The atmosphere at La Sien Pavilion, a highend event centre in Port Harcourt on September 21 was electrifying. Indeed the whole of the Rivers State capital was agog with the news that 100 patients of uterine fibroids would enjoy free surgery, courtesy of OB Lulu-Briggs Foundation (OBLBF) in commemoration of its 18th anniversary. It was a clear manifestation of the biblical saying that many are called, but few are chosen as over 500 women turned up asking to benefit from the medical largesse.
With the average medical bill of removing uterine fibroids running up to N350,000, depending on the size of this unwanted growth, and with the medical condition afflicting at least 50 per cent of women of reproductive age, according to Dr Rosemary Ogu, a consultant pediatrician/gynecologist with the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, there is no doubt that this procedure is out of the reach of the average Nigerian woman. It was, therefore, expected that most of this women who had been suffering in silence would turn out for the screening to benefit from this opportunity of a life time.
The focus of this year’s anniversary, uterine fibroids awareness and sensitization campaign, took its root from the Foundation’s Medical Mission outreach which took place during the second quarter of this year. Speaking during the one-day seminar on Saturday, which marked the 18th year of OBLBF, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Pastor (Dr) Mrs Seinye OB Lulu-Briggs, explained why the focus was on uterine fibroids.
“Earlier this year, at the Medical Mission which we hosted from May 20 – 24, 2019 in Bakana, ultrasound scanning services were among the diagnostics set up,” Mrs Lulu-Briggs, who was represented by her spokesman, Oraye St. Franklyn, said. “We were surprised by the number of women who found out that they required urgent fibroids surgery. However, due to the nature of the surgery and after care requirements, we were unable to provide fibroids surgery during the mission.”
According to her, the Foundation promised the women that it would cover the cost of their fibroid surgery, adding that in the course of planning for their treatment, OBLBF found out that “about 80 per cent of women over 50 have fibroids while about 30 per cent of this group will develop such symptoms as undue discomfort of heavy and painful menstrual bleeding, premature labour, miscarriage and even loss of fertility.”
Promptly, the Foundation secured the partnership of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital and the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, as well as the collaboration of the Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN), Rivers State chapter, for the project.
In keeping with its word, the Foundation launched a month-long fibroids awareness-raising campaign, having previously handled some other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (2010), prostate cancer (2016), kidney disease and diabetes (2018). Saturday’s seminar, with the theme, “Raising Awareness about Uterine Fibroids: Get Informed; Take Action,” was the grand finale of the event, where the guest speaker, Dr (Mrs) Ogu, declared that the cause of the unwanted growth was yet unknown.
“Concerning the causes of fibroids,” the consultant pediatrician/gynaecologist said, “we don’t know. So many researches and studies have been carried out, but no one knows the causes,” adding, however, “but we know there are genetic and hormonal factors.”
The physician, who is a former president of MWAN in Rivers State, said uterine fibroids is more common among Africans and counseled women that it is better to have fibroids surgery here “because more of the surgeries are done here.”
She confirmed the fear that fibroids could grow again in a woman’s womb after it has been removed surgically. “When you are operated for fibroids and the womb is left empty by not getting pregnant, the fibroids can come back after three years,” Dr Ogu said.
She also said a virgin womb, that is, a womb that has never carried a baby, can play host to fibroids growth.
The coordinator of programmes of the Foundation, Mrs Ineba Tongkam, speaking at a press conference to herald the event, said OBLBF started its extensive giving out in September 2001 with the Care for Life programme’s health which provides healthcare, shelter, food, monthly stipends and social support to elderly citizens in Rivers State.
For the prospective beneficiaries who were being registered before the event, OBLBF was God-sent. Mrs Tumini Greene said she discovered she had fibroids last year September when she went for scan on the advice of a friend after bleeding non-stop for two weeks against her normal menstrual days of five to seven. She heard of the OBLBF largesse and decided to go for it. “I got to hear about this O.B Lulu Briggs Foundation project, so I decided to attend since it is free so I can be able to undergo the surgery because the pain is becoming unbearable.”
A grandmother, Mrs Beatrice Evans, accompanied her daughter to the programme. According to her, her daughter had been suffering from fibroids for over five years until they heard the announcement and decided to give it a shot. “I heard the announcement, and we came to see if God will, through this foundation help us, because we do not have money for the surgery,” she said, adding that “if God uses them to bless my daughter, I will forever be grateful to them.”
A man who accompanied his wife to the programme and simply identified himself as Fred, said: “We got the information about this programme, so we decided to come. There was a test run on my wife when she was pregnant and we found out she had fibroid. So, on getting here today, we found out that the information was true that the O.B Lulu Briggs Foundation wants to help the less-privileged. We are less-privileged because we do not have money for surgery.
“That is why we decided to come here, we have done scan and the fibroid is still there. So, I am praying and hoping that her name will be amongst the 100 people that the O.B Lulu Briggs Foundation wants to take care of. So, we appreciate their effort and God will continue to bless them.”
Commending the Foundation while giving a goodwill message during the seminar, the national Chairman of the South-South Chiefs and Elders Forum, High Chief (Dr) Onigbi Atuboinoba Harry, said with more of the likes of the late High Chief Olu Benson Lulu Briggs in Africa, the continent will be rid of xenophobic attacks, adding that if other wealthy Africans would be kind-hearted like the founder of Moni Pulo Limited, more jobs would be created and frustration will be reduced in the land.
Said High Chief Harry: “The programme is fantastic, it is divine, it is what Nigerians need. It is not about stacking money, saving it abroad and killing our children elsewhere like the xenophobia attack in South Africa where lives have been lost. If we have more of people like O.B Lulu Briggs, there will be job opportunities and frustration will be reduced in the land.”
The OB Lulu-Briggs Foundation was founded in 2001 to consolidate the informal corporate social responsibility efforts of the founder of Moni Pulo, High Chief OB Lulu-Briggs, who passed on last December and was being overseen by his wife, Pastor (Mrs) Seinye OB Lulu-Briggs.
The Foundation’s Medical Missions Programme started out as the Care for Life Quarterly Free Medical Week in Abonnema, Rivers State, in 2005. Since then, 124,826 men, women and children in rural and semi-urban areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River and Rivers states have received access to quality health care services and health awareness education free of charge.
The Foundation has also responded to huge un-met demand for ophthalmic care across the Niger Delta by taking vison care clinics to communities to promote good vision for all and help prevent conditions that routinely impair sight. The Foundation also promotes preventive health through awareness raising campaigns and covers the costs of specialized medical treatments for individuals from indigent families.
Speaking at the thanksgiving service to round off the anniversary on Sunday, which also doubled as the 11thanniversary of Chapel of God International Worship Centre, the guest minister, Venerable Duben Okwaosa said over the years, God had used the worship centre to give voice to the voiceless.
In his sermon, “God of Eleventh Hour,” he likened the patriarch of the Lulu-Briggs family, the late High Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs, and his wife, Dr (Mrs) Seinye Lulu-Briggs, who is the senior pastor of the church, to the biblical Abraham and Sarah, prophesying that she would laugh last like Sarah.
The church’s cup ran over in attendance, with over 1,100 worshippers who came to rejoice with the family.