ω Man lives on oxygen support machine for 15 months
ω Doctor says mercy killing, not alternative
From GYANG BERE, Jos
Nannim Nimyel, a 45-year-old primary schoolteacher, is fighting the biggest battle of his life. He is left with the option of euthanasia (“mercy killing”) or to remain permanently on oxygen support at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) for life.
Never had a man been faced with such a dilemma. Diagnosed of “complicated tuberculosis”, that resulted in respiratory failure, since June 17, 2016, Nannim has been on hospital bed with oxygen support machine attached to his nostrils in the past 15 months. The financial hole this has created in the pocket of this poor schoolteacher is better imagined than experienced. And now doctors say he needs about N1.9 million to get a mobile oxygen concentrator that can make him live outside the hospital.
Within those 15 months, Nannim was spending N3, 600 on daily treatment. While the accumulated hospital bill for the treatment is about N1.8 million, the charges for bedding and drugs are about N700, 000 respectively. With doctors talking about him needing about N1.9 million to acquire from Canada a mobile oxygen concentrator, only God knows where he is going to get that amount of money.
Right now, the father of three can no longer perform his duties as father, husband and head of the family. And, without the mobile oxygen concentrator, all hope of survival for him remains a pipe dream. The second child in a family of six siblings, with the exception of his younger sister who is said to have visited him at the hospital sometime in August 2016, none of his family members had come to sympathise with him or to know how he is doing. His mother, Ladi Nimyel died in 1999 and his father, Nimyel, in 2004.
It is only by the grace of God that he is alive today but the mounting medical bills are threatening to vitiate his will to continue to live despite all odds. Doctors say, going by their medical knowledge, he may not live a month longer outside the hospital if his life is not supported by the indispensable oxygen concentrator. He is most likely to experience irreversible collapse of the lungs, they warn.
His predicament began in 1993 at Government College, Pankshin, when he lost his balance during school prep and forcefully hit his chest and lung on the edge of a table. He experienced momentary sharp pains that ran through his system but after some hours the pains disappeared. Hence he saw no need to go for medical examination.
Five years after, in 1998, another calamity struck Nannim at Federal College of Education Pankshin, while on his way home after an evening game. He had a nasty fall from a misstep and hit the same spot of his chest on the edge of a gutter. Like in the previous fall, he experienced pains for some time but after taking some analgesics and injections, the pains began to gradually wear off. With time, he was alright or so he thought.
But two years after in 2000, his lung conditions showed that contrary to his thought, he was anything but alright. His ribs began to ache so much that they led to frequent seizure of his breath. In fact, on one of the days, he was walking on the street when his breath totally ceased and he was rushed to JUTH. There, he was placed on admission for weeks.
After sometime, when there appeared to be no much improvement in his health condition he requested to be discharged. Thereafter he moved down to his village, Eugu in Langtang South Local Government Area of Plateau State, where he continued the medication through the aid of trado-medical treatment, using herbs. He did get some relief but for a swollen part of his ribs which refused to heal. Unknown to him, big health trouble was just incubating within those swollen ribs. Within this period, he managed to secure another teaching job at one Founders International Academy, New Abuja, Dadin Kowa, Jos, Plateau State.
For sometime things appeared to be looking up until his situation degenerated one night on June 17, 2016. He could not simply breathe. It was in that condition he was rushed to JUTH and after careful examination, he was placed on oxygen support breathing machine, a journey from which he is yet to return even as you are reading this.
Academy to the rescue
Nannim who lives in Rantya Low cost Housing Estate, behind COCIN RCC, has a lot to thank the owners and authorities of Founders International Academy for their decision to continue to place him on their pay roll in these past 15 months despite the fact that he has not been coming to school nor teaching. But the dilemma facing everybody now is, where does he go from here? He cannot afford the N1.9 million needed to purchase the instrument to keep his life going. So, what happens? Should he be allowed to die? Should doctors taking care of him be asked to stop the medication because he can no longer afford it? God forbid. His wife, Mrs. Lydia Nannim, is praying that it should not come to that.
“God is the only alternative we have, I believe it wouldn’t get to the level of “mercy killing”, she said in an interview with Saturday Sun even as she begs public-spirited Nigerians to come to their aid. “He can still contribute tremendously to the development of the society. We are begging Nigerians to help us. The hospital is not our home and the bill is increasing every day.”
Lydia, who works as a nanny with COCIN Private School State Low cost Housing Estate, Jos is devastated by the situation. Since her husband was admitted at the hospital she has divided her time between staying with her husband in hospital, her place of work and taking care of their three children: Nanman, five-year-old primary one pupil; Manya, eight-year-old primary three pupil and Samuel, a diploma undergraduate of Federal College of Education Pankshin. Married in 2007, Lydia said although she was aware of the recurring health challenges of her husband, she did not envisage that it could lead to the present condition.
Senior Registrar, Department of Internal Medicine, Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Dr. Obinna Onwukeme, said that nobody is even contemplating “mercy killing” in the case of Nannim, as it is not a welcome practice in Nigerian medical world.
“We don’t practise euthanasia in this country (mercy killing),” he said. “That is done in some of end-of-life cases, usually for people who have cancer that cannot be treated, who are brain dead, who have bad stroke or something that has damaged the person’s ability to live a normal life. Mercy killing is completely outlawed in Nigeria.”
Giving an insight into what we are dealing with here, he said: “Mr. Nannim came with a complicated case of tuberculosis that has destroyed his lungs and has resulted in his need for oxygen concentrator. We had thought of lung transplantation but the case is not common in Nigeria; usually we don’t think of that as an alternative. In the main time, we advised that he should get an oxygen concentrator that will enable him to get regular oxygen supply to his lungs to help him carry out certain activities in the society.
“The hospital has kept him on admission because he needs to get a mobile oxygen tank and that is not something that the hospital has. He is required to get it from people who supply medical equipment and not many of them stock that in Nigeria. Therefore, he needs to import it. He can only stay for a couple of hours without oxygen and that is why he has been on admission. If he is in the hospital, he gets the oxygen; if he goes home without the oxygen concentrator, he will not be able to breathe effectively.”
“He want to go home because the hospital is not his house. But if he goes home, he will not be able to live effectively, but with the oxygen concentrator, he will be able to live a normal life outside the walls of the hospital. He has accrued bills for the period of time he has been in the hospital and that has been brought to the notice of the management but nothing has been done about it for now.”