Written by Dr. Okeme Arome Romey
Raymond came to our clinic in Gidan Waya, barely able to breathe. He managed a smile. His feet up to the thighs were massively swollen. My fingers dug deep into them leaving behind their prints. His nostrils flared. When I listened to his heart it was wrapped in a blanket of murmurs. The lung fields, especially the lower parts, were like fine waves from the silent gushes of waters from the sea reaching for the shores in a cool calm thick night. He was drowning in his own fluid.
Raymond's heart valves (the mitral and tricuspid) have been affected by what we term rheumatic valvular heart disease. Antibodies to a certain bacterial protein mounted by the body have recognized similar protein on the valves and attacked them inadvertently. Now they are compromised.
Truth is, Raymond will be our regular patient with almost similar or even worse symptoms unless a reparative surgery is carried out on him. As long as he lives (which is not such a long time medically), he would be on some diuretics and antibiotics to increase his prognosis.
Same day as fortune will have it, I came across a post on some Whatsapp group I belong to about some doctors were coming to Cross River State to perform some open heart surgeries for 'very poor patients' . I immediately rang the professor whose number was attached. Cross river is some 10 states and over 1000 km away from Gidan Waya going by road. Flight is completely ruled out as an unattainable luxury even the parents have never seen let alone enjoyed.
Prof. Anietimfon Etiuma was very affable and courteous on the line, a soft spoken, proudly Cross Riverian-accented man. He requested for an ECHO as fast as i could lay my hands on it and send it to him to review and make his surmise whether Ray could make the list. Now this was a tall order. Determined, we rallied round and luckily Raymond's grand dad sold a couple of his things and raised the funds. Soon enough they were on their way to Jos, which is about 150km, for the ECHO.
I had earlier contacted Dr. Yilji Kumtap, a cardiologist. Kumtap was my senior back in high school. While he was in Senior 3, I was in 1. He had just confirmed the Deputy Senior Prefect when i gained entry into the same secondary school. In the University of Jos where we met again, he was 4 years ahead of me. He is a cardiologist today. Great guy, just about the perfect person i could relate with to come through for the ECHO. He gladly, out of his way, hearkened.
I was ecstatic when the result got to me in the dead of the night and I placed a called through to Prof and he graciously requested I Whatsapped it. I did and after some time, my hopes that were earlier high came crashing down as fast as they had been raised. Ray wasn't fit for a missionary exercise. He carries a high risk. He advised I find a way of booking him in for a regular service. I was devastated and exhausted. I realized, too, that I was very hungry.
I haven't told Ray Ray yet and I am quite sure he and his family will be more disappointed. Well, this is how the cookie crumbles. Rheumatic valvular heart disease, mostly opined by some text as the disease of the poor, is further accentuated by this story.
We will continue to do our best for Ray Ray and through the blessings and prayers that the Arthur and Esther Bradley Memorial clinic enjoys, we hope he will live a good quality of life until such a time that God calls him back.