Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The 234th good thing about Lagos: a heartbreaking reminder to value life and give thanks for health

I feel very far away from Lagos, as my time comes to an end in Boston helping my daughter and her family move into their first home of their own. We've been very busy with removing wallpaper and painting and moving their belongings -- their former rented home is only a few minutes away -- and now the critical stuff is finished. They will still be getting organized and settling in for a while and have many home projects awaiting, but they are ready to be on their own, I'm sure. I've enjoyed spending time with them and their wonderful, energetic young sons. My daughter is expecting her third child in January and they just had an ultrasound yesterday that indicated they will be having their first daughter. We're all excited about that-- though my son-in-law will have to change up his visions of having a golf foursome with his sons -- my daughter reminds him that girls can play golf too.

In the United States, though we know life gives no guarantees, we tend to have the expectation that things will go well with pregnancy and childbirth. In Nigeria, childbirth is often more of a risk to both mother and child. I was reminded of that last week when I heard some very sad news from Lagos. I got to know the beautiful bride Ugoma through our church congregation over a year ago after she married Chinedu, who was a stalwart church member. Chinedu had been taking his time finding a wife, and he got a lot of kidding about how no woman seemed to be good enough for him. But we were all so happy for him after we met the woman he chose to marry -- Ugoma was sweet and beautiful and always had a radiant smile as we greeted each other with a hug at church. I'm so sorry that I don't seem to have snapped a picture of her. We were excited for both of them when we learned she was expecting their first child. I missed seeing her each week after our church congregations split off and we were meeting in another building. Last week I learned that she had fallen ill with malaria in June and was hospitalized for that until she gave birth, which had to be with a C-section as she was so weak. Ugoma and Chinedu had a healthy baby boy, and they named him Joshua. But Ugoma never recovered -- Chinedu said her incision wasn't healing and she had some abdominal swelling, so I don't know if she had internal bleeding or an infection, but she passed away a month after having the baby. I'm so sorry that I knew nothing of this while it was happening, as I was away through most of the ordeal. I wish I had known so I could at least have been praying for her. Chinedu says he will try to raise Joshua with a help of a nanny, which is quite an unusual thing for a Nigerian father to do. I feel so heartbroken for Chinedu, who finally found a wonderful wife and had her for such a short time, and for Joshua, who will grow up without the benefit of his mother's care. I wish there is something we could have done to get Ugoma some better health care.

This heartbreaking loss has been on my mind for the past week, as I have spent time with my pregnant daughter and healthy grandsons and I feel so blessed by the knowledge that they will have access to good health care and if illness and emergencies arise, there are skilled doctors and sterile hospitals awaiting to help them. But I've grown to love the Nigerian people during my time there and I shed tears for them, knowing that they deserve this benefit as well, but they don't have it. At irrational moments when I rage about the unfairness of it all, I wish for the Gates Foundation or some other aid agency with lots of money to throw at the problem to come in and make it all better. But I know that no outside charity can solve Nigeria's problems for them. Nigeria has a huge disadvantaged population, but they also have enormous resources that have gone too often to benefit too few. This corrupt culture of selfishness starts at the top with leaders who stash huge amounts of money in overseas bank accounts and it goes down to the scam artists who envision schemes to bilk others out of their money as their way to get ahead. Nigeria needs leaders at every level of society who will consider the greater good of their country as a priority and it needs citizens who value individual life, seize honest opportunities, and demand better from their leaders. Joshua will grow up never knowing his mother's care, and he deserves better from his country. A hope for a better life and a peaceful future is my prayer for him, for his father, and for Nigeria.


Rachel said...

Oh that IS heartbreaking! You mentioned her radiant smile. Even though you have no photo, I can imagine. I've seen others with radiant smiles in your photos that simply amaze me... how they can radiate like that when they are living in such circumstances... talk about true beauty and strength.

Julie said...

Its Julie. If you have the opportunity to ask him if he needs anything please let me know. I have all of this baby stuff laying around and access to a tone of other stuff from my mothers group here. I have been sending most of my stuff back with my husband to give to the motherless baby orphanage but this story pulls at my heart and I would be glad to ship him anything he could use.

Carolee said...

Julie, I'm sure that he would love to have whatever baby stuff you would have available. Of course, parents in Nigeria make do with much less baby stuff than any parent in the States feels is necessary. But he doesn't have much and I know he'll have a very difficult time making ends meet when he has to pay someone to care for his new baby, so he'd love some donations. Just email me if/when you have anything to donate and I'll make sure it gets to Joshua's dad. Thanks!

Jojo said...

Dear Carolee!
I don't comment often, but I love reading your entries and feel so much more connected to the country I was born in thanks to you. Thank you for your eloquent and sincere reminders of the blessings we take so for granted.