By SOLA OGUNDIPE
ONYINYECHI Mary-Colette Okafor, the third of five children born to Aloysious and Grace Okafor of 34, Osho Drive, Olodi-Apapa in Lagos, has sent a distress call to the Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, and all well-meaning Nigerians at home and abroad, for assistance to raise N5 million to undergo an urgent life-saving brain surgery.
As you read this story, Onyinyechi, who hails from Utuh, in Nnewi South LGA of Anambra State, is on admission in Ward D3 of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi Araba, Lagos after diagnosis of a rare and aggressive form of brain tumour known as Brain Stem Glioma.
Making the call to Governor Obi through her paternal aunt, Ms. Obiageli Ulasi, ailing Onyinyechi, who although has been receiving palliative care at LUTH, is yet unable to speak, walk, stand or function normally, is praying the Governor assistance to raise the N5 million in order to have access to adequate treatment and care in an Indian hospital.
“I implore you sir, with due respect and humility, to use your good office as my Governor, my mentor and my father, to enable be get a new lease of life through this surgery,” she remarked.
Until April 27, 2013 when her world turned upside down, Onyinyechi was a healthy and intelligent 14-year-old JSS 2 student of Ajeromi/Ifelodun High School, Lagos.
Today, she has stopped school and no longer attends Church or partakes of other normal activities like her contemporaries. The entire left side of her body is paralysed and she is separated from her family and friends and has become a permanent resident in the hospital.
A medical report from LUTH described Onyinyechi as “a known patient of the Haematology and Oncology Unit of the hospital who presented two months ago with a one month history of headache and inability to use the left side of the body.” According to the report signed by Professor Edamisan Temiye, a CT scan revealed the brain tumour which is being managed with radiotherapy and dexamethasone. Already, she has had 20 sessions of the radiotherapy, and requires an additional 10. The doctor recommended further evaluation and expert care.
The brain stem is the part of the brain that controls breathing, heart rate, and nerves and muscles used in seeing, hearing, walking, talking and eating. Although brain tumours are the third most common cancers in children, the causes are generally unknown.
Onyinyechi never had previous history of head injury or trauma. Relating the ordeal to Health & Living, Obiageli stated: “Onyinyechi just woke up one morning complaining of dizziness, a nagging headache and general body weakness. She was hospitalised four days after an initial medical diagnosis of typhoid and malaria. But there wasn’t much improvement. She kept complaining of progressive weakness and paralysis on the left side of the body, so she was taken to another hospital from where she was referred to LUTH where the brain tumour diagnosis was confirmed.
At the moment, the family is barely managing to pay the huge hospital bills. Worse still, Onyinyechi’s father, a trader, is also indisposed. Onyinyechi’s only hope is to be flown abroad for better medical outcome.
“We have contacted Yakoda Hospital in India, which has assessed her case and given us a breakdown of treatment expenses to the tune of N5 million. This would cover surgery, drugs, transportation, and accommodation for six weeks for Onyinyechi and her mother who would accompany her. The hospital is ready to comence treatment but financial constraint is hampering us.”
In a passionate plea, Obiageli solicited assistance towards raising the required sum. “We are appealing to Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State in particular and all Nigerians to please help save this soul. Let us give Onyinyechi the opportunity and ability to live again,” she pleaded.