Hole-in-the heart girl still needs N2.5m for surgery

By: Chioma Umeha

When her story broke recently, a number of sympathetic Nigerians expressed concern, giving her family hope that succour will soon come their way. 

However, several months have gone without help from anybody for young Fatima Usman as she continues to battle two life threatening ailments at the same time. Like her peers, Fatima had the dream of running around with her siblings and friends, studying to excel in school and become a successful legal luminary. Today, all these seem a tall dream as she silently awaits death with unusual calmness for a child of her age. At five, Fatima Usman’s life is gradually ebbing, and like a candle in the wind may be snuffed out soon, if urgent help does not come her way. 

According to the medical diagnosis, little Fatima has a heart disease and a life threatening malignant ulcer rapidly spreading to other parts of her body, and is about to render her armless. Before the diagnosis, Fatima was a bubbling child with big dreams, high hopes and strong-will. Neither Fatima nor her parents anticipated such conditions she presently lives with until two years ago, precisely 2011, when she suddenly developed incessant unusual body temperatures. Narrating the story, her mother, Wunmi Usman said: “In 2011, we noticed she was always getting sick and running very high temperature. We took it as malaria and gave her malaria drugs. The temperature stopped for few days but later came back. We took her to a nearby hospital and she was treated for malaria again.” After several days of persistent ill-health which caused loss of weight, Wunmi said she took her daughter to a general hospital where she was diagnosed with a hole-in-the heart. “We had taken her to a private hospital and at the hospital, we were referred to the general hospital where it was discovered that she has a hole in her heart and would need to travel to India for treatment,” said Wunmi. While still thinking of how to raise the needed money, another tragedy befell the little girl and her family. 

Fatima Usman
She was struck by another ailment. “We were still thinking about how to get the money, when one day in 2011, she was sent on errand, and on her way back, she fell and injured her right arm by the elbow. We applied some ointment to the elbow to reduce the pain, thinking the pain would soon go away. “Before we knew what was happening, the hand began to swell up. We started to apply treatment to it, but there was no improvement. We took her to the hospital where she was treated but, we were surprised that it developed pores at the elbow, some days after the treatment at the hospital. When we took her back to the general hospital, the injury had worsened,” her mother reported sadly. “It was at the general hospital that the injury was diagnosed as ulcer. 

Right now, the hospital said we need N2.5million for the treatment of her heart and hand.” Wunmi concluded with a sigh of frustration. Fatima’s mother also said that she was happy when neighbours drew her attention to her daughter’s story in the newspapers after exhausting all available means of raising money. She further said: “I was elated and hopeful that our long search for a lasting solution might be around the corner.” However, she said that the hope is fast turning into despair as help is yet to come their way. The search for solution to Fatima’s health complication appears far-fetched. Her mother, barely able to hold back her tears pleaded with well-meaning Nigerians to come to the financial aid of the family so as to save Fatima’s life. “I want Nigerians to help my daughter; I have no means of raising the money. I want them to help us so that Fatima would not die,” she appealed, in between tears.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 26,  2013.