Four years ago, shocking photos of former Blue*3 diva, Jackie Chandiru with scars on her skin caused by drug injections hit the tabloids. The singer’s drug abuse issues were increasingly pushed into the spotlight. Reports suggesting that the once ‘Beyonce of Uganda’ was on suicidal watch were also spreading like wildfire.
The ‘Gold digger’ singer was taken to Bunamwaya Rehabilitation Centre and later Naguru Hospital for rehab and for the years that followed, Chandiru went through turbulent times from being falsely announced dead four times, to having suicidal thoughts.
Fortunately,in 2019, in what seems as ‘light at the end of tunnel’, a good samaritan came for her rescue and flew her to Nairobi where she has been receiving better treatment. Now, the former Blue*3 star, is on her way to full recovery.
Last week,in an exclusive interview, she caught up with Karitas on NBS Chartroom where she reflected more about her journey through rehab and how she is now focused for the bigger picture.
Phases before going to Nairobi
Before going to Nairobi for treatment, Chandiru recalls she was in rehab at Naguru Hospital. ‘’I was at Naguru hospital and I was going there like on a weekly basis because by that time I hadn’t healed properly’’
At Naguru, she says she was seeking physical healing, not mental as many thought then.
Like she has maintained in most her previous interviews, tribulations stemmed from abuse of a prescription painkiller called Pethidine which was supposed to treat a back problem.
She said that she got addicted to the drug that was only meant to help with her back pain.
‘’I never thought about it, never! It’s only later when I had this issue that the doctors told me that your body abcd..I was like I’m going to die if not that am just going to walk with wounds on my body’’
She says, ’’Before body grafting ,my body wasn’t able to heal, so the doctors told me to take some time before I can be able to do skin grafting.’’
In September 2019, while still under treatment, several reports suggested that Chandiru’s situation had worsened. This, she says, made her more insecure and forced her family to take her away from Naguru hospital where she was receiving remedy.
‘’Well, I was taken forcefully from Naguru Hospital. The day I was taken, my surgery was meant to be the following day for skin grafting and I was just picked because of the stories that were going around. people were saying things were not going right, and they came up and picked me up by force. My surgeon begged them to keep me there for at least till the following day”
From there, ” I was taken to rehab again and it basically put everything that i was doing before many steps back’’.
Reflecting on the times, Jackie explains that negativity from the media and rejections from her family led her to pethidine addiction which she says used to shut down the world out. For Chandiru, that was a good place because everyone was abusing her at the time, from family to the media. ‘’It shut out everything, I was happy’’. She disclosed that those moments at first would last for 20 minutes for each of the daily 20 pethidine vials which cost about Shs.500,000 per day.
In the course of time, Chandiru recalled she started considering her mental health. “I was going to church a lot and I was trying to learn a lot of things about like forgiveness, acceptance of so many things’’. She revealed she used to go to a church in Zanna to deal with her mental problems. Despite her efforts, she was still unable to get out of the spiral.
‘’Well I think I didn’t get enough time in church to be able to deal with my past demons and stuff like that but during the time I was at church, I found somebody whose mother actually works at Naguru and she knew one of the best plastic surgeons there. So I got a connection,’’ she says of the experience.
Speaking about some of her most vulnerable moments, Chandiru told host Karitas Karisimbi that she had five suicide attempts which she says luckily failed though she was sure she was going to die each time.
‘’There is a reason as to why I am alive. That’s what I believe and I will speak to whoever can listen to me. By the time I went through what I went through, I mean, there is a time I would look at my wounds and I would see them changing colour. At one point I was like ‘they are going to cut off my legs or arms.” That experience showed me that anyone can go through whatever challenge they are in. So i speak to people. That’s what i do in Nairobi’’.
How she ended up in Nairobi
Chandiru says it was somebody who happened to love her as she was, without even knowing her that decided to take her away from all she was going through.
‘’All of a sudden I was picked from rehab, taken to the airport, then Nairobi’’. In Nairobi, she says she didn’t know anything that was happening. “I was taken to a house where I stayed for a bit”. She says, adding that at that time, she had no will to ask for drugs.
The healing process
In Nairobi, Chandiru narrated she met a doctor who did all sorts of tests and later told her that something was wrong with her bones and all stuff like that. ‘’Everything about me became fragile, my nails, my hair, everything, my teeth,’’ she recalled.
Chandiru described her healing process as ‘unexplainable pain’. ‘’It took about two weeks for me, for the withdrawal symptoms wear off. They are not like the usual things you go through. Your skin crawls, you can’t scratch it because it hurts. It feels like there is something moving under your skin but they don’t move nicely. They move like they are pulling nerves. If it’s in your hands, your feet hurt. Everything hurts’’.
On what she did to calm the pain, Chandiru said there is nothing she could do since she was in rehab.
The pull of the drug
Even while receiving treatment in Kenya, Chandiru says she still had the urge to use pethidine. ‘’I would still think about it because I was still unhappy. My body was healing very slowly but in my mind, I wasn’t very happy and i would think about pethidine, ketamine a lot.’’
After meeting a number of doctors, she finally decided to go for surgery and went for skin grafting for her arm which she says took long to heal.
At the time, she says she was working. She would later meet someone who she says somehow recognized and introduced her to a Plant Stem cell product. She says the operation was going to cost $300,000 which she didn’t have at the moment. ‘’So I gave myself around 3 months to be able to make $300,000. I had..I think $180,000’’. She says her sacrifice paid off. ‘’A month in three months, there was change. My skin was matching.’’
On being accepted by the community, Jackie says she is giving people time to accept her. ‘’Now I have accepted the repercussions of my actions. Because, you have to realise every time I stepped on stage, it was the ‘Beyonce’ of Africa. So this time I am coming out in a different way, the same person but in a different way. So I have to prepare people to accept me and then by the time I come out it’s a done deal’’
Accepting her mistakes
On her current physical appearance, Chandiru says, “I know I messed up his temple(God). The scars I have are the repercussions of what I did and it took a long time for me to accept that this is the consequence of what you did although when I was doing whatever I did, I was happy. At that time I had given up on everything and I believed what i was doing was right.’’
On her music career, Chandiru who spends most of her time in Kenya explains she is now more into motivational speaking than music, “I’m more into motivational speaking. I speak to teenagers who are going through what I went through.’’
She says that with a new lease on life, “I just decided I’m gonna stay alive, I’m going to go back to work whether it’s music or anything else.”
From the physical healing, Chandiru believes she is now on the journey to full recovery mental, spiritual and intellectual.
This was the 2nd episode of NBS Chartroom to delve into Chandiru’s past health issues.