By Patrick Dele Cole
MORE than a Miracle is an emotional and heart-rending story of a mother’s love for her son, and ferocity in which we would go to any length to save someone we love. It is a story of trials and triumphs, but mostly of faith; of believing that no matter the situation or the circumstance, God has a way of pulling one through if we firmly believe and trust in Him. It is a story of hope and love – for life, family, friends, and God.
More than a Miracle is written in the first person – a narration by Chinwe Ezeanya – whose son, Dike was born with a congenital liver disease which was misdiagnosed at birth.
Born on 7th January 2008, Dike always looked jaundiced. However when he was about three months old, a trusted consultant paediatrician discovered the source of his illness and he was ultimately referred to a hospital in India for proper diagnosis and cure. They went to India, and the solution was a liver transplant. It is usually advised that donors for liver transplants are family members, as they are the closest match, although the transplant is only done if the donor agrees to give a part of his liver. Unfortunately, Dike’s father had recently had surgery so he wasn’t considered a healthy fit, and his mother, Chinwe had a different blood type so she wasn’t considered a match either. It seemed Dike had a death sentence.
Chinwe and her son moved to India in search of a medical solution. During the five months of waiting, she watched her son’s health deteriorate slowly and painfully. He began to show symptoms of the end stages of the disease. Liver cirrhosis had set in and nothing could be done but a transplant. Seeing their dilemma, the Indian doctor proffered a solution – a swap transplant: they find a family member who also needs a liver transplant and swap livers. This means, the healthy persons from different families, donate their liver to the sick person of the other family. This had never been done, and was unheard of. It sounded unbelievable but would save Dike’s life, if they find a matching family on time.
At some point, the paediatric liver consultant who had given them this suggestion even advised that she should go home and look after her three daughters, but Chinwe still hoped for a miracle. After almost six months of waiting in India, when Dike had turned 15 months, one mismatched donor, blood donation from strangers, near death experiences, and endless praying, they finally got a donor. The swap liver transplant took place; Chinwe donated her liver to a sick Indian woman, and the woman’s husband donated his liver to her son Dike.
It was a landmark surgery done in India. Four operations being done simultaneously in the same hospital; parts of two livers being taken from the donors and transplanted into the recipients all at once. It was huge. A 36-member surgical team working on four patients for 36 hours, taking 10-12 hours to work on each patient. This was 29th June 2009. The media was in a frenzy and the news was aired around the world, including here in Nigeria (see This Day Newspaper of 11th September 2009).
Fast forward to 2018. Dike is now a glowing healthy 10 year old. His mother, Chinwe turns 50 on 29th May 2018 and is also in good health. So she is telling her story. This is her tribute to life.
The story gives details of what Chinwe went through with her family as they watched Dike’s health deteriorate in the first 15 months of his life. The emotional trauma they experienced and the pains they went through as their beautiful, only son seemed to live with a death sentence.
She talks about the overwhelming love and support of family, friends, the church and even complete strangers when they moved to India. But she also talks about the naysayers who kept telling her to “take heart” and allow her son die, as it was the “will of God”. About the people who did not understand her pain especially those who were close enough to have understood.
She talks about her faith, how she held on to God even when it looked hopeless. About how her faith waivered, almost losing it, and how she was able to keep herself on track by constantly reading scripture and praying for a miracle.
She talks about the stress she experienced in her relationship with her husband and the pains they went through as they both struggled to understand their son’s ill health. She also talks about how the trial brought them closer together, finding their way back to love. The book is dedicated to her husband for the unending love, care, and sacrifice he has made for her and their family.
Today, we are still surprised by the incredible progress science has made in the life of man. Many scientific wonders though are now taken for granted and man has lost the spirit of wonderment for such progress. My mother never forgave science for the invention of the aeroplane because she never could imagine how a machine could fly and carry people all over the world. (She may have been a little afraid of it since she suspected that this machine may one day carry away her son who wanted to be a pilot, not a doctor or lawyer). Recent advancement in technology communications, space probes, etc. no longer engages our imagination. In medicine progress in treatment techniques no longer makes us stop to think. Hip and knee replacement surgery is commonplace, so is heart surgery. In our lifetime, we have seen the cloning of Dolly the sheep; the incredible growth of stem cell research and much else that are no longer in the realm of speculation. The growth of artificial intelligence and drone technology, have implications not yet untapped. While humans can cure, they have made progress in technology that can also destroy the world in a matter of seconds. But let us not go there. Dike is alive, is computer literate, can play football, video games and a thousand things his grandfather, a technological Neanderthal and neophyte cannot begin to comprehend!!
Dike has brought the wonder of science, through the even greater wonder of God, into our lives. Whenever we read about the progress of medicine we may be enthused, wonder for a minute and move on. When we see Dike, we do not wonder for a minute. We stop. Thank God and science, as the thrill of the excitement of his life washes over us as wave after wave of goose pimples reverberates through our body. What Dike has been through and his presence in our lives is literarily miraculous. When Jesus said to the cripple, “Take up your bed and walk,” that cripple relives that miracle every second for the remaining days of his life. It becomes the substructure on which the cripple’s new life is built. So it is with Dike.
In Dike’s case, it is not Dike whose life had been saved by the surgeons of the 36-hours operation by 40 doctors, it is ours. Dike does not go about thinking about the operation. He is unaware of it in a physical sense and may sometimes wonder why we see him as a walking miracle. He is just a young boy who has recovered from an illness. To us, he is much more than that. He is the stuff of legends. He is our legend, our inspiration, the source of our strength, the testimony of our faith.
It is personal to us who know him. To others who may hear his story and share our sense of wonderment, they do so momentarily.
For us, the wonderment is a never to be forgotten experience, a reminder that we are mere mortals and that the supernatural revealed himself to us in a personal way which we can never forget or repay. Dike has been given a spirit to tolerate our inadequacies as we wonder at our little “god”. He goes about doing the things young people of his age do, he will grow up to be a man and would never understand the incandescence of light we see in him.
I presume great sports men like Mohammed Ali, Usain Bolt and the rest of them have parents, brothers and other family members. Members of their family cannot but believe that they have been specially blessed. If they walk with jauntiness in their step, it is probably because these great athletes are their relatives. The world may forever see them as world champions and claim them as such, but those who are family know them and can claim them more. So we know Dike. We will remain more than grateful that he is one of us. We can tell his story with greater authenticity. But it is not his story we tell. It is our story and God’s manifestation therein.
For Chinwe Ezeanya, her experience and love for her son, Diken’agha Kenechukwu Nadim Yobanna Victory Ezeanya is indeed more than a miracle.