June 19th was World Sickle cell awareness day and in that spirit, I had a conversation with an amazing young lady who also happens to be a very good friend of mine doing incredible work in terms of self-development and also inspiring other people living with sickle cell anaemia.
Ibukunoluwa Imabong-abasi Ajayi is a writer, model, content creator and a motivational speaker.
She was born with the sickle cell anaemia and as with every child in that situation, it was not exactly a jolly ride; missing classes, missing exams and being unable to participate fully in extra curricular activities due to incessant illnesses.
By 2007, when she was about 14 years old in SS2, she began to experience a numbness in her right leg. Before long, it started to swell and developed into 2 ulcers which got bigger as the days passed. The wound restricted not just her expectations as a senior secondary student, but also dampened her self-esteem as a budding young lady. So it is safe to say Ibukun didn't have an opportunity to experience what many of us have taken for granted.
But the ever resilient Ibukun pressed on and got into a private university, however that experience did not play out as expected and got to shaping the way she saw the world.
While in school, Ibukun had to deal with people running out when she walked in because in their words she was "smelling like a dead body". Her roommates made complaints to the school authorities which eventually led to the school asking her to withdraw till the leg ulcers had healed.
This incident was followed by her being hospitalised for three months.
Ibukun had her first skin graft surgery in 2009. Skin was taken from the thigh of her left leg to cover up the 2 ulcers. It was deemed unsuccessful as one of the ulcers opened up and begun to grow bigger, causing her pain and discomfort.
In 2010, she re-wrote jamb and got into UNILAG. But as the years went by and the leg ulcer persisted, along came depression and she found herself constantly having suicidal thoughts. This prompted her parents to arrange for her to go to the United States for another skin graft surgery in 2014.
Three months after her return, the ulcer came back again due to school stress, and she had to start treatment all over again.
In her words:
at this point, I was crawling around my house, I was limping, I was hopping like a kangaroo in pain. The pain in my leg was so painful, I could not walk with it. I started to drink alcohol because that was the only thing that could numb the pain. I had taken so many painkillers that they had all lost their effect on me
With great faith, at 22, Ibukun managed to get a degree in business administration from the University of Lagos and complete the NYSC program while still nursing the leg ulcers.
She had another surgery in 2016 and the healing process has been going well. She has been doing better since then.
Having experienced what can be classified as extremely down times, and seen the insensitivity of humans, Ibukun is still on the journey of finding strength in herself and living it up one day at a time. She uses her story as a testimony and motivation to encourage people.
Whatever it is you are going through, however messy, however terrible your life may look right now, however people may be treating you now because of one condition or the other, be rest assured that your story won't end there. You just have to hold on to the knowledge that every night no matter how long it may seem has a "morning" following right behind it. And always remember only fascinating stories make front page news - Ibukun Ajayi
In 2018 social media influencer Toke Makinwa did a full makeover giveaway, asking people to share their stories on why they deserved it. Ibukun thought to herself "why the hell not?" sent in her story and suffice to say, her truth won Toke over.
Ibukun is truly a warrior. A diamond in the rough and with her impeccable consistency, excellent spirit and constant need to educate on the sickle cell anaemia, she has drawn the attention of other celebrities like Falz, Don Jazzy, Tiwa Savage and a lot of sickle cell organisations and warriors like her too.
You can connect with her @theimabong on instagram and TikTok
Click here to watch her #BopDaddy and #LetThemKnow challenge on instagram