Two minors from Imo State – Chibuzor Jason Ezelaka (six months old) and Ifeanyichukwu Victor Okoroafor (12 years old), now have the opportunity to live normally again, as Governor Hope Uzodimma has facilitated successful open-heart surgery involving the duo at the Regions Neuroscience Hospital, Mgbirichi, near Owerri.
Chibuzor and Ifeanyichukwu who hail from Ezinihitte and Okigwe local government areas of Imo State respectively, were discovered to be suffering from chronic heart problems that required intensive expertise attention when their parents presented them for medical attention at the recent Imo State Medical Mission which held from January 30 to February 4, 2023, courtesy of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in America in collaboration with Imo State Government.
When the attention of the Governor was drawn to the pathetic situation of the two patients by the medical experts, he directed the Commissioner for Health, Imo State and his Committee to put machinery in motion for a proper cure for Chibuzor and Ifeanyichukwu.
On Wednesday and Thursday, March 29 and 30 respectively, the two minors were ushered into the theatre at the Regions Neuroscience Hospital Mgbirichi where a team of consultant surgeons spent a cumulative 16 hours operating on their hearts until they successfully rectified their problems.
The gloom that was written on the faces of the parents of the two minors when they saw their wards being wheeled into the theatre instantly gave way to excitement, joy and prayers for Governor Uzodimma and the Surgeons when they saw the same wards being wheeled out and were told by the doctors that the operations were successfully carried out.
Addressing the media shortly after the successful surgeries which he said took eight hours to operate on each patient because of the complexities, the Hon Commissioner for Health Imo State, Dr. Success Prosper-Ohayagha, said that Governor Uzodimma directed that renown Cardiac Surgeons from any part of the world be invited to carry out the surgery on the children, noting that “the exercise has cost the State fortunes.”
The Commissioner recalled that the cases came up during the period of the first phase of the Medical Mission where it was discovered that the babies had defect in their hearts.
He further lauded Governor Uozdimma for his willingness to give newborn babies and children the best lease of life “because the earlier children with such defects undergo the surgery the higher chances of living a good and normal life.”
Dr Prosper-Ohaghaya who said that “this is the first time government is bankrolling the cost of such surgeries” insisted that the successes in the health sector made possible by Governor Uzodimma “will continue to reverberate.”
The Commissioner added: “For sustenance of the successes to the benefit of Imo people, there is the urgent need for the general public, the good spirited Imo citizens, the philanthropists and the well-to-do in the society generally, to join in the sponsorship as government cannot do it all alone.”
He however assured that open-heart surgery for children in the State will be a continuous exercise, noting that “this is part of the giant strides the government has started in order to have a sustainable and good health index in the State.”
He also thanked the Surgeons for accepting to render humanitarian service and more importantly, the Regions Hospital for providing an enabling environment for the exercise.
One of the experts, Dr. O C Nzewi, a Consultant Cardiac Surgeon said that the two cases they handled were of “extreme complexities.”
He said the six month old male baby patient, Chibuzor, was born with a complex congenital heart disease with two holes in the heart while the 12 year old male patient, Ifeanyichukwu, had four defects in the heart which made him to be struggling to live with the attendant lack of concentration in school.
Dr Nzewi said that “some children suffer many kinds of heart defects, some minor, while others are more serious as defects can occur inside the heart or in the large blood vessels outside the heart.”
He reiterated that “this is the first time in Nigeria that a Government is concerned about the plight of indigent patients in their State and decided to sponsor the patients treatment not minding the cost.”
He therefore called on other Governors in Nigeria to emulate Governor Uzodimma by doing the same and even wished that “it could be on regular basis.”
Dr. Nzewi who promised to partner with the State, said: “Since I am the Executive Director of a Foundation in UK, I will ensure that the Foundation partners with the State Government, such that whatever is provided will be matched to other sponsors to attend to more cases.”
He further appealed to the State Government to think of sponsoring at least 20 Imo State patients for open heart surgeries to save those that cannot afford the bills.
A member of the medical team, Dr. Vijay Agarwal who is a Consultant Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon from Charak Hospital India thanked the Imo State Government for the opportunity to let children live.
“Children are neglected, since they cannot speak for themselves,” he said and thanked the Imo State government for giving him the opportunity to be part of the surgery team.
The administrator, Regions Neuroscience Hospital Mgbirichi, Mrs. Ijeoma Anyanwu who represented the Chief Medical Director, Dr. Benjamin Anyanwu, explained that they keyed into the Medical Mission in collaboration with the State Government to contribute their own quota for the indigent people in the State.
She also appreciated the visiting Surgeons and the Governor for the milestone so far recorded and assured that a lot more will be achieved.
Expressing appreciation to the Government, the Medical Mission and the Doctors, Chibuzor’s mother, Mrs. Assumpta Ugochi Onwuka and Ifeanyichukwu’s mother, Mrs. Eunice Okoroafor, both narrated their ordeal prior attending the Medical Mission in January and thanked Governor Uzodimma for accepting to sponsor the surgeries. “We give God all the glory,” they chorused.
To Governor Uzodimma, they said they lacked words to express how they feel and submitted that they will continue to pray to God to grant him the grace to continue in his kind gesture attributes and to even extend the same privilege they have enjoyed to others who are passing through the same type of challenge.
Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor