By Bassey Bright Bassey
It was two days to Christmas; the Onyeanuibes – a family of seven, including the mother – a science teacher and her painter husband – had looked forward to a memorable festivity.
Being close-knit, one thing the family didn’t desire was a separation during the period.
But, on the evening of 23rd December, the undesirable happened at their apartment at Ejigbo, a densely-populated community in Lagos.
On the fateful night, at about 9 pm, the family’s only male child – a six-year-old – called on his mother, Chinyere, to attend to a kerosene lantern which light was dimming.
Chinyere heeded her son and attempted to refill the lantern with kerosene while it was still lit.
No sooner did Chinyere begin the refilling than the lantern went BOOSH! An explosion occurred – Chinyere, her son and nine-year-old daughter were badly burnt in the lantern fire that left the three other children with minor injuries. Chinyere is scarred in the face, chest, hands, legs and toes. A situation that has also made it impossible for her to squat.
Chinyere, a first class Education graduate from the College of Education, Port Harcourt, has willy-nilly taken full-time residency at Angel’s Hospital, in Orile, now, spanning two years.
A few days later and while still writhing in pains, Chinyere was visited by the news of her son’s death.
That over, raising the huge cost of surgeries and other medical needs of surviving mother and daughter is difficult.
Even though its name says Angel’s Hospital, but in reality, no angel runs the hospital where Chinyere has been tenanted for the past two years.
“Although we were discharged May last year, but I am detained because of our inability to pay the medical bill, which is about N5 million.
We have been able to pay N1.5 million and says we will pay everything before they will release me,” says an anguished Chinyere.
On her surviving daughter, the 37-year-old mother equally lamented inability to raise about N1.2 million for her recommended corrective surgeries.
“She is currently admitted to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Yaba and needs four corrective surgeries, costing N1.2 million.
“One part of her face is burnt badly and her mouth has shifted. Her hands were burnt and she is unable to raise them up properly; the hands are stiffened because of growth under her armpits,” Chinyere said.
Sadly, the burn has left the mother partially deaf allegedly due to powerful antibiotics administered on her. Apparently, Chinyere’s daughter is the worse of the two having almost become totally deaf due to the same drug, named Amikacin.
“It (the drug) affected our hearing seriously and the doctors are saying it is irreversible. And, as for me, initially I used to hear sounds but I don’t hear very well again”, Chinyere added.
As though that is not enough trouble for the Onyeanuibes, doctors have diagnosed the teenager with a scary hormonal problem that, certainly, will affect her puberty, especially breasts development. The solution, the doctors say, is early corrective surgery.
Aside being unable to meet her medical cost, Chinyere is also unable to feed in the hospital.
“I don’t have money to feed even as a patient. Sometimes, I manage, I eat groundnut and biscuit when I don’t have money to feed.
“Sometimes people that come here give me money, but at other times, I call my husband, if he has money, he brings to me”, Chinyere said.
In her optimism, Chinyere has sought information on her own corrective surgery from some specialist hospitals in Nigeria, with their costs being in the region of six zeros.
For now, her immediate challenge is being able to pay her debt and freed from her seeming detention.
In Chinyere’s absence, her four other children are being looked after by her eldest daughter, 11, who despite her sterling performance in entrance examination to federal colleges is sitting at home because of lack of money.
Chinyere Onyeanuibe begs Nigerians for help and can be contacted either through her number: 08109176601 or her husband’s 08052251071.