By Uzoma Ahamefule
What a country, what a failure and what a loss! This is a sad story of the sorry state of the Nigerian health policy, how Nigerians are heartlessly and carelessly neglected because of money by doctors and nurses to die in hospitals, and how I lost my sister to a failed system. I am in sorrow and pains as I am writing this now with tears and anger.
I have lost my sister! I have lost my sister, Ijeoma who was five months pregnant to the unprofessional conduct of a doctor and a quack policy of a clinic called “Garrison Clinic” situated at 10 Udom Street around Garrison roundabout in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria!
Since the heart breaking news of her death, sleep has deserted me as her thoughts and images have beclouded my brain and enveloped my eyes.
“God, you gave me legs and hands to walk, work and eat, and I use them and I have been unreservedly grateful. God, you gave me eyes, brain and mouth to see, think and talk, and it will be a crime against natural law and a sin against you if I do not use them. Therefore; why did you allow death to kill the innocent child that was in my sister’s stomach and still allow my sister to die such a humiliating and excruciating death?”
The sad news came that my sister was cooking and suddenly shouted, “My stomach, my stomach, ah headache!”, and she was immediately rushed to a nearby clinic called “Garrison Clinic” between 9-10 am on 25 November 2012 by her husband. At the clinic the quack doctor on duty refused to attend to her unless the sum of N20, 000 naira was deposited. Her husband begged the doctor and the nurses to attend to her since they had collected about N5, 000 he had had in his pocket in the name of registration and other little things while he would go home and bring money. He had also told them that because of the nature of the emergency and the way his wife had been shouting while on the ground that his mind had only been pre-occupied with the thoughts of rushing her to any nearby hospital and had not thought of money or any other thing as he had even forgotten to put on shoes, but all his pleading and explanations to the doctor and the nurses had fallen into deaf ears. With her pains increasing and death knocking and the doctor and the nurses refusing to understand, there was no way he could have let her there unattended to go home and bring money. He took her and headed to another hospital, but unfortunately my sister did not make it as the damage had already been done before the doctors in that second hospital could do something reasonable to save her life.
“If this is not the preaching of Governor Rotimi Amechi of Rivers State and his health system, then the license of a clinic or a hospital like this quack “Garrison Clinic” with unprofessional nurses and doctors that stamped the death of my sister while alive should be withdrawn to avoid the deaths of more innocent souls.”
I have lost my sister to a failed system and I do not know if these painful feelings will ever go. Eh! Death, you hit me so very hard, you are cruel. God, who says that you cannot be questioned? Job, on his agonizing mat with gummy leprosy, questioned you when he cursed the day he had been born. God, even Jesus Christ, your only son, when nails where pierced through his body by the Jewish people on the cross of Cavalry and his pains became unbearable, he questioned you when he asked, “God, have you forsaken me?” So I ask: are you there? God, you gave me legs and hands to walk, work and eat, and I use them and I have been unreservedly grateful. God, you gave me eyes, brain and mouth to see, think and talk, and it will be a crime against natural law and a sin against you if I do not use them. Therefore; why did you allow death to kill the innocent child that was in my sister’s stomach and still allow my sister to die such a humiliating and excruciating death?
“Ijeoma, it hurts me so very much to know that as I write this now you are lying in the mortuary.”
Oh, my pains are unbearable and words cannot express my sorrow and disappointment knowing that my sister probably would have still been alive today if not for the negligence of somebody! I feel a deep cut in my heart knowing that my sister struggled, cried, begged and gasped for breath of survival in front of those who could have done something that perhaps could have at least psychologically sustained her to fight on. I feel the pains my sister must have gone through in this quack “Garrison Clinic” that was supposed to be professional in saving lives but was not. I feel how my sister may have lost hope to fight on when that quack doctor did not respect the ethics and norms of his profession. I can guess the questions on the lips of my sister as a Christian to God when that evil man without human feelings who masqueraded as a doctor stamped her death certificate by rejecting her plea to be helped and turned his back on a dying pregnant woman.
Dear sister Ijeoma, it is aching to know that you are gone. The last time I spoke with you was two weeks ago and your voice and the jokes we had betrayed everything that it would be my last discussion with you. Thus, the news that you had gone beyond human reach came to me with a great shock. At first I did not believe it and thought that I was dreaming. In desperation to satisfy this hurting curiosity and to put myself out of my delusion that you were still alive, I called your number. I called you repeatedly because I was very confused and wanted to try the fairy tale that says that sometimes when people die unexpectedly they could still answer their phones, and I wanted to hear your voice even if it should be the voice of your spirit. But when the answers from your phone continued to be the same that the number I was calling was switched off, I came to accept the unfortunate reality that you were no more. You were gone, gone forever. I stood speechless and felt a heavy strike in my heart as my phone fell off. My hand trembled as I picked my phone to call our sisters and brothers to protest that you should not be put in the mortuary because you could probably be sleeping deeply and would wake up, but I stared at my phone because the imagination of your image was all I saw as my tears pumped.
“Wherever you are, please find a forgiving mind as the entire family members are in tears, pains and sorrow.”
Ijeoma, it hurts me so very much to know that as I write this now you are lying in the mortuary. Death made you shed hot tears and snatched you away from us without enough resistance in such a cruel form. Your husband drove you in his car after you had been rejected in this quack “Garrison Clinic” to another hospital with one hand controlling the steering and another hand cleaning your eyes, begging and urging you to hang on while controlling your restlessness as you struggled against death. He said your tears at the last minutes of your death when you were lying motionlessly and could no longer struggle or utter a word but knew that it was over could full cups. In those your tears he saw you telling him “Darling, I don’t want to leave you.” Ijeoma, your husband saw a lot of unspoken words in those your tears, and he has promised not to put you to shame but to show you how much he loves you even in death.
Ijeoma, your Ahamefule family is deeply sorry because we did not help you not because we did not want to but because we did not know. If only we knew that such cruelty would befall you because of a hospital and a doctor, we would have afforded to keep you in a very good hospital that would have been able to take special care of your pregnancy until you would have delivered your baby boy that was equally a victim of a failed system, and even if we had not had money we could have borrowed. Wherever you are, please find a forgiving mind as the entire family members are in tears, pains and sorrow. We do not even know how our old mama at the village will feel to know that you are now sadly covered in an isolated cold room somewhere.
“Access to medical treatments should not be a privilege in Nigeria but a necessity especially when it is between death and life.”
My sister is gone but her death cannot be in vain. I call on the members of the National Assembly upper/lower houses, Ministry of Health, Government of Rivers State, Nigerian Medical Association, Human Rights activists, Nigerian police force, all the NGO’s that fight for the rights of women in any form in Nigeria, cooperate bodies, concerned individuals, Nigerian press men and women, and all the authorities concerned in issues like this to please rise to defend humanity. I appeal that the license of this very quack clinic “GARRISON CLINIC”, located at 10 Udom Street, in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, should be suspended or withdrawn until full investigation into its role that led to the death of my sister is carried out while the doctors on duty as at the time my sister was taken to the hospital should be arrested and prosecuted for negligence of duty and manslaughter.
Who knows how many people that have died in their hands in similar circumstances? Who knows how many Nigerians that are dying every day in different Nigerian hospitals in the same manner? I thought that the National Assembly passed a law forbidding any doctor to refuse treatment to people under emergencies.
“If tears could bring the dead back, IJ, the tears of the entire family would form an ocean that you would not be motionlessly lying in the cold room alone right now.”
Access to medical treatments should not be a privilege in Nigeria but a necessity especially when it is between death and life.
The pains of my family cannot be imagined by anyone and the thought alone that my sister was allowed to die because of N20, 000 naira that was not up to what one gave out even at the point she was said to be at that hospital begging to be saved makes one´s pain even more severe. It was also not that her husband could not have afforded the money but because these dishonorable doctor and nurses refused to understand. It is inhuman and wicked. It is unprofessional, morally and ethically wrong for a doctor to see the dangerous condition of a pregnant woman like my sister and abandon her to die in such a horrifying manner.
This could happen to anyone. What happens in terms of an accident when one is probably driving some kilometers away from home and perhaps is not with up to N10, 000 or any money in the pocket and must be attended to with urgency? It means that person must die. If this is not the preaching of Governor Rotimi Amechi of Rivers State and his health system, then the license of a clinic or a hospital like this quack “Garrison Clinic” with unprofessional nurses and doctors that stamped the death of my sister while alive should be withdrawn to avoid the deaths of more innocent souls. Because if this quack hospital was not there, the husband of my sister would definitely not have wasted the time of taking his wife there and my sister may still be alive today because she died out of the negligence of a demigod-doctor.
Therefore, for the avoidance of similar future occurrences, we have to allow the law to take its course in this case and set a very good example that should be a deterrent to other hospitals and doctors.
Dear sister, the cut is very fresh and the memory still very, very painful. If tears could bring the dead back, IJ, the tears of the entire family would form an ocean that you would not be motionlessly lying in the cold room alone right now. IJ, the whole Ahamefule family has been devastated because it was so sudden and without any sign that you will be going so soon, but you are gone. However, there is no doubt in our minds that you are resting in the bosom of the Lord. And we believe, IJ that we shall see again, but this time in a place where we all will know no more sorrow, pains and tears, where we will not be rejected by doctors, hospitals or failed by a system.
Ijeoma, our family still loves you even in death. It is really very difficult for me to use the word, “bye”, knowing that you are still in the mortuary, but that is the cruelty and the misery of life. Nevertheless, rest in peace my dear, and take care over there till we meet to part no more.
We miss you.
Your loving brother, Uzoma Ahamefule