His peasant parents have been labouring since last year to save him from a cancer infection in the stomach. They have spent the last dime to save the five-year old. But by an act of fate or luck, he and his mum were knocked down by a governor’s convoy. Succour is what followed from the Edo State government. For Mrs. Mary Okoro, a 29-year-old petty trader, the responsibility of motherhood and care for her family has been one of turbulence and somewhat burdensome. But life and living must go on as she looks up to her creator for succour and survival, especially, about what each day has in stock for her and family, including her husband, who is an artisan. The Okoro family hail from Ihite Uboma in Imo State. Mrs. Okoro had kept on the faith with resolve to hawk moi-moi within the available market in the ancient capital town of Benin City until late last year when her five-year-old son, Master Freeman, Kindergarten pupil at Saint Aunty Alice Group of Schools at Upper Sakponba road in the Edo State capital, suddenly took ill.
The music of joy and happiness of a mother seemed to have stopped for her and the word was all struggles for her. Freeman had to the surprise of the family suddenly expressed low appetite and reluctance to eat but complained of stomach pains.
Both couple took turns to visit different hospitals and native medicine centres for consultations to secure quick cure or treatment.
Coincidentally, relief could not come easily even as medical diagnosis from native medicine declared the little boy’s sickness as that of Ude or Ama Afor. While local treatments failed, much money went down the drains and the family remained resolute to save their child.
They later approached the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) where Freeman was diagnosed of suffering from the cancer of the stomach. The sickness seriously affected his kidney, which later led to the removal of one of his kidneys on August 8, 2017.
The ugly situation compelled the mother and her child to be regular visitors to the teaching hospital for weekly chemotherapy treatment.
It was therefore inexplicable and unexplainable how much the family can go at saving their child while in the throes of the strange sickness even with meagre income and the biting economic hardship to sustain the entire family.
But worse still as fate would have it, the family was yet to come out of its predicament when again the unexpected happened on March 14, this year. It was a tale full of pity, sadness and nostalgia. Mrs. Okoro and her little boy had visited the UBTH for the child’s routine weekly medical check-up by doctors and nurses and were going home when they got involved in an accident in front of the hospital gate.
Shocking as the incident was, both mother and child escaped alive by whiskers in what one could better describe as God’s miraculous and mysterious work. Though, Mrs Okoro broke her arms and sustained deep bruises as she clutched her sick baby while crossing the road when the multiple crashes which also involved the press crew bus of the State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, as it headed towards the Government House, Benin occurred. The governor and his convoy were returning from an official outing in the state when the mishap happened due to break failure, which forced the driver of the bus to ram into other vehicles.
Anxiety had heightened in government quarters and various wards as both the mother and child, including some journalists got involved in crash.
The incident occurred at the Ugbowo university community on the busy Benin-Ore-Lagos road in the state capital.
The injured news crew of the governor and a medical doctor as well as Mrs. Okoro and child were quickly rushed to the UBTH for treatment while other sustained minor injuries.
Three vehicles, including the bus conveying journalists were badly damaged during the crash.
The pains of the Okoros were further compounded by the accident. Mrs. Okoro was unconscious at the scene even as her child went into coma also. As a child of destiny, Master Freeman was assisted to the hospital by a Good Samaritan. He lost three of his teeth to the incident.
Narrating her ordeal to New Telegraph while in her bed at the female Orthopedic ward of the hospital, Mrs. Okoro reeled out her pains and how providence came her way and family through God and Governor Obaseki, who visited them and paid their hospital bills alongside others.
Mrs Mary Okoro said: “I am, 29 years. We left the UBTH and were going home; I was with my son, Master Freeman Okoro. We came for weekly clinic (Chemotherapy treatment) for my baby who is suffering from the cancer of the stomach. They removed one of his kidneys in August 8, 2017; so, we were at the hospital to take treatment. It was as we were going home, we passed the first lane of the dual carriage road, opposite the UBTH and were about to crossover to the second lane and were by the side when the governor’s convoy came with siren. We were there to cross and we were waiting for the last bus in the convoy to pass before we could cross when the accident happened.”
She explained that, “my son, I and a doctor were crossing the road. My son is five years old plus and has been suffering from the sickness since May last year when he was diagnosed of the sickness.” According to her: “We cooked beans on a particular Sunday and he ate the beans. Then, suddenly, his belly became tight and painful to him. We thought it was something like Ude and we started marking it with razor blade and other local medicines.
We later went to the Central Hospital, which asked us to carry out scan test at Saint Bridget hospital and give them. They referred us to the UBTH. Okoro added that, “we are from Ihite Uboma in Imo State. We have spent over N4million since the boy’s sickness started.
He is in KG 3, (Kindergarten) at Saint Aunty Alice at the Upper Sakponba road area. My husband is an artisan, who helps in mason work or bricklaying work. I hawk moi-moi before now. When asked what was running in her mind when the accident occurred, she said: “I was not happy that the accident happened because the way it happened, I thought I would have died by now but it was my baby’s case that pained me most. He fainted at the spot and defecated in his pant and trouser.
It was one man who quickly took him and rushed him to the accident and emergency unit of the UBTH after the incident. Even myself, I was unconscious. My son was speechless for some time that he could not answer me when I called him severally. I cried when the incident took place, especially for my baby that upon all the stress and all the money we had spent since last year; that is it how the whole thing would just end and he would leave us like that? I asked God whether this was how we were going to end up but I still felt for my son because I was still breathing except for my broken arms. My son lost three of his teeth to the accident but they pulled off two that were shaking.”
While expressing appreciation to Governor Obaseki for his timely intervention, which could be said to be a blessing in disguise, Mrs. Okoro said, “We feel happy when the governor came to see us. We thank him for his kindness towards us and for taking over the payment of my son’s hospital bills. God will bless him and give him long life.”
She noted that, “the accident was not really a blessing but it s God’s will for us. God sent the governor to be of help to my child. May God also give him more blessings.”
Okoro stated soberly however that, “Doctors asked us to continue with his Chemotherapy treatment because another cancer is growing out from his stomach.”
In his reaction, the Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said: “A bus assigned to the Press Unit of the Edo State Government House was involved in an accident on its way from an official assignment.”
The governor during the visit and on learning of Freeman Okoro, was a cancer patient and had come for chemotherapy session at UBTH before the unfortunate incident, further pledged to take responsibility of his cancer treatment in addition to offsetting of the medical bills of his cousin, who had been held in the hospital for his inability to pay for his treatment.
Obaseki said: “I came to see the condition of the victims of the accident myself, just as we have promised on the day of the accident when the victims were admitted. The state government has taken full responsibility of their medical bills. We will also make sure we follow up with the full recovery of those who are still being treated for injuries from the accident.” Also, the Consultant General and Coordinator, Accident and Emergency Department, UBTH, Dr. Nnadi Nwashile, said, “The patients are in stable condition. Six persons in the bus were treated and discharged on the day of the accident.”
At the moment, little Freeman needs greater medical attention and care given his deteriorating health condition, especially, now that it has been established by the hospital authority that he suffers from cancer. Therefore, the family is, no doubt, troubled amid high expectations and prayers of all, as it battles to save the life, future and education of the ailing child.