Between 2008 and 2013, the right hand of Peter Kola-Ibitowa, a journalist, was paralysed - a result of an accident. Last year, he got a chance to travel abroad for treatment. Here, he relives his experience.
On a sunny day in March 2008, he went out to visit a friend in Ahmadiyya Ojokoro, Agege, on the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway. It is a visit Peter Kola-Ibitowa aka Pet-K would remember forever.
Few minutes after bidding his friend goodbye, Pet-K was trapped between a long-haul trailer and the road median on the Lagos Abeokuta Expressway. The brake of the vehicle had failed, and, in an attempt to control the vehicle, the driver hit the concrete median.
For the next two hours, Pet-K was in pains under the weight of the trailer and the split brick median. Unfortunately, his shouts for help were doused by the stream of vehicles which blared their horns oblivious of what was going on. But eventually, the concerted efforts of kind-hearted Nigerians saved him from being crushed to death. He recalled that sympathisers hired a monkey jack truck with which they eventually pulled him out from under the vehicle. By that time, his right hand was gone.
"I had lost so much blood to the point that many hospitals refused to admit me for further care," Pet-K recalls.
The next four years were marked by mild to excruciating pains to outright deadness of the affected hand. Pet-K went from one hospital to another seeking medical help to get his hand restored.
"But the surgery in Nigeria keeps failing," he says. "This created a hollow in the fractured point of my shoulder in the area called humerus. It prevented my arm from getting properly healed. So, by the time it got to this stage, I forgot about getting my hand restored. The reason is that I no longer had money neither to eat, feed my family nor, in the least, continue seeking medical attention.
"A colleague, who is a close friend of mine, kept pestering me that I should not leave my hand like that. I believe he must have gone ahead to present the situation to State of Osun Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, probably during one of the times he went to see him. But as he told me, he said the governor kept telling him that he, Ogbeni, felt that the hand had been healed. My colleague said that was when he told the governor that the hand was rather getting bad.
"At that point, he said the governor asked him what the cost would be and where I could possibly be properly treated. And because I had earlier told my friend how I had contacted one Forerunner Healthcare Consultants P, Nagpur in Central India, he told Ogbeni Rauf that he could remember I once told him that the overall treatment would cost about N3million. He said he informed the governor that it was in India that I would get corrective surgery. So, promptly, the governor gave approval for the money to be released almost immediately. And that was how I embarked on the journey for my operation.
"With everything in place, I then left Nigeria on December 14, 2012 for the hospital in Central India. And for that, I am eternally grateful to Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
"I got to India on December 15, about 8.00pm. I waited for the first two days, that is, 16 to 17, to finalise all appointments. Then on the third day, December 18, my appointment sailed through and I went to the hospital where a group of medical bone surgeons attended to me led by Drs. Laddha, Dheeraj Bojwani, the Chief Executive Officer and Dr. Choubey.
"In fact, all of them as a team operated on me. Along the line, I also had a female physiotherapist, Dr. Neha Kamble, who massaged me. She was told to apply physiotherapy on me consistently to straighten my hand ahead of the surgery. She was also the one who took me on tutorials about the use of the new hand that would be given to me. So, they commenced their investigations, carried out tests and then arrived at the conclusion that due to the stage my hand was, the best option was to amputate it. They also said they could cut half of the hand and make the other half, an artificial limb.
"But they gave me four days to go and think and decide about it. Yet, I felt so devastated at the same time. I then began to make consultations with my family, friends and associates and with many of those who had stayed with me when the ordeal was intense. My family and many of those I consulted urged me to go for amputation as they consider that the best option. On the fourth day, I met with the doctors and told them my choice. Swiftly, I was taken in for the surgery that eventually lasted three hours.
"After the initial preparations, they sedated me. That was all I could remember. By the time I regained consciousness after three hours, the 'dead' arm had been severed from my body. And when I got fully awakened, I realised that I felt no pains. But rather, I felt odd due to the fact that I now had a hand that was non-functional in anyway. It was as if the doctors were reading my thoughts when they started explaining to me that there was something called 'phatom sensation'. Its job, as the doctors explained, was that anytime the artificial arm has contact with a particular vein in my shoulders, I would feel some phatom sensation. They said that was why I was still feeling odd as if the old hand was still on me. They then said that it would take about six months before I would finally overcome that feeling.
"A week after, they invited representatives of the artificial arm builders from Otthobock Healthcare, Germany, who came to measure the length of my arm. It took them another 15 days for the artificial arm called prosthesis to be imported from Germany to India. Shortly after, they began to assemble the hand under the supervision of the Indian doctors. That took them three days. And when the doctors felt satisfied, I was then invited back to the hospital.
"Fixing of the prothesis was done on Friday, January 4, 2013 at the Arjun Bojwani Hospital Lodge. It was the hospital hotel where they made me stay. I was fully awake during the fixing of the artificial arm.
"Later, I was taken through another two to three hours' set of weekly tutorials on the use of the hand. On the long run, everything lasted about five hours because they wanted to make sure that the positioning and adjustments were accurate.
"In fact, I became quite relieved that my years of pains were over. However, I am yet to get used to the prothesis and, secondly, because no matter how, it can never feel like the real hand. Even the doctors admitted that the prothesis is only near perfect but only better than if they had tried to repair the old 'dead' hand. And despite the fact that it's been three months after I got it, it still feels strange on my body.
"Another challenge I now face daily is that operating the artificial arm has been a continuous snag for me. Every night, I must remove it to power its battery for at least four hours if it must last me a whole day. It has a life span of about three to four years. Then, when it is fully charged, I still have the challenge of knowing how to shake people's hands, write, among others. After the accident happened, I learned how to do everything including writing with my left hand. So, changing to the new seems so weird. That is why I have not been using it as much as I ought to. I just believed that with much practice, I will get use to it. After the fixing, I went to the hospital for about three weeks for the physiotherapy and later returned to Nigeria on Monday, January 29.
"Above other challenges is how I am just learning to cope with my family. On getting home, my wife and children, who all along had been eager to see me and what the new hand looks like because I had intimated them about it while in India, now treat me as if I am the baby of the house.
"But the most surprising shocker is always from my four year-old son who, anytime I remove the hand to power it would retort: 'Daddy, where is your own hand?'. He looks scared when I remove it and he sees that there is no hand. And then, when I wear it in the morning, he will move back. He's only just beginning to adjust and move closer to me."