Dr Obande came down the stairs of the intensive care unit this time without a smile. He has been our family friend and doctor for over 10 years and he’d come every night to the hospital to check on us. As he walked towards me, I sensed something had gone wrong, he wasn’t wearing his usual assuring smile. He held my hands and for the first time since he came visiting said Odion, Ochi is in a very bad condition. I stared into his eyes that were always filled with hope to draw strength but this time I saw fear and uncertainty as he continued to speak; she just had a heart attack and has been resuscitated. If you can, pray! O boy! Did I pray that night? I don’t think I even slept.
I was born into a nuclear family and the second of seven children. Growing up in the northern part of Nigeria was a good experience for me even though my mum was very over protective which meant less of friends and parties. She had a way of making up and pampering everyone of her child. As a result, the only close friends I had was my siblings. Ochi was my elder sister but also my best friend. We had lived all our lives together including high school and college live. I was her wedding planner and of course her maid of honour.
I still remember the excitement in her voice as she woke me up at 6:00 am on the 5th/05/12 to tell me she was expecting a baby. The thought that I was going to be an aunt was so overwhelming. I spent every spare time I had preparing and helping her plan for her baby’s arrival.
So here I was in a fix as I watched my sister battle between life and death. The most terrifying part was that as the day went by, she grew from bad to worst. As I sat by her bedside, I remember the few occasions she spoke; she said where is my baby? I hope he isn’t crying? Too bad she never saw him or held him in her hands as he was in the incubator. The baby I had waited so long to come was in the incubator and Ochi was lying helpless with a life support. Her kidneys had shut down, her blood wasn’t clotting, her livers where infected and her lungs were becoming weak.
On the 17th/12/12 the doctor called me to a room and said she didn’t make it. Like Doctor Obande had said, she suffered three more heart attacks early morning of the next day and didn’t get through the last episode. Indeed, life paused for me and I was filled with anger. I was angry at the fact that her death would have been averted if when she complained of headache, and was taken by her husband to the nearest hospital to their house there were qualified doctors to attend to her. She had feats in the hospital and still, there was no qualified doctor to attend to her. She had to be transferred to another hospital. By the time she got to the hospital she was transferred to, she had full blown eclaimpsia and there was already a total renal short down. Eclaimpsia is a hypertensive disorder often triggered by pregnancy. It’s one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in the world especially in Nigeria.
After wallowing for almost a year in depression, I drew strength from the pain I suffered to help other women especially women from marginalized communities who might never have the opportunities my sister had. I see a community where women of reproductive age 14-40 years give birth and are in health to nurse their babies. I see a community where in every hospital, clinic or primary health centre there is qualified health personnel with well-equipped equipment to serve the communities health needs. This is my dream. photo journalism picking up languages fast maternal health
I see a Nigeria, where in every community, women are healthy during and after pregnancy, give birth and remain healthy to nurse their babies.