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Polio survivor’s incredible journey to success

PICTURED: Mark Esho

TODAY MARK Esho is a best-selling author, a successful entrepreneur and a married father-of-two, but his journey to success has been one littered with obstacles, including contracting of life-threatening disease polio.

His parents had him when they were young and put him into foster care with a white family in the UK before returning to Nigeria. Following a violent fit, Esho was diagnosed with polio aged five. His experience with the disease was so severe that doctors told is family he had only a 10 per cent chance of survival. However, Esho defied the odds and lived, but he was initially paralysed from the neck down. After undergoing treatment, he regained the ability to walk with aids but opposed to his foster parents sending him to a school for children with disabilities, Esho’s parents plucked him from the UK and brought him back to Nigeria with them.

“It felt like being snatched away from my family,” Esho said of the experience.

His dad attempted to cure his disabilities by taking him to see a witch doctor who performed painful rituals in an effort to reverse the effects of polio.

Esho, who attended mainstream schools in Nigeria, spent his breaks studying as his father’s refusal to allow to him to have a wheelchair – believing it “showed weakness” – left him unable get around with ease. He returned to the UK as a young adult to study at university. Away from his abusive father, Esho was eventually able to excel.

In addition to being a successful business owner, he is has recently become an author of a best-selling book about is life, I can, I will. He told The Voice what he found most challenging about writing his story: “Having to relive the memories that I’d buried really deep inside, I’d say that was them most challenging part of it. There’s so many things that I’d almost forgotten that I then had to bring to the forefront and part of it did kind of re-traumatise me.”

Esho is not the only one who struggles to confront the brutal realities of his upbringing and early life, his sister has refused to read the book stating that it’s too painful for her and his children have also not read it for the same reason.

Being uprooted from a family he saw as his own, feeling he didn’t fit in Nigeria, suffering bullying at school and physical abuse at the hands of his father, Esho’s ability to overcome is testament to the strength of his character, something he believes he had no choice but to develop.


SHARING HIS STORY: Mark Esho speaks with the audience at the launch of his book

“If you look at my life and when you read the book, I was in a situation whereby I didn’t have a choice. Being paralysed from the neck down, then having an abusive childhood, it’s one of those situations where you kind of do or die and the way I look at it is that in most cases I didn’t have a choice. But I think it’s that need to survive and also a part of it...is because I’ve faced so much discrimination and also so much disappointment and upset, it was almost like rocket fuel to use to basically motivate myself,” he said.

The 56-year-old admitted that he still has “dark days”. As to how he copes with managing those painful memories and dealing with the discrimination he continues to face on the grounds of both his race and his disability, Esho uses a range of tools.

“I find meditation and praying works, although I don’t go to church as much as I used to… I’m still prayerful. I love my motivational speeches so when you read my book, you’ll see there’s reflections. I always put quotes at the end of each chapter so that’s my coping mechanism,” he said.

His own relationship with his father has had an everlasting impact on him and even affected his own parenting.

“I would never ever want my kids to hate me as much as I hated my dad that would completely destroy me so I was...it’s actually quite interesting because it was not till I kind of realised how I interacted with my children that I then realised how abusive my dad was,” Esho said.

The book has been somewhat cathartic for Esho, although he finds himself unable to re-read some parts. Despite some of the difficult and emotive subject matter, he hopes his story will inspire others – and it appears to be doing just that.

“I’ve had so many people come to me and basically say, you know, I too suffered childhood abuse...it tends to be more Nigerians, interesting enough, because a lot of Nigerians have gone through similar experiences...so the impact is in terms of inspiring people, possibly getting people to open up as well and also basically just giving people hope,” he said.

Beyond his businesses, book and raising money for Rotary Club’s Purple4Polio campaign to eliminate polio and care for survivors – a proportion of the proceeds from Esho’s book will go towards the cause – he has his sights set on realising more goals.

“I want to become an inspirational speaker. I want to work with children from inner cities, hopefully be a role model for black children, also for disabled people as well, there’s not enough role models within our community especially in Leicester, we need more business people,” Esho said.

To find out more about Mark Esho’s book visit www.markesho.com

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