By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu
BENIN CITY – LYING on his bed in the pediatric ward of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), five years old Joshua Okojie is oblivious of the life-threatening ailment, leukemia he is having even as he believed that one of his eyes which has been replaced with an artificial one would be restored soon.
He promised to play football with this reporter when next he visited as he said he is a lover of football.
But Joshua needs urgent medical attention for blood marrow transplant to save him from ravaging cancer which is becoming frequent among children.
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Doctors said he needs not less than N20 million for this process to be completed.
Young Okojie hails from Ekpoma in Edo State but he is under the care of his aunt Miss. Mary Imoisili. His parents, who are not married live apart and both have some medical challenges.
Imoisili, who said she has sold virtually everything she has to save the young boy who she described as very brilliant said it started as an ordinary ailment in October 2017. She added that doctors at the General Hospital in Warri thought all he needed was antibiotics.
But the ailment resulted in regular blood transfusion. His genotype test indicated that he is AA.
She said a small growth in one of his eyes led to further scan where it was discovered that the growth was cancerous.
Narrating the boy’s ordeal to Saturday Vanguard in UBTH, Imoisili said: “The thing started as a normal ailment and doctors at the General Hospital Warri, Delta State placed him on antibiotics, I was buying that every day spending a minimum of N6000 daily for six weeks. In November, I noticed that his eye was getting swollen and I drew the doctor’s attention to it, they initially said the antibiotics would take care of it but they were doing transfusion every two weeks and I began to wonder that even if it is sickle cell, they don’t do any transfusion.
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I became worried. On November 8, I saw a red substance on his eyes and returned to the Hospital. We were asked to go for a scan after which they referred us to UBTH. We came to UBTH and after several tests, he was put on admission. They operated the eyes and removed one of them. But we don’t want him to know that he has lost an eye, sometimes when he sees me crying, he will ask, mummy are you crying?
“We started since last year and it has drained my purse, I don’t know where to go to. I don’t know anybody to run to. They have done three out of eight chemotherapy sessions. I really need help from the public and government. I really need help for this child, I don’t want anything to happen to him. I have spent all I have, I have sold virtually all I have. I am not serving a dead God, I believe he will survive it. He is my nephew, we are from Ekpoma but based in Warri, Delta State.
“One of the consultants handling his case and several other cases in the ward said the best treatment for Joshua is blood marrow transplant which she said would best be got outside the country.
“The support that he needs, he hasn’t got the resources for that. For the treatment of leukemia, the patient needs much money. The best thing for him is to get a transplant, the reason I am saying this is that we have not even been able to get remission yet. When we get that, we will need stronger drugs. If they are able to get stronger drugs and get them regularly we can be talking from N5m and above.
“The other treatments can be handled here but for the transplant, he will need to seek care elsewhere. The best treatment for him is a transplant. He has not responded well to treatment that is why we are considering a transplant for him. The last transplant we did was about N15 million which was done in India. The other option would have been for him to be registered in the cancer programme in Europe but that would mean he must have somebody there that would take him in.