By Gbenga Ogundare
Saturday May 27, 2017 was an exceptionally memorable day for the vast population of infants and children in Ijegun, a crowded suburb in the hinterlands of Ikotun Local Government of Lagos State. Not exactly because they got a handshake from the state governor in commemoration of the 2017 Children’s Day really, but more fortunately because they played host to a messiah who came to shoot up their immunities against childhood killer diseases.
That day, Gbemisola Boyede, a Consultant Neurodevelopmental Paediatrician and Founder of the Ask the Paediatricians Foundation led a team of medics and paramedics to spend the whole day consulting, testing and treating the toddlers of the indigent community who have all along been suffering from a syndrome of disease conditions that could spell doom for them as children.
In company of 120 team of volunteers, including Paediatricians, General Practitioners, doctors, dentists, lab scientists, nurses and other non-medical volunteers, Ask the Paediatricians Foundation kindled a community medical outreach that registered 430 children in addition to over 200 mothers, all seeking clinical intervention.
With registration formalities completed, all children were handed over to the Nurses at their makeshift station where their height, weight and Temperature were measured. The children were also dewormed, while their parents had their Blood pressure checked. At no cost to the parents or the community.
They were not done yet, the dentists in the team also examined the children and performed basic procedures like scaling and polishing, as well as oral hygiene education.
The mothers are mostly from low socio-economic background, laments Dr Boyede, and poorly educated.
“Most do not go to the hospital as there are only medicine stores and auxillary nurses available in the community.”
Never mind that Igando General Hospital is about 20 minutes drive from the community, still the women, mostly indigent, lamented that transport cost and cost of assessing services at the hospital are the disincentives.
“Though we still refer those that require further treatment to the General Hospital and those with chronic diseases that require follow up to the General Hospital Igando and the Lagos University Tteaching Hospital,’ Dr Boyede explained.
The Ask the Paediatrician Foundation team had their hands full with a syndrome of maladies to address in the vulnerable children. “The Diseases we saw and managed include Malaria, Diarrhoea disease, Skin infections, conjunctivitis, dental caries and other teeth issues (periodontitis), acute respiratory infections (cough, catarrh and colds), fungal infection, Malnutrition etc,’ she revealed.
The children couldn’t have been any more lucky. While the team of LABORATORY scientists did basic laboratory tests where necessary especially Malaria and HIV screening, paediatricians consulted all sick children and prescribed medications which were given free of charge by the Pharmacy team. The Parents also had blood sugar test done.
Ask Dr Boyede what inspires her to shun a lucrative private practice for public-spirited medical service, and you will get a response dripping with passion and humanity. “As a Paediatrician working in a Developing country, I know most of the diseases killing our children are largely preventable, but most die due to ignorance of the caregivers and lack of access to timely and what should be readily available interventions,’ she said.
“I do a lot of health education and information through the social media platforms (Facebook) and website. However, I felt that is not enough hence the decision to also take such services to people who will not even be able to get our social media messages –no access to Facebook or smart phones. That is why we do medical outreaches to such communities.”
That will not be her first attempt at playing the samaritan. Dr Boyede and her team were at the slum of Makoko in October last year to offer medical intervention to the neglected community.
“Our Makoko Outreach reached about 1000 children, not counting their mothers, National Daily learnt.
And she is not about to rest either. We will be doing another one soon, she assured National Daily Newspaper.
“Of course we also reach many on our website and other social media handles that we can not put a figure to. We get daily testimonies of children that our timely intervention through health education, information and at times direct involvement in terms of hospital care has led to their full recovery and prevented deaths.”
The Consultant Paediatrician is not bragging. Ask the Paediatricians Foundation has almost 250,000 members on Facebook alone who write fawny testimonies about the impact that the foundation is making in their lives daily. Yet Dr Boyede and her team had to sacrifice their earnings in addition to the time they invest consulting distressed mothers and their children in order to drive the life saving initiative.
“We fund our projects mainly through free-will donations of interested members. For each outreach, we also approach some corporate bodies for support. We have had a few support mostly in kind.
“However, the bulk of our funds come from personal funds and few of our members who donate towards the outreach. Our Volunteers give their expertise service and time for free as we do not pay any for the outreach. We do give breakfast and lunch, and last time, some souvenirs but no monetary compensations.”
The National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, raised alarm few days ago over increasing transmission of Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus, HIV from pregnant mothers to their offsprings. That’s a neon-bright indicator of a potential tragedy soon, but certainly not coming the way of the Ijegun children whom Dr Boyede’s Ask the Paediatricians Foundation has just protected from the potential attacks of infections such as malaria and HIV.