Peju Ugboma: Let’s make sure she did not die in vain – Peju Akande

Peju Ugboma: Let’s make sure she did not die in vain – Peju Akande


It’s so eerie writing this. When I first saw the news about Peju Ugboma, the chef who died due to the alleged negligence of the medical personnel at the hospital she went for surgery, I felt a cold shiver. This is not because I had met Peju Ugboma before her passing but because she bore my name.



I shivered again when I read that Peju died after she underwent a botched surgery for fibroid-related ailment at the Premier Specialists’ Medical Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.



I mused over how Peju Ugboma, but for the grace of God, could easily have been Peju Akande.




Peju Ugboma: Let’s make sure she did not die in vain – Peju Akande


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I have fibroid. I went to a hospital with my partner, (not Premier Specialists Medical Centre); but an equally prestigious women’s hospital on the island. However, we opted out of the fibroid surgery at the last minute because the way the hospital had handled my matter was unprofessional.



We needed reassurance, counsel, guidance on the options available and even possible cause for the excessive and non-stop bleeding I was having at that time. After several visits, tests and still feeling we were just a number, we demanded to see the consultant.


When we finally did, I was withering as he spoke to us; eating in-between, sending off a few people; generally acting like he was doing us a huge favour having us meet with him.  He asked that we go pay and get slotted for surgery; then casually throwing in that it could be cancer.


My partner was incensed by his behavior. The money wasn’t even the issue. He stormed out of the hospital but not before giving them a piece of his mind! And he had much to say.



So, I understand a bit of why the petition for investigation into the alleged botched surgery of Peju Ugboma is necessary. It won’t bring her back. But it will hopefully help prevent more Peju’s from getting treated shabbily.



Am I saying there are no good doctors in Nigeria?





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No. Far be it for me to say that. We do not only have good doctors; we actually have great doctors and they are in the majority, I think. But you see, our women are dying from what doctors have told us is not a “complicated surgery.”



Every African woman has fibroid or the potential to have one. I have known I had fibroid over 18 years ago. I was still pregnant with my youngest child, when during a routine scan, I asked the doctor if the big blob I saw on the monitor was my baby’s head.



He said, “That is not your baby’s head. That’s a fibroid growth.”


That fibroid has since ballooned into something so painful, so painful and uncomfortable over the years; which is why we approached the women’s specialist hospital for help. And this hospital wasn’t even our first choice.



Peju Ugboma: Let’s make sure she did not die in vain – Peju Akande



We had seen two other doctors who told me to “…leave it if it isn’t disturbing you.”


I did and for years managed the pain and discomfort.


Then I began to bleed excessively, was always bloated, and many times in pain; as my stomach grew even though I wasn’t pregnant…No amount of exercise could trim it. I kept remembering, “if it doesn’t hurt, leave it.”


I went for another opinion and was told, oh, “…Once you hit menopause, it will start shrinking…”



By this time, I had made enough enquiries to discover that several women were dying from botched fibroid surgeries. My former landlord’s daughter, a beautiful woman of 47 years then, had driven herself to the hospital on a Friday; done the said fibroid operation and by Sunday, too, just like Peju Ugboma, she was dead…bled to her death!


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When I asked her husband, “But I was told the surgery was successful, what happened?”


“Yes, she made it out alive from the theatre. That’s how they judge success, apparently.”


Our medical personnel aren’t friendly around here. If you ask too many questions, they get offended. If you challenge their treatment option, they get offended, like the body they are treating isn’t yours.


I agree they work wicked hours. Also, they have to deal with crap and we should just give them a break. Well, that would be easy to do if human lives were not involved. Lives that cannot be replaced or swapped or recreated.




Peju Ugboma: Let’s make sure she did not die in vain – Peju Akande



But they generally act like poultry farmers packaging chicken.


For these people, blood and gut isn’t anything new. They acquire a mechanism on the job to churn it out faster every day. They pick up a cleaver, chop off the squawking chicken’s head, then watch it roll into a bowl but because the chicken hasn’t realized it is dead, so it trashes. They throw the trashing remains in boiling water to remove its feathers. Another picks it from the water. In one or two quick swipes, peels off all its feathers. The next person is ready to gut the chicken… And the next squawking chicken is in line…This, I think, is how many Nigerian medical personnel see most of their patients…Next!


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I have written about a botched surgery my mother underwent at an eye clinic along Mobolaji Bank Anthony way. They flew in Russians who did a number of surgeries. These Russians flew back and left the care and treatment to the doctors here…My mother lost that eye, thanks to the hospital.



Let’s tell ourselves a few truths. There will always be incidents like that of Peju Ugboma. But they will be fewer if medical personnel knew their licenses could potentially be withdrawn for slights on their parts. They would be more mindful, less critical and unfeeling to humans they handle; especially if they were made to face lawsuits and hefty fines.



While we will never be able to bring Peju Ugboma back to life; let’s hope that this probe will ensure better practices among our medical personnel.

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