From Petrus Obi, Enugu
Within 30 minutes of the attack, Mrs. Amaka Chiwuike Uba was confirmed dead in the hospital. It was another asthma attack. Her inhaler stopped working. There was no power supply to energise the nebulizer. Before her husband could rush downstairs to put on the generating set, she had gone into coma. She was confirmed dead minutes later by doctors.
“I came back from Abuja on a Saturday, she picked me up from the airport, we went home and on Sunday we all went to church. In the evening I was with her till about 11pm. At about 5:30 the next morning, (Monday July 4, 2016), she tapped me to say she isn’t feeling very well. She had her inhaler, she tried it, but it wasn’t working; we tried using the nebulizer, there was no power supply and I had to go down to put on the generator. By the time I came back she had gone into coma and at the hospital they said she was dead. All these things happened within 30 minutes.”
Since the death of her spouse, Uba has followed stories of those who have died from asthma attacks, and the list has continued to grow.
From students to aged people, young adults and others, he concluded that asthma is an emergency in which everyone has to come on board to first and get people educated about it.
“I also observed that there is stigmatisation; even those who are suffering from asthma are stigmatising themselves because you find out that most of them rarely use their inhalers in public. Most people think asthma is contagious, but it is not. It’s like high blood pressure or diabetes, it’s not contagious.
“So, they should feel free amongst themselves and the public should also see it as something everybody has to get into. For those who smoke in public, if somebody who is suffering from asthma is there, he or she can get an attack. Smoke, odours and the rest can trigger off an attack within seconds. It’s something that you can be healthy now, the next minute the attack comes and can take life if not managed.”
Mr Uba, is the chairman, Board of Trustees, Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation. Having identified the huge gap in the healthcare management system, he has decided to use the foundation to wage war against asthma and save lives.
“It was founded in memory of Mrs Amaka Chiwuike Uba. Over the years, I knew she had asthma, but we thought asthma is one of those sicknesses that could easily be managed. We didn’t take time to understand the real implications of having asthma. After her death, I now started studying what asthma is all about and it became so frightening that if somebody like me who is educated do not have the requisite knowledge about asthma, what happens to the populace?
“So, it became necessary to establish a foundation that will first of all create awareness and also provide the necessary services to those suffering from asthma. In creating the awareness you speak to those who are involved, go to the schools to talk to teachers, and do more of advocacy to policy makers to bring in necessary policies that will promote good healthcare, especially for asthma patients.
“It’s a charitable organisation which I am personally funding from my savings. It’s not about the conference or just creating awareness alone, but also providing the necessary services to those suffering from asthma.
“Since July, we have provided services to about 30 persons. And one of the things we intended to do before the conference was to go on a medical mission. Part of the research that we read was that most hospitals regrettably do not have the necessary facilities to manage asthma. So, one of the things I have done also was to import some of the equipment needed to manage asthma. So, we intend to go for medical missions in rural areas first and after that we intend to start donating some of the equipment to healthcare centres.
“I also want to call on the government to stand up to their responsibilities. Every citizen has a right to health, but it’s obvious government is not interested in the welfare of citizens, we are more interested in buying cars and making names and funny enough, to get a nebulizer wouldn’t cost anything more than N50,000. So, if a government wants to set up asthma centres in Imo State that has about 500 wards, if the governor decides to set up an asthma centre in each of the wards, if he brings out N200,000 per ward he will be able to do that. And he will be saving a whole lot of lives. So, I appeal to the government to wake up to its duties and invest in the people.”
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba and former governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan were part of dignitaries expected in Enugu for the annual Asthma conference scheduled for July 6.