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HEART-RELATED DISEASES INCREASE AMONG NIGERIANS

By NBF News
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Many wounded hearts are bleeding to death. Medical reports have identified heart- related diseases as major causes of death in the country. A consultant cardiologist at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, Dr. Egbuna K. Obidike, said thousands of Nigerians die annually of cardiac diseases, while millions of others are at grave risk.

As the disease unleashes its deadly fangs on peasants, death tolls continue to hit record high in remote villages and communities, where natives often blame witchcraft for casting spell on innocent souls.

The medical registers at Kanu Heart Foundation are full of fresh cases of patients seeking urgent help to their heart problems. Our reporter, who visited the foundation recently, beheld the pathetic sight of frail- looking young men and women, including children living on the threshold of hope, who besiege the foundation on regular basis for help.

Reports from the foundation, revealed over 300 patients who are in need of urgent surgeries.

The Co-ordinator, Pastor Onyebuchi Abia, said the 409 cases already handled by the foundation, is only a tip of the iceberg when compared with hundreds of other patients in the country who are in need of urgent medical aid.

When our reporter visited the foundation at its Ikeja office recently, there were heaps of medical files, containing names of patients, old and young alike, waiting for free surgery.

Abia said that the foundation has been overwhelmed, as those registered with the foundation has increased tremendously over the last 10 years, such that an estimated N500million would be needed to attend to such cases.

To save distressed hearts, the foundation, in conjunction with some state governments, had severally organized health summit where free echo tests were conducted among the populace. Results of such exercises revealed high number of children and adults afflicted with heart diseases. Last year, 34 patients who underwent similar screening by the visiting team from the Sudan Centre for Cardiac Surgery, to assist the most critical cases. Mother luck smiled only on six of them. One of the lucky patients was Master Robinson Ogbobe, an eight-year-old boy, whose critical case was published earlier in Daily Sun.

Robinson came into limelight in an edition of Daily Sun where his father appealed for N3million for the surgery at an Indian hospital. His father, Mr Christopher Ogbobe, said his son and five other patients were later selected for a free heart surgery at the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery, Khartoum, Sudan. Other beneficiaries were Ifeoma Kalu, Ebonyi Bernardine, Quam Carew, Otti Ijeoma and Leva Samuel.

Robinson's father told our reporter that aside the cost of the air ticket purchased by the patients, the Sudan Centre for Cardiac Surgery took care of the medical bills, feeding and accommodation of the patients and their relatives during the two months period of the surgery at Sudan.

The hospital, established in April 2007, is located in Soba, 20 kilometres south of Sudan's capital city, Khartoum. It was built by EMERGENCY, a world leading health service provider, and the centre covers an area of 12,000 sqm on a land of roughly 40,000 sqm on the banks of the Blue Nile.

The hospital is the first centre of cardiac surgery that renders free pediatrics and adult cardiac surgery in the whole African continent. It has in the last three years treated patients coming from 17 African countries besides Sudan. From April 2007 to December 2010, the hospital made 19,699 cardiological examinations, out of which 3, 061 surgeries were made.

While these six patients hold survival parties after passing through the valley of death, fear of the unknown continues to haunt hundreds of other patients with similar conditions.

Obidike described Rheumatic Heart disease as a contractible infection, which manifests in some children at the age of five, and if not treated immediately may damage the valves of the heart, disrupt the pumping and circulation of blood and lead to death. He expressed regrets that many afflicted children in remote areas die due to ignorance and poor medical care.

He said lifeline could be extended to patients suffering from the disease through an open heart surgery that would allow the replacement of damaged valve(s) or repair of the valves, depending on the extent of damage.

The symptom of the disease begin in the throat and later extends to the chest where if not treated timely, could wreck havoc on the victim. He commended the efforts of Robinson's parents in taking him abroad and thanked God for a successful operation.

Obidike also called on the Federal Government to build centre for cardiac surgery in the country to cater for patients with heart related diseases. He said the cost of building the centre at University of Nigeria teaching Hospital UNTH Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu state was once put at N400 million, adding that UNTH has enough competent specialists to effectively manage the centre if established.

He also urged rich individuals and non-governmental organizations, NGOs, to urgently intervene to arrest the tide of ever rising mortality rate from heart related illness.

Speaking on the health of his son after the delicate surgery, Mr. Ogbobe said Robinson's health drastically improved few weeks after the operation. He explained that the nine-year old boy started adding weight, playing with his mates, becoming more cheerful and exhibiting the character of one who suddenly rose from death.

His words: 'I thank the government and people of Federal Republic of Nigeria in general, my permanent secretary - Federal Ministry of Information, the Director of Finance and Accounts in particular, my Head of Centre, the Director of Public Communications, and all other individuals and organizations that contributed to our success. I thank in a special way the management of The Sun Newspapers for giving free publicity to my son's case. May God reward all of you', he added.