To Conduct Free Screening, Treatment Of Affected Babies In UPTH, USUTH, Primary Health Centers

With startling indices ranking Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, amongst cities with the highest cases of children suffering and dying from neonatal jaundice in the country, citizens have raised concern that the scourge portends danger for the future of children, if not checked.

 Against this backdrop, the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation has taken the bull by the horn by organizing a one day seminar tended to creating the needed awareness and sensitize the general public, most of whom still knows little or nothing about the ailment.

 The program which held on Saturday, May 21, 2022 at the La Sein Pavillon Royale, 22, Forces Avenue, GRA, Port Harcourt, with the theme’ ‘Nip Neonatal Jaundice in the Bud’, drew medical experts from the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and its sister institution, Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH), Oroworukwo, Port Harcourt as well as volunteer medical professionals from other parts of the country.

Elated participants thronged the magnificent Conference Hall at the Pavilion and enriched their knowledge, thanks to the resourceful speakers, who succinctly, gave human face to the highly technical discourse for easy understanding.

Before introducing the guest speakers for their presentations, the Chairman of O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation, Dr. (Mrs.) Seinye O. B. Lulu-Briggs was put on a Skype video where she addressed the expectant audience.

As she began by reasserting the popular axiom which says that health is wealth, Dr. Lulu-Briggs noted that one of the most potent strategies used to promote health and wellbeing, is to deploy adequate information on health issues.

She said the program was one in the series of events put together to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the O. B. Lulu Briggs Foundation, even as she cheerfully welcomed the guest speakers and participants to the event.

While also stressing that neonatal jaundice is a major health issue that required more attention than it’s currently getting, Dr. Seinye Lulu-Briggs reiterated repeated warnings by health experts that neonatal jaundice may result in significant mortality and disability, if not properly managed.

The serial-award winner and famed philanthropist, said she was saddened at a recent study which ranked Port Harcourt as one of the cities with the highest cases of neonatal jaundice in the country, noting that the awareness and sensitization seminar was part of a bold move to change the sad narrative.

“This program is a deliberate attempt to encourage actions that would nip neonatal jaundice in the bud, which incidentally is the theme of the program. No family member needs more care in terms of health than babies.  They are helpless in understanding what is happening to them”, she said, as she charged participants to tap from the rich information that would be addressed by the eminent health professionals who would share their knowledge and wisdom.

The Foundation Chairman further charged the attendees, especially mothers, to listen attentively and ask questions where necessary about the causes of the neonatal jaundice, its preventions and how to handle the situations when they arise.

To underscore the import of the programme and ensure its success, Dr. (Mrs.) Lulu-Briggs disclosed that the Foundation engaged the services of Union Diagnostics and Clinical Services, the leading indigenous home-grown company in medical diagnostics in the country, to screen attendees after the event.

Dr. (Mrs.) Lulu Briggs announced that the foundation would embark on a new intervention by taking responsibility of screening women during their antenatal checks and treat detected cases of jaundice in newborns, as a way of reducing infant mortality in Port Harcourt.

To kickstart the initiative, she said the Foundation would visit the Rivers State Primary Healthcare board, Rivers State University Teaching Hospital and the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital to fashion out modalities, further adding that the initiative is intended to stop any baby dying from jaundice-related illnesses in Port Harcourt.

The audience was captivated as the first speaker, Dr. Josiah Apollos, Head of Department of Pediatric, Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH), Port Harcourt explained for a layman’s understanding, that jaundice is the medical term that describes yellowing of the skin and eyes, adding that it forms when there is too much ‘bilirubin’ in a person’s system.

Bilirubin, he explained, is a yellow pigment that is created by the breakdown of dead red blood cells in the liver, adding that jaundice is not a disease, but a symptom of several possible underlying illnesses.

Dr. Apollos further explained that jaundice is not hepatitis, malaria, sickle cell, eye or skin problem but added that the problem could be caused by any of these diseases.  He warned that acute jaundice could cause damage to the brain known as kernicterus which will affect the intellectual capacity of the baby. “This type goeth not except by photo-therapy”, he said.

Considering the high rate of cases of jaundice in Port Harcourt, the medic advised against self-medication and rather advised mothers to take affected babies to the hospital for proper evaluation.

“There are lots of jaundice cases that come to hospital but many don’t always end up in the hospital.  Many are managed in the homes by care-givers who would give glucose waters and all that.  But we are saying that many of these children should get to the hospital.  We are encouraging mothers to send these children to hospital so that those who require admission would be admitted, and those who should not be admitted”, he said.

He explained that curbing the risk of jaundice is a multi-disciplinary approach with government, organizations, mothers, healthcare workers, Foundations and public-spirited individuals having a role to play.

“The government can make sure that the hospitals are equipped.  Even in the rural areas where they cannot afford to run the blood tests, there should be an instrument which is put on the child’s skin, and the level of jaundice in the child would be determined.  The health officer can now refer the child to a proper treatment center”, he

Dr. Apollos advocated the provision of laboratory facilities in all the local government areas in the state, so that people would go there to determine their blood groups.  He also advocated compulsory certification of blood groups by every citizen.

In her presentation, The Head of Department of Hematology at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Professor Kaladada Korubo corroborated Dr. Apollos’s position that jaundice results from in-compatibility in blood groups.

Showcasing mastery and dominance in her field of Hematology, the young and vibrant academic guru said for proper comprehension, the audience should simply see her as a ‘blood doctor’.

The Consultant Hematologist at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt explained incompatibility:

“To explain incompatibility, when red cells are attacked, if the woman is pregnant and she is O negative for example, and her baby is O positive for example, positive because the woman had a child for a father who is Rh positive, her body would not produce this ‘gun’ in her body to attack the baby’s red blood cells.

“When these red blood cells are attacked, they are destroyed and they release a pigment which is like paints that is yellow, and that is why the baby now have yellow eyes and yellow skin which is called jaundice”, she said.

She explained that it is only in severe cases of jaundice that blood transfusion is recommended for babies.  She said: “There are various ways that you could prevent jaundice from incompatibility from happening.  For example, for a Rh-negative woman, there is a drug called ‘Ruga’ that would prevent her from forming ‘guns’ that can destroy her baby’s red blood cells.

“But if she has already formed the antibodies, we can protect the baby by several ways.  Sometimes when the baby is born, the baby may now have jaundice. Ordinarily, a jaundiced baby will need phototherapy which is like a special light. When given to the baby, it can current the problem.

“But if it is very severe, then that baby will need blood transfusion. When the ‘guns’ attack the red blood cells, the blood level will come down and will lead to what is called anemia.

The professor advised would be couples not to shy away from marriage even when blood groups are incompatible, as the drug called ‘Roga’ would be of immense help.

The O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation was established in 2001 by Dr. (Mrs.) Seinye O.B. Lulu-Briggs, in the name of her beloved husband of blessed memory, High Chief (Dr.) O.B. Lulu-Briggs, OON, DCF, DSSRS, (1930-2018), to honor, celebrate,
institutionalize and scale up his legendary charitable and philanthropic donations to humanitarian and development activities.

From the beginning, the Foundation implemented initiatives that enhanced the quality of lives of the under-served and provided humanitarian assistance.

They began with a focus on indigent and neglected elderly citizens through their innovative Care for Life Programme.

Over the years, they introduced 4 more programmes namely,
·Free Medical Missions
·Water and Sanitation
·Education and Scholarships
·Microcredit and Entrepreneurship,
working in close consultation with leaders in the communities they serve.

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