Mrs. Patience Jonathan

It is February! This is the beautiful month to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Many of us are thinking of buying fancy heart shaped gifts and candies or heart shaped cards for the person who makes our heart miss a skip. The subject of my discourse however, is not about love and romance, or the way we are mesmerized when we look in the eyes of the person of our dreams.

I am writing about the human heart, one of the most important organs in the body. It pumps blood which carries all the vital materials that help our bodies function and also removes the waste products that are not needed.

Unfortunately, heart problems are one of the leading causes of death globally and Nigeria is no exemption. Some people are born with heart problems, known as congenital heart disease. Others, develop heart disorders as a result of infection, high blood pressure, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle or the constant intake of rich fatty foods that are high in cholesterol.

The cost of diagnosis, treatment and very often, surgery for people with heart ailments can invariably be too expensive for families who have children with heart problems. Some indigent mothers have often turned to faith healers or traditional medicine in a bid to find the cure for their children. This has sometimes had disastrous consequences for the child. Some public spirited individuals and philanthropic organizations have been a God-send in helping to treat children with heart problems free of charge or for a token amount. This humanitarian gesture has helped save the lives of thousands of children in Nigeria. The A. Aruera Reachout Foundation is an example. The Foundation is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established in 2008 by Dame (Dr.) Patience Faka Jonathan, the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The A. Aruera Reachout Heart Foundation has a medical unit which sponsors the treatment and surgery of children and some adults with heart conditions. The Foundation conducts Children’s Clinics periodically to diagnose the condition of each child needing assistance. During these clinics, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologists from the National Hospital Abuja, the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital and the Apollo Hospital Chinnai, India evaluate the health condition of the children.

Those diagnosed with heart problems that can be successfully treated in Nigeria are referred to the National Hospital Abuja, while those with heart conditions that cannot be treated within the country are sponsored to the Apollo Hospital in India. The Foundation has technical partners not only in India, but also in South Korea and America. Some very serious cases can undergo treatment in any of these countries.

The Heart Foundation also conducts post-operative, follow up checks on children who have undergone surgery overseas and have returned to the country. This is the group that the First Lady received on Monday, February 3rd 2014, in the State House Abuja. They were the last batch of the 2013 beneficiaries of the Heart Foundation. They paid a courtesy call on their benefactor, the First Lady. The children were accompanied by their parents. They were led by Dr. Ebiasuode Stevens Daubry, the leader of A. Aruera Reachout Foundation Medical Team.

In the formal report he presented to the First Lady, Dr. Daubry informed that eleven (11) of the children that came for the visit had undergone open heart surgery. He also stated that the first batch of the 2014 Heart Foundation recipients were on their way to India for treatment, while some had already started receiving treatment in Nigeria.

Speaking on the occasion, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on OAFLA and supervising SSA of the First Ladies NGOs, Mrs. Yemisi Oyewole stated that, “heart problem is not a cheap problem,” but thanked God that heart surgeries sponsored by the A. Aruera Foundation had recorded 100% success rate.

One of the beneficiaries, young Aisha Aliyu Bala, expressed her gratitude to the First Lady while the mother of another beneficiary, Hajia Habibat Abdussamad and a father, Mr. Anto Ambi Ogah profusely thanked the First Lady for her philanthropic gesture and said they were encouraged that the Foundation was constructing a hospital for children with heart ailments.

The First Lady in her remarks congratulated the children on their successful surgery and said that she was delighted to see them looking healthy after their medical interventions.

She enthused that this was yet another high point in efforts of the Foundation to make the beneficiaries realize their dreams in good health. She observed that the anxiety of the parents and family members would be over as all the children had received corrective procedures for their heart ailments. She observed that some of the children who were seen required urgent surgery to save their lives.

Dame Jonathan assured them that she would continue to offer her support to the less privileged in society. She also disclosed that the state-of-the-art A. Aruera Children’s Heart Hospital under construction will ensure that more people with heart problems benefit from corrective procedures in Nigeria. She stated that the hospital would be a model for Africa and called on public spirited Nigerians to give support to the project by donating medical equipment.

The First Lady expressed her appreciation to the team of consultants and cardiologists who were offering their time, skills and expertise free to the foundation. She especially commended, Dr. I. Bosede Babanyi, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist, National Hospital Abuja, Dr. Richard Onalo, Consultant, Abuja University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Ebiasuode Stevens Daubry, the leader of A. Aruera Reachout Foundation Medical Team and the foreign technical partners, especially those in the Apollo Hospital, India.

To date, over 700 children have benefited from the A. Aruera Reachout Heart Foundation. This demonstrates the caring and maternal nature of Nigeria’s First Lady. God has used her as an instrument to positively touch the lives of some of our nation’s sick children, to make them healthy and happy through the appropriate medical intervention. Dame Jonathan has set a pace for others to emulate. People of goodwill will be inspired.

Written By A.O. Adesugba