My Life With VITILIGO: 23-Year-Old Nurse Tells Her Story

Honya Enam Heikeens vitiligo

Honya Enam Heikeens

My Name is Honya Enam Heikeens. I am 23 years old and the only girl in a family of six.

I had my basic education at Keta Anlo State School, and proceeded to Keta Business Senior High School for my secondary education to read Home Economics (Home Science). I am a graduate of Keta Nursing and Midwifery Training College. I am professionally a Nurse.

GROWING UP
Growing up, I wanted to be a model and a TV presenter but when I turned 12 years old, I realised my first patches or spots—that’s vitiligo. Initially, my family and I thought they were just birthmarks until our visits to several hospitals in and outside Ghana yielded no results. Finally, we painfully concluded I had the condition called VITILIGO.

My vitiligo kept spreading and that was when I decided to become a nurse, because I realised being in the health sector would give me the opportunity to learn more about the skin condition. At the time, the stigma attached to vitiligo was terrifying. I should say it was part of the reasons I initially decided not to become a model and TV presenter.

Childhood experience was very bad and sad moments for me. Most people attributed my skin condition to a curse. I had no friends during my basic education. It was during the senior high school that I met one wonderful lady; we became friends and sisters till date. She became a true definition of friendship. We were always seen together. She was virtually my strength.

Unfortunately, along the way my elder brother whom I follow directly also had his first patch. That moment was the saddest time for the family. None of us in the family ever thought he would also have vitiligo. My brother and I became so distant from each other because the condition was so shocking to him. He was always shy because he knew what I went through when growing up. Fortunately, he has overcome the shock and now we bond very well.

This has been the plight of Honya Enam Heikeens and her family for the past 11 years. The interview below was taken from the website of Vamijo, a community of inspired people sharing ideas, projects, initiatives and visions to challenge themselves and inspire others.

DOES VITILIGO HURT?
No! Vitiligo does not hurt. It is just a skin condition where there is a destruction of the melanocytes of the skin, resulting in the development of white patches or spots or the skin. IT IS NOT CONTAGIOUS. It affects all races and sexes. It does not itch. It is just a skin type.

YOU ARE A VERY CONFIDENT, REASSURING AND DETERMINED LADY. WHAT ACCOUNTS FOR THESE?

Well, vitiligo is not a disease. However, it is a difficult condition to tolerate, being more often a psychologically devastating condition. My confidence has to do with self-esteem and belief that keep me going in life. I have learned to accept myself by projecting who I am. God has always been a major source of motivation for me and I must say my parents and family in general have been very supportive even to date.

We must all see ourselves through the eyes of God than those of humans. God has a purpose for every condition, so don’t look down on yourself; look up unto God; that is where purpose is.

AS A NURSE, WHAT IS THE REACTION OF PATIENTS TOWARDS YOU?

When I was in Nursing School, during my clinical practicals, the reaction from patients whenever they saw me was not welcoming at all. But anytime I encountered patients’ reaction towards my vitiligo, I would always be the best of myself and educate them about the skin condition. I knew such reactions would occur in my daily interactions so I always tried to reassure patients and educate them, even up to now.

GOING FORWARD, HOW DO YOU INTEND TO ADVOCATE FOR OTHERS WITH VITILIGO?

Well, I joined the Vitiligo Support Group Ghana and Africa (VITSAF) during my senior high school days and ever since, I have remained a member. As a group, we have been advocating and educating the general public on the skin condition. In Ghana, the data of individuals with the condition is not yet ascertained because of the psychologically devastating nature of the condition; people feel shy to come out and be themselves. At VITSAF, we are working hard to reduce, if not completely eradicate, the stigmatisation that comes with vitiligo.

Sadly, people are denied jobs because they have vitiligo. It is heartbreaking.

As an ambassador, I have personally been very active in giving voice to people with the condition and this is evident in my interactions on social media, radio and other platforms.

My passion to be a model and TV presenter is still alive and kicking.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A VITILIGO PERSON?
Accept yourself. Have self-belief. Read more about the condition because the more knowledge you have, the less anxiety you will have about the condition.

My simple advice to the public is that vitiligo is not contagious. Let’s encourage and support vitiligo patients.

Ignorance will not help. I encourage everyone to learn about the condition. It will reduce the stigmatisation. Let’s also support VITSAF in all forms—logistically and financially.

Source: Daily Guide

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