Scott is enduring the pain caused by the infection that made his arm start to rot. The little boy’s trauma began after the wound from an injury was ignored.
Six-year-old Scott Nwoko is one of hundreds of children forced by circumstances to be on admission in hospitals across the country while their age-mates frolic and enjoy the gaiety of the Yuletide season.
Scott is enduring the pain caused by the infection that made his arm start to rot rapidly. The little boy’s trauma began after the wound from an injury was ignored and not given proper medical treatment, resulting in the wound becoming infected with ravaging bacteria that quickly decomposed the nearby tissue and spread out, leading to the arm becoming gangrenous as his lower arm decayed.
The arm is swollen from the elbow to the tip of his fingers and the skin has all peeled off. A combination of blood and pus oozes from the exposed surface. The stomach-churning sight of the gangrenous arm pales in significance to the excruciating pain that courses through his body from time to time as he adjusts his position. The pathetic situation of the little boy is taking an emotional toll on Mrs Gift Nwachukwu, his mother.
Intermittently, Gift, a cleaner and mother of two from Imo State, sobbed as she narrated to Sunday Sun how her once healthy son came to such a pass and may now have to spend the rest of his life with one full arm and the stump of the other one.
As Sunday Sun learnt from her narration, earlier this year Scott went to spend the Easter holidays with his grandparents in the Ajah area of Lagos. At the end of the two-week holiday, she went to Ajah to bring him back, to prepare for resumption of school. On seeing her son, she noticed that he was injured and the arm was heavily bandaged at the elbow.
Taking up the tale, she said: “I was told he fell from an iron pole when he was playing with other children. My father-in-law, Chief Obi Nwoko, assured me that everything was under control and that my son was being treated by a traditional bone-setter. I was told not to panic. So I relaxed and left with the belief that my son was in good hands.”
From bad to worse
She was optimistic about her son’s condition when she returned to her base at Shasha in Egbeda area of Lagos. However her hope went awry
when she came visiting again and noticed that Scott’s condition was
not getting better.
“I was going from Shasha to Ajah on weekends to check on him. So after about two weeks, I noticed that my son had been moved to another clinic and that the fractured hand was getting really bad. I was told that the local bone-setter had tied up the elbow for too long, and they noticed that the hand, from the elbow down to the wrist, had become swollen with pus, so they brought a nurse to be cleaning the pus from the festering wound. I was worried, but I was told that there was no cause for alarm.
“The following weekend I went there again. Yet I didn’t see any improvement, rather it looked to be deteriorating. The elbow, down to the finger had swollen bigger and looked bad. I suspected that the situation had gone beyond the ordinary. So I expressed my concern to my father-in-law, but he told me that the nurse was doing her best. I wasn’t impressed, so I told him that I wanted my son treated elsewhere. But my father-in-law refused. He argued that I should stay calm and allow the nurse continue with the treatment.
“After two weeks, I went back with the hope of seeing some improvement but I was shocked at what I noticed. My son’s injured hand had become worst. His flesh was peeling and pus was gushing from it. The wrist had swollen badly, the fingers were all distorted and looked like they would fall off. Thick pus oozed out. The sight was too nasty for me to bear. Clearly I was not comfortable with the nurse just cleaning the wound. Again, I told my father-in-law about my concerns, but he became angry. He began to shout at me, accusing me of calling him and his wife witches. He then insisted that my son won’t be moved away from his house, and that the nurse must continue treatment.
“At that point, I began to cry and roll on the floor begging that he should allow me save my son by seeking treatment elsewhere. I pleaded with him that as a mother I could not continue to watch my son languish in pains as his hand rotted away. My tears did not move my father-in-law. Rather he reported me to his wife and children. They all then abused and scolded me. I refused to leave the house without my son. Later, when my mother-in-law returned from the market, she said I should go wherever I like with my son ‘after all she has many other grandchildren’. I felt bad at her statement, but went ahead and left with my son.
“You see, my husband died in 2018. I didn’t want to lose my son too. I only wanted to save his hand. I left my father-in-law’s place on May 20 and the next day, I took him to Igbobi Hospital. But then health workers were on strike. I went to some other general hospitals in Bariga, Ikeja and others but no medical official attended to us. In one of the hospitals, an orthopedic doctor measured the arm and said that they would have to amputate his lower arm. I couldn’t stand the thought of my son losing his right hand at such a young age.”
The doctor’s recommendation of amputation made her opt for alternative medicine. She was told plainly by the trado-medical practitioners she visited that the boy’s arm had rotten beyond repair. Left with no other option, Gift took Scott to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, where he has been on admission. Doctors after the preliminary evaluation also said that the arm would have to be amputated. But the horror of that made Gift to once again plead that an alternative to amputation, if possible, be considered. The child was then sent for fresh X-ray while being treated with other medications. The outcome of the necessary investigations would ultimately determine the decision to be taken by his doctors.
By sheer providence, a social rights activist attached to the Human Rights Defenders and Access to Justice Advocacy Centre (HRDAJAC), Queen Rose Ameh, learnt about the plight of the boy and took up the matter, resolving to press charges against Chief Obi for neglect of the child.
Ameh told Sunday Sun: “I saw the boy’s hand and felt so bad. I honestly fear that he may lose that hand if help doesn’t come quickly. We expected Chief Obi to show more concern in the boy’s situation. But I must say he has rather shown so much nonchalance towards the boy’s welfare. So we have petitioned the police to get him arrested to face charges of child-neglect. Chief Obi’s act of carelessness, child abuse and endangerment contradict the provisions of section 2 (1) and (2) and section 13 of the Child Rights Act 2003.”
When approached to react to the allegations made against him, Chief Obi denied neglecting the child. The 67-year-old native of Omoku, Rivers State, said that the little boy’s situation became complicated because mother was more interested in making trouble with them.
His words: “I retired as an assistant controller in Customs, which is equivalent to an assistant commissioner of police by rank. I lost my son – the boy’s father in August, 2017 and I still don’t know where my son brought this woman (Mrs. Nwachukwu) from. She’s been giving me a lot of trouble. We’ve tried and have been trying our best for the boy. She had gone to report me to the police. This is not a police matter. If she feels I have not done enough then she should go and report me to social welfare. She has no respect for me at all.”
In her narration, Gift had told Sunday Sun: “My parents-in-law drove me away from their house when my child was only nine months old. Since then till now I have been all alone, feeding, clothing and paying his school fees. Since after I took my son to search for cure elsewhere, he has not shown up or even called to inquire how my son is doing and how he can help. I am just a cleaner and I have spent my entire savings trying to save my son. I’m not happy. But I believe that God would heal his arm.”