazing stories. So, I asked her if she’d be willing to tell me a story. She was a storyteller, it was in her DNA and I guess she really missed teaching history. Anyway, I’ll try to tell the story that changed my life so yes, you should keep reading.
Now, I’m sure almost every superheroine you’ve heard of possesses some sort of superpower. Well, this isn’t one of those stories. No, this is a story about a woman, a brave woman that took on the responsibility of saving the world, the entire world.
Amy was born in the year 1820 to her parents. Well, to her father basically. Her father, Jabulani was a heavily bearded man ship merchant’s apprentice from the Southern part of Africa while her mother, Elna was a beautiful seamstress from Ethiopia. They met in 1919 during one of his travels and immediately connected. It was the irony of “True love survives all” as the Ethiopians didn’t permit inter-tribal marriages and Elna’s parents would never allow her daughter get married to a man that wasn’t half as wealthy as he was. But like most true love stories, nothing was going to stop them from being together and so they snuck around as much as they could and within two months of courting, Elna got pregnant and had to elope with her lover to Southern Africa. They were inseparable and Amy was going to be their love child. But then, things don’t usually go the way we want them to, Elna went into labour like every normal pregnant woman, baby Amy took a lot of effort and about 26 hours to come out.
She was so cute and a delight in her parent’s eyes. Her father called her Amahle which meant the beautiful one in his language because, in reality, she was a copy of her mother. Three days after childbirth, Elna started complained about feeling unwell and before the illness could be diagnosed, she died of internal bleeding. It was like a dark cloud had covered Jabulani’s entire universe, he was in so much pain that he refused to eat or come out of his room. Everything changed about him and who could blame him? The pain of losing someone close to your heart can make you lose yourself and that is what happened. Jabulani didn’t openly blame baby Amy but it was obvious that he felt some regret about her birth. Some people say he tried his best to love her but I say he didn’t try well enough. He kept spiralling, lost weight, became bitter and filled with hate, he finally took his own life when Amy was 2 years old. Left an orphan, her mother’s best friend, Annika adopted her and continued living in Southern Africa. Amy grew to be as beautiful as her mother.
They became very close as they both grew and Annika never brought up the fact that she wasn’t Amy’s mother. 18 years after Amy was adopted, Annika became sick with a very rare and terminal form of the Ganu virus. This form ravaged through Africa and killed about 300,000 people in its wake, for some it went by fast and for others, it took some time. When Amy found out her mother had been infected and had about 7 years to live, she started asking about a cure. She would have to go through 5 years of tertiary schooling and publish a lot of papers to stand a chance to win a grant to start her own research lab. But none of that mattered as she was more than motivated to do all she could for her family. She gained admission to study Biochemistry, alongside, work as a laboratory assistant for one of the most foremost contributors to the progress of the field, at the University of Cape Town. Taking care of her ailing mother and studying a difficult course wasn’t as easy as she thought and so she visited home often and prepared for the grant.
Three days to her convocation and she received a letter from the sponsors of the grant and like a dream, she was in. She now had the resources to start her own lab and try out her ideas and solutions. Unable to contain the excitement, she travelled home to inform her mother that everything was going to be alright. But life was leaving Annika, she got pale and could no longer bear the pain, she knew she had to tell Amy the truth about her birth mother and so, she did. Amy didn’t take it too well and so she storms out and goes back to school for her graduation. The night she gets home, she patches things up with her mother and tucks her in, “sleep well”, she ended their 3-hour conversation with. She had no idea how well her mother would sleep. Annika died that night, at the age of 65.
The death changed Amy, made her friends wonder how much one can love a person so much their loss brings about yours. Like her father, she was broken, busted and disgusted at hope. She spiralled for some time and then one day she gets wind that a 9-year old girl was raising money to get her mums medication for a different form of the same virus that caused her mother’s death. Realising she could no longer waste her abilities and gifts, she decided to reopen the lab. She put her all into making progress in the search for the cure and after a few years, she finally did. She found a cure and saved countless lives across the globe as the disease had spread as far as China and Ireland. Her discovery earned her several awards and accolades and she lived a long and happy life and went on to do amazing things for the world. Rumour has it that she found the cure right in time to save King T’Challa’s ancestor”. My grammy ended the story by telling us that Amy’s family migrated from Southern African to Southern Nigeria a few months after she found the cure.
By the time my grammy was done, we were all gobsmacked at the story of the life of Amy. We were given time to share life lessons before going into the next story. For me, Amy’s story teaches many things and the most important lesson for me is that true success comes from solving problems.