In Nigeria, especially in the suburban areas, there are a lot of people, both young and old, living with a hernia, diseases of the appendix, gall bladder, and even the ovary. It has been their sad reality for years, not because the pain is mild or the protrusion is a fashion statement, but because there are no feasible means to an end. Day after day, they live with wishful thoughts of the time they would finally be free. Their wishful thinking and mere speculations metamorphosed into a reality when GEANCO Foundation stepped in with her free laparoscopic surgeries. It was initially aimed at simply giving the underserved quality healthcare, but has since grown to be an annual answer to the prayers of many who cannot afford cut-open surgeries, talk more of minimal access surgeries. Since the inception of laparoscopy missions in 2018, free laparoscopic training geared towards impacting basic knowledge of laparoscopy in medical professionals, was introduced. The surgeries and training were scheduled to hold at Life International Hospital, Awka, a renowned, standard, and well-equipped facility.
On the 12th of November, a staunch US team of medical experts touched Nigerian soil, excited and eager to give seven days of their lives in a bid to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians. Ordinarily, it was a task that is gruesome and extremely demanding, but their passion and commitment offered some form of comfort that made it worth their while. The US team comprised the lead surgeon, Dr. Kevin El-Hayek, Dr. Ronnie Sullins, Dr. Bipan Chand, and Nurse Cherese Lofton. Dr. Ugwunne Chuka and Dr. Okechukwu Ekwunife were on ground to handle some pediatric cases, while Dr. Azike Jerome handled a few urology cases. Worthy of note is Dr. Raymond Ayuk, who was diligent in the coordination of the rural patients. Coupled with backstage support from the CEO of GEANCO Foundation, Mr. Afam Onyema, the Country Coordinator, Mr. Obinna Okoye, the Program Manager, Ms. Paschaline Chukwuka, and other members of the team, the program was everything it set out to be and more.
Laparoscopy Training for Medical Professionals
Since 2018, GEANCO Foundation conceived another outlet to impact and give back to society during the Laparoscopic Surgery Missions; the free Laparoscopy Training. This training was engineered to whet the appetites of local medical experts on Laparoscopy and the huge part this in-demand skill would play in their medical future. This year, 29 medical professionals from different parts of the country converged to learn from seasoned facilitators. Dr. Kevin El- Hayek, Dr. Bipan Chand, Dr. Ronnie Sullins, and Dr. Ikechebelu took turns to take these determined and eager participants on the exciting journey of the Fundamentals of Laparoscopy. To drive the lesson home, they also experienced hands-on training and assisted in the Operating Room (OR) during live laparoscopic surgeries.
In the end, they lacked the right words to convey the depth of the emotions and passion that had been ignited during the training. A good number were fully determined to carry this good news back to their hospitals and institutions and ensure that every medical professional around them becomes interested and grounded in Laparoscopy. Another set couldn’t believe that they got that amount of knowledge for free, while all of them had nothing but sincere words of gratitude for the seasoned training facilitators, and GEANCO Foundation.
Due to poor diagnosis, and socioeconomic status amongst other factors, a lot of Nigerians resign to their supposed fate of living with treatable diseases like hernia, diseases of the appendix, gall bladder, and even the ovary. If these diseases are left untreated, severe complications like vascular injuries and perforation might arise. However, GEANCO Foundation stepped in just in time to change this narrative and give these patients a chance to smile again and truly mean it. This year, the surgeries addressed diseases of the appendix, gall bladder, and ovary; it also involved hernia repair, pediatric surgery, and gynecological cases.
The patients scheduled for the surgeries were more skeptical about the cost of the surgery than their survival, as the word “free” can mean a lot in Nigeria. They were in for the surprise of their lives when they discovered that truly, their surgeries were free.
“GEANCO represents God for me in this problem I suffered. I pray for them to continue these marvelous works”
“I don’t have the right words, but I am so grateful to GEANCO Foundation for saving me from this pain that I could not afford to treat”
Felicitations and deep words of gratitude came in different words and gestures throughout the free laparoscopic surgeries. 33 patients had their lives transformed and their stories rewritten, all thanks to the initiative of the GEANCO Foundation.
It was a tasking yet fulfilling week of different emotions, activities, and impacts that culminated in genuine smiles on the faces of these patients, and the empowerment of local doctors to take up these medical challenges in Nigeria. Our numbers achieved with the patients all through the Surgical Missions are as follows:
|Number of procedures
|Number of patients
|Ovary/ Gynecology cases
From the team, the training participants, and the beneficiaries, it was obviously a job well done! In the words of the CEO of GEANCO Foundation, Mr. Afam Onyema, “ God willing, we will be here again next year”
Though it is not always rosy, we are undaunted in our resolve to provide quality healthcare to people across Africa who cannot afford it. In the coming months, we look forward to breaking more ground and spreading these smiles across more faces of the underserved in Nigeria.