By SOLA OGUNDIPE
But for the free Benign Jaw Tumour Surgery Mission held in Owo, Ondo State, last month, 15 indigent patients might have never smiled again.
In several ways, the Mission, put together by the Health, Education, Work and Shelter, HEWS, HEWSF, in collaboration with the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, held from June 18-22, 2012, was in a life saver.
Dozens of patients came from far away places such as Sobe, a border town between Ondo and Edo States; Iju Ishaga, in Lagos State, Ogbomoso in Oyo State, and Ado, in Ekiti State.
They were forced by the prevalent challenges of poor access to care, cost of surgery, dearth of surgeons in hospitals within their communities and towns to take advantage of the free surgery provided by this Mission.
There was Rebecca Ilevbadje, a 13-year- old girl who had suffered swollen jaw for two years and had long given up hope of relief after being presented with a huge bill for the surgery. They never went back. But when they heard about the free surgery, it seemed too good to be true and before she showed up for the exercise.
Christopher Samuel, another 13-year-old with a jaw tumour, had earlier been sent into the interior part of Kogi State, to avoid the stigma associated with his condition. His parents could not afford the cost of removal of the tumour untile the Mission came, and messages sent to the Samuels in Ikpeme, Ondo State compelled the father to take him to enjoy the benefits of the free surgery.
Clement Akinsanmi, 61, and John Ajala, 58, both had suffered swollen jaw for eight and 10 years respectively also took advantage of the free exercise, when assistance came their way through the HEWS Foundation’s intervention.
Other beneficiaries were a 15-month-old baby boy born with benign jaw tumour – a rare occurrence at birth and 10-year-old Bimbo Elegbeyemi from Iwaro Oka, Akoko, Ondo State , who was discovered, during surgery, to have an additional tumour in his neck region. Both tumours were removed.
Most of the beneficiaries had lived with their condition for between one and 10 years maily due to poverty and ignorance about the manifestation and nature of the disease.
The HEWS team discovered that ignorance among the indigent especially in rural communities is a majorly contributor to its prevalence hence the urgent need to create awareness about specific and maxillofacial conditions in general. Benign Jaw Tumour as an intriguing disease is not only an unpleasant sight to behold due to its nature of presentation but can do grievous damage to the mouth, jaw and face of a sufferer and has the tendency to become malignant if not treated early.
The HEWS team argued for a proactive and collective approach by all stakeholders in tackling these conditions beginning withenlightenment and public awareness campaigns.
With a primary focus in the health care sector to provide free Cleft Lip and Palate surgeries to indigent Nigerians especially children, of HEWS Foundation, however, widened its scope, giving the need for intervention in other related health care areas due to high incidence of such deformities. This led to the extension assistance to include cases such as benign jaw tumour, lockjaw etc and other conditions on a need and availability basis.
Volunteers including Dr. Kolawole Ogundipe, a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, and Dr. Obitade Obimakinde, a Maxillofacial Surgeon, both of the University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, as well as Dr. Olufemi Ogundipe, a Maxillofacial surgeon from Federal Medical Centre, Owo, were on ground.
The HEWSF management team comprised the Founder/President, Mr. Remi Adeseun, Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, Mrs Shola Soji-John, Mr. Dotun Abosede, Project Manager, Mr. Lekan Olayiwola, finance Manager and Mrs. Yetunde Jacobs, Programme Officer and their partners, Sahara Energy Limited, Rodot Nigeria Limited,