‘Miracle from the angels…’
Foundation partners Kogi State government to bring succour to victims of facial deformity
THE birth of a new baby is a thing of joy, but the discovery of any facial deformity as the child grows, is usually detested by parents. This was the case of Peter Agbaje, who had been suffering from cleft palate right from cradle.
The deformity has affected his voice and he can neither express himself properly nor can people comprehend his words.
Peter, a beneficiary of the free surgery that was recently organized by the Cleft and Facial Deformity Foundation, in partnership with the Kogi State Government, spoke with The Guardian on his hospital bed after the surgery, where he can now speak audible and comprehensible words.
Peter described the magnanimity of the team of doctors that carried out the free surgery as another miracle brought to the less-privileged people by those he referred to as “the angels of life.”
Peter, who has been finding it difficult to talk for people to understand, recalled: “Whenever I speak, the words are not clear for people to make anything out of it.
I was not living a normal life and it made me feel very abnormal as if I was not part of the world.” “Thank God for the operation.
Now I am happy that when I speak, you can now hear me loud and clear and I feel fulfilled because you are writing from what I am telling you.” Before now, he did not believe the deformity could be corrected. He gave his testimony of the goodness of God through fellow men.
Clutching her tender and fragile looking daughter, Seidu Remilekun in her hands, with her extra large tongue dangling outside her mouth, Mrs. Mary Seidu, was waiting patiently to be registered at the Kogi State Specialist Lokoja, the state capital.
Remilekun’s case was so pathetic because the large protruded tongue, which was longer than her mouth could contain, has been a deformity from birth.
Indeed, it was a simply gory sight. Now 15 years old, she had never known the pleasure of life and the peace of living her life to the fullest, having been bedridden all her life.
She had no option than to accept her fate with equanimity. But now, Mary and her daughter were lucky to have been among the 53 victims of cleft and facial deformity that would benefit from the magnanimity of the foundation in collaboration with the State Government.
The conference hall of the Kogi State Specialist Hospital was packed full to capacity. Participants were stakeholders in the health sector, government functionaries, women, children, health workers and the team from the Cleft and Facial Deformity Foundation.
They had one mission, to witness the opening ceremony of ‘Team 13’ Free Cleft and Facial Deformity Surgery Program at the Kogi State Specialist Hospital. Cases of cleft and facial deformities had weighed down so many victims due to the body pains and psychological disturbances brought about by the social stigmatisation associated with it. Affected people are socially dislocated, their potentials decimated, hence special attention always needed.
The Director of the foundation, Dr. Seidu Bello indicated that it was the reason the foundation made it a point of duty to sensitise Nigerians on the scourge of the cleft and other facial deformities in the society. He said the Foundation was determined to assist the predominantly poor victims or their parents in the repair, adding that only foreigners have shown respect in that regard.
Bello said the group was determined to promote research in cleft lip and palate, establish a good data base, assist in training and joining similar organisations all over the world in improving quality of care for victims.
Above all, he said the ultimate goal was to establish a Facial Deformity Hospital in the Federal Capital Territory for a free care for the less-privileged members of the society.
Bello said by the time the group finishes with the cases on their hands, 53 facial deformities would have been corrected in Kogi State. According to Bello: “The foundation, which started about four and a half years ago was conceived as a platform to give a Nigerians solution to the Nigerian problem of facial deformity scourge by creating awareness and assisting the less-privileged victims with free surgery.”
“It has in its fold the FCT and its surrounding state-based volunteer professionals that are capable of carrying our surgeries on children and adults that are afflicted with facial deformities.” The coordinator commended the Kogi State government for being the first and only state to partner with the foundation for the corrective surgeries. He urged other NGOs and government bodies to emulate Kogi State Government so that the foundation could continue to render the services.
He said one major challenge of the foundation was funds. “It cost about N1.2million to manage a case. We have in our record more than 20 Nigerians with such cases.
We are prepared to do only two of such in this tournament while the rest are kept in view till funds are available.” “This collaboration with the Kogi State government will open a new vista in the fight.”
He added: “There is no doubt that there is no free food even in Freetown, running an organisation requires money. The foundation was conceived following our belief that government alone could not solve all Nigerian problems.”
However, Bello said collaboration with various governments of Nigeria would hasten the rate of reaching out to different communities. The Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Wada, who spoke through the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mr. S. O Aliyu commended the foundation for the initiative.
He said: “They have operated some patients and others that are yet to be operated, they will finish before they leave. I want to encourage the foundation to continue with the good job it is doing.” I want to assure the foundation that the State Government will continue to assist the foundation with all that is needed for achieving its objectives.”
He indicated that their selfless service can only be rewarded by God. According to him, most of the victims of facial deformities belong to the less privileged in the society who cannot afford the medical bills but he expressed gratitude to God that the Governor released N3.7 million early this year to support the programme.
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