By Sola Ogundipe
THE excitement was palpable, Saturday July 23, 2011 at the Banquet Hall of the Grand Hotel, Asaba Delta State on the occasion of this year’s draws of the Fertility Treatment Support Foundation, FTSF, initiative.
The idea of organising a public draw in which 16 Nigerian couples across the Federation, would, over a two-year period, have opportunity to access series of free In-vitro Fertilisation, IVF, cycles under the FTSF initiative is novel.
The FTSF, formerly known as E.A.R.T (Expanded Access for Reproduction Techniques), was established as a result of the prevalence of infertility in society today.
From research, one out of every four couples or 25 percent of couples are fertility-challenged and would require one sort of intervention or the other. Hence, the appreciable demand of Assisted Reproductive Treatment, ART, solutions, such as the famed IVF.
But there are drawbacks to this olive branch, the greatest of which is, perhaps, the issue of cost. Affordability of treatment is one of the most common causes for concern of the fertility-challenged couples.
A regular IVF cycle in any standard fertility treatment facility costs an average of N650,000 to N1,000,000 depending on the clinic and profile of the case.
As a result, many couples desirous of conceiving their own babies have been denied the opportunity to have access to the initiative, due to their inability to afford the cost. Hence, to keep the dream of fertility-challenged couples alive, FTSF was born.
Implemented in partnership with Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos/Asaba, the FTSF has, for years, been committed to the goal of giving 16 lucky Nigerians completely free IVF treatment cycle over a space of two years.
The initiative was put together as a platform for enabling all fertility-challenged Nigerian couples, to have access to the best and most advanced assisted fertility treatment services in the world, at no cost.
Two specially selected couples who ultimately emerged from this raffle draw, will benefit from a full IVF or combination fertility treatment novel initiatives This translates into two Nigerians every quarter.
Ten couples are to be screened per quarter, out of which two would be chosen for the free IVF treatment. The Asaba event marked the second quarter of the on-going event.
The current phase of the draws kicked off three weeks ago, and by the time the period earmarked for couples to send in entries elapsed, a total of over 10,000 entries were received.
To qualify for the rare opportunity offered by the FTSF, all intending couples, irrespective of their state of origin or residence, but with conception challenges, had sent their details, as directed, in the form of name, age of woman (wife), address and years of marriage to a special code – 33140. It was that simple.
There were no limitations to the number of times of the entries. So all was set. The task of scaling down to the required 10 couples lay solely with the computer.
From all indications, the choice of Asaba for this year’s draws was not by accident. Rather it was significant. In the bid to ensure the initiative is truly national in character, there was need to move the draws around.
Moreso, the Asaba branch of Nordica covers the hub of the South East and South South zones of the country where a large number of enquiries about the issue of infertility was being recorded.
As noted by Medical Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos/Asaba, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, the impact of information and enlightenment about treatment options for infertility.
Without much ado, compere for the evening, authorised the computer operator to set in motion the draws.
First to be picked from the maze of entries was Mrs Joyi, whose cell phone number was conspicuously displayed on the screen for all to see. Joyi, who resides in Lagos, was unavailable to pick up the call when contacted on the indicated line, but a male voice which announced itself as belonging to Mr Joyi urged the caller to ring back, promising to relay the good news to his wife.
A return phone call later was a revelation as the female Joyi expressed her joy and fortune to have been picked again. Excitedly, she related how separately she and her husband had sent in repeated entries. Their strategy paid off because they emerged the very first winners.
The Joyis’ case was fortuitous. For the couple, history was repeating itself and luck was decisively on their side as it had been when the FTSF debuted in 2008.
At that time, Joyi had emerged one of the 10 lucky winners picked during the colourful and memorable grand finale of the maiden draws at the Planet One, Maryland in Lagos.
Mr Oseki David, a resident in Benin City, was the next lucky winner as his number rolled up on the screen. In the number three spot was Mrs. P.B.Ghomorai from Patani. Fourth phone number to roll up on the screen belonged to Mr. Tom George of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
First half of the draws
Mrs Falana Oluwayemisi who resides in an undisclosed town in Osun State emerged the fifth winner to round off the first half of the draws with her number.
When the session resumed, the sixth winner was identified as Mrs Kehinde Ologun of Lagos. Her number was randomly picked.
She was followed by Mrs Tosin Oderinde of Ilorin Kwara State, while Mrs Ugbagbor, a resident of Lagos emerged the eighth winner by virtue of the fact that the computer picked her phone number out of the lot.
What could be described as the highpoint of the evening occurred when Mrs Nwaoghor Okwudili Unity’s phone number was picked as the ninth winner. What stood this winner out from the crowd was her place of residence – Asaba! The hall erupted into applause and even as the compere made the mandatory phone call to the winning number, there were shouts of: “You must come here now” all around.
And come did the winning couple, to the excitement of all. In a short interview, they were able to disclose that even though they had high expectations from the FTSF initiative, they never quite actually expected to emerge winners so easily. Last but not to be picked was Mrs Ijeoma Onwueme, a resident in Owerri.
Just to keep up the excitement, organisers of the programme added a bonus by arranging an impromptu lucky dip for all couples present in the hall with fertility challenges.
This was how Mrs Isioma Mordi and Mrs Isioma Matthew and their spouses got the rare opportunity to be screened free of charge by Nordica, Asaba. However, they would not be eligible for the full IVF cycle unlike the 10 couples earlier picked from the draws.
The next step for the lucky 10 is that they would all undergo comprehensive screening to determine the best way in which they could be assisted to have their own children.
Two couples with the best chances of attaining conception will then be selected from this list to benefit from full IVF or combination fertility treatment.
But the beauty of the FTSF is that all the couples are winners in their own ways. Whether or not they win the ultimate prize, their joy lies in the knowledge that there is hope, regardless of the odds.