By Dr. Arome Okeme, Chief Medical Officer
The Arthur and Esther Bradley Memorial Anglican Hospital in Gidan Waya
As I stepped into the Children’s Ward, I noticed Raymond had a steady gaze looking through the window as school children and students walked by. I could almost palpate his thoughts.
"Good morning, Ray!" I greeted. As though snapped back to reality from a trance, he looked back at me and quickly made for his bed and sat down. The head of the bed was tilted 90 degrees for his comfort.
"Good morning, sir," was his reply. He tried to conceal his problems just so he could trouble no one.
"How are you coping today? Any new problems?" I queried.
Raymond has quickly transformed from being my patient to being my adopted son. Not wanting to portray the picture of one who isn't responding to treatment, he reluctantly gave in to his new problems by surrendering their presence to me.
"Sir, I noticed that my chest is swollen on the left side and my breathing labored and shallower. My legs are also heavy and bigger," he lamented. "I also feel tired easily on walking short distances," he added.
"Uhmm!" I exclaimed.
His mother, a petite and rather jovial lady—furrowed and burrowed by life, debilitated by hardship and surrendered to its vicissitudes—beamed with smiles when she saw me. An infant in hand was suckling away, oblivious of the troubles around her and her brother's ill state. She smiled at me then returned to suckling again. I smiled too.
Raymond is the second of eight children. The mother became a little sober when she spoke about Ray. She described him as the brightest in the family who excelled in school. He was just telling her about writing his junior high promotional exam when I stepped in. She had in turn asked him to get well before thinking about school. She sobered and picked herself up together again.
They live several miles from the clinic in a very remote village where civilization was yet to visit. As peasant farmers, they had very few worries and cares beyond subsisting.
Two years ago, Raymond was diagnosed of a heart condition that is quickly whittling him away. A month ago, we diagnosed him of a valvular defect that could have arisen from a rheumatic heart disease, an immunological disease nicknamed “disease of poverty” because of its predilection for the poor.
Last time he came in failure and left after a few days of treatment. Now, however, he has presented in a worse state. His heart is failing and it has grown large, almost pushing the rib cage forward. Though he’s responding to treatment to improve quality of life, Raymond needs an open heart surgery to replace the damaged valves and we are hoping he will make
a near-complete recovery.
THE REST OF THE STORY --
Dr. Okeme arranged for Raymond to get surgery at a large city hospital and raised funds to pay for the surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery was postponed due to the COVID pandemic, and Raymond died shortly after this was written.
Our clinics serve thousands of rural poor people like Raymond and his family every year.