For its 35th Free Medical Outreach, the O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation sent a high-powered team of medical professionals to Omoku Community in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni (Onelga Local Government Area) of Rivers State to provide multi-million Naira medical intervention services to the people.
The programme, through which the Foundation solves critical health needs of people living in rural communities in the Niger Delta, covers diagnosis, consultancy, counselling, treatment for eye, dental and internal surgeries, provision of eyeglasses, physiotherapy sessions, and administering of prescribed drugs and other medical items. All for free.
From 9am till 6pm daily, between Monday, 21st March to Friday, 25th March 2022, the team of specialists attended to thousands of people who thronged the Omoku Primary Healthcare Centre, venue of the outreach. The team included experienced surgeons, family physicians, dentists, lab scientists, physiotherapists, optometrists, opticians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, and non-medical volunteers.
From within Omoku and neighboring communities, in search of respite, pregnant women, children, adolescents, young/older adults and the aged, each with one pressing health issue or the other, wore their despair and hope on their faces as they endured the rigor of the screening process before being attended to by the medical team.
Oribi James Anaye, Head of Foundation Affairs, said the programme was designed to attend to the health challenges being faced by families at their doorstep, free of any charges.
“Two days into the exercise, we attended to 1022 people,” he said, at the official opening ceremony of the programme on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, which had in attendance the crème de la crème of Rivers State health services in attendance.
Reading the statement issued by Dr Mrs Seinye O.B. Lulu-Briggs, the Foundation’s Chairman, Mr Anaye, said, “Our free medical mission have been the major way in which the Foundation ensures quality healthcare is provided to our people, right where they need it in their communities, free of any cost whatsoever. Through this mission, we have reached 132,491 children, women, and men in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Rivers State. This is our first time in Omoku.”
“Since 2005, when the Foundation hosted its first Free Medical Mission, working with a team of volunteer medical professionals, it has learnt a lot of lessons about the kinds of health challenges that people in the region face and it has perfected the means of providing quality medical services efficiently.”
Dignitaries in attendance at the opening ceremony included Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, Deputy Governor Rivers State, represented by Dr. Agiriye M. Harry, Permanent Secretary, and Chairman, Rivers State Primary Healthcare Board; the Commissioner of Health, represented by Dr. Ojum Sylvanus, Director of Emergency Medical Services, Rivers State Ministry of Health and Hon. Vincent Job the Executive Chairman of ONELGA.
Others present were Dr. (Mrs.) Stella Agada Deputy Chairman and Supervisor of Health of the ONELGA, Hon. Victor Ahiakwo Leader of the Local Government Legislative Council, HRM Eze Michael Onowu the Traditional Ruler and Chairman, Omoku Traditional Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs,and Dr. Vincent Adiela, Chairman, Red Cross, ONELGA.
In separate presentations, the dignitaries acknowledged that Omoku is a troubled and long-forgotten community, a travail that has exposed the residents to life-threatening vulnerabilities. They lauded the O.B. Lulu-Briggs for its thoughtfulness in bringing medical support to the area.
“The government is pleased, appreciate, and fully supports the gesture being displayed by the Foundation,” Dr Banigo said in her presentation. “O.B. Lulu Briggs Foundation is a brand that has stood the test of time, reputed for its free medical campaigns across the oil-rich region. For that, I commend them, tremendously.”
“However, I must say this before I handed over the microphone, in all its interventions across the communities so far, we at the Rivers State Primary Healthcare Board have not had cause to observe any complications from all the services they have been rendering. They are very meticulous in their planning, set their goals, and work assiduously to achieve them, with the help of topnotch professionals.”
The Onelga Council boss, said the huge number of persons who have come out to benefit from the free healthcare service validate prior warnings about environmental pollution in the oil-rich local government.
He added that as a government, knowing the huge health challenges facing the community, they have has focused on the construction of more Primary Healthcare Centres to meet the health emergencies of the people. “This is in addition to health awareness campaigns and sponsored public enlightenment radio programmes,” he said.
RESTORING TROUBLED VISIONS
Testimony Sunday, a 15-year-old young university admission seeker, whose ambition is to study Law, was one of the lucky people to be attended to early in the week.
She had battled blurry vision for two years and this has affected her preparation for the qualifying exams.
“Last year, I was supposed to write my WAEC exams, but I could not because of my eyes,” she said at the venue of the exercise. “It has been so difficult for me, so much that I could not read my books. Each time I try to, the text would just disappear.”
“But when I came here and the doctors attended to me, they concluded that all I needed was a medicated glass and eyedrops, which they have given me now. And it feels so good now. I can see. In fact, this is one of my textbooks that I brought to read as soon as I had the glasses (she waved a textbook she was holding), and I can clearly see and read with the glasses.”
Her story is similar to that of Moses Victoria, an SS3 student of the Community Girls Secondary School, Omoku, Rivers State, who also reported at the Primary Health Centre in the company of six friends, who were having similar symptoms of blurry vision.
As that set of six students struggled to be attended to, another two sets, comprising five and six students apiece, also found their way into the center, complaining of the same thing – blurry vision and difficulty reading their books.
Victoria wants to study Agricultural Food Science in the University.
She said: “Many people in this part of the country always talk about the Oil. But I believe that food and a good environment is key to human survival. And that is the job of an Agriculturist. And that is why I want to venture into that. It is actually my dream to be part of the solution to the country’s food crisis,” she added.
Two days later, Victoria and her three friends, finally completed the screening process and saw the doctors. After examination, there were provided with eye glassed and eye drops. However, two of their friends – Miriam and Joy – needed surgery, which they had successfully
Mrs. Doris Harry, a civil servant and mother of three children, had also been battling bad vision.
Dr Amadi Chikezie, an Optometrist who attended to her, interpreted her diagnosis as ‘presbyopia (Old Vision) – inability to read at near closure.’ “This is different from a short-sighted visual challenge, and it is to be corrected with drugs, eyedrop and medicated glasses,” he said.
An elated Mrs Harry was full of praise for the Foundation at the end of her treatment. “They gave me some drugs, and a new pair of glasses. I am grateful and I can’t wait to put the struggle behind me.”
Ugbo Selin Chioma, a 60-year-old retired civil servant from the State’s Ministry of Education, also had a successful eye surgery. She said she would have been able to afford treatment at a specialist hospital, but the money she was banking on using- her retirement benefits, have not been paid five years after her retirement.
“My eyes have been bad for more than two years now. All I could do to manage it was to administer eye drop and take painkillers,” she said. “But the situation has become worse lately. Sometimes, I could not sleep because of the itching. Also, I could not read my Bible since last year because of the eye problem. But I have been attended to here. There is pain of the operation in my body, no doubt, but I can see now. I am so grateful for this opportunity given by the O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation.”
Unlike the earlier beneficiaries, Aphus Lawson, a 67-year-old retired Officer of the Nigerian Correctional Centre, was not as lucky as others, as his eyes could not be fixed.
He was heartbroken on hearing the news that his case was a complicated one, diagnosed as the end-stage of Glaucoma, one of the leading causes of world’s blindness.
“It is an irreversible blindness,” Doctor Bright Ohaeri, an Optometrist, who attended to him, said. “There was nothing more to be done to restore his sights, except for the administering of palliative treatments.
“We have given him eyedrops and medicine to manage his vision and prevent further complications. The next stage would be to enroll him for training on environmental spatial ability, self-sustenance, and aided or unaided walks,” Ohaeri told Esther, the younger sister to Aphus Lawson, the visually challenged septuagenarian.
HUNCH BACK SURGERY
Rare access was granted to Dr. Brenda Nnokama soon after he surgically removed a growth from the back of a middle-aged man, with the assistance of another doctor and two nurses.
“What needs to be done now is for the tissue removed from his back to be taken to the lab for a test to ensure that there are no cancerous elements there. Besides that, the man is good now. He would also be given drugs and injections to sooth the post-surgery pains,” the surgeon said.
Jane Nwachukwu, a 23-year-old salesgirl at the Omoku main market, wore her excitement on her face, after getting her broken teeth were fixed after a dentistry session.
She said she slipped from the bathtub two years ago, and hit the floor, face down. The domestic accident took her to the hospital, where she spent two weeks to recover.
“But after that, my broken teeth made it difficult for me to smile in the public. But I got helped here by the foundation,” she flashed her white, shining teeth, as she smiled to this reporter.
Chief Eke Sunday Emmanuel, an 86-year-old man, visited the Primary Health Care with a back complaint. His back was stiff, and he suffered from intermittent sharp lower back pain. He was also unable to stand up or sit properly.
During his youthful days, he was a farmer and fisherman. The rigors of work took a toll on his physical wellbeing leading his crooked posturing, according to Annette Ayerife, the physiotherapist who attended to him.
“Ironically, physiotherapy is not only about massaging,” she said. “It is also guidance and counselling on how to live a healthy lifestyle.” After a massage and administering of drugs, she counselled the elderly man on how to live a healthy pain free life.
ROYAL BLESSING FOR THE FOUNDATION
His Royal Highness, Chief Michael Onowu is the Traditional Ruler and Chairman, Omoku Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs.
While praising the work of the Foundation, the traditional ruler urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on health in the locality.
“This is the highest producing oil and gas LGA in the entire state, and as such, the people are prone to a lot of health hazards, and that is why I want to implore the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in health in this area,” he said.
To establish the extent of the health crisis in the area, the traditional ruler said besides increasing cases of terminal diseases, the residents are losing their sights, developing brain damage, and finding it difficult to procreate.
“Everybody in this area is battling with one health challenge or the other as a result of the gas flaring activities here,” he said. “Our women don’t take-in (get pregnant) as they used to anymore. And this has left many husbands to result to polygamy because of childbearing.
“In those days when there was no issue of gas flaring, you can walk a long distance on foot and feel no pitch of stress. Now, you can barely survive walking just 500 meters.”
Mabel Ugochukwu, a University of Port Harcourt Undergraduate, said the presence of the Foundation’s medical team was God-sent to the community.
“If there was any part of Rivers State that needs this blessing, then Omoku is it,” she said. God bless the doctors and the management of the O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation for the work they have done here this week. We can never forget it.”