Fred Ezeh, Abuja Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Friday, took the attention of guests and graduands at the 7th convocation lecture of the headquarters of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Obasanjo was the first PhD graduate of NOUN, having successfully completed his academic and other research works, that aimed him the doctorate degree…
‘Why I hide my true identity from people’
‘My worst challenge is ignorance’
BY CHRISTY ANYANWU
Managing Director, Nordica Fertility and Founder ESGN, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, specializes in In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and treatment of infertility. Aside that, his birthday is in March and the amiable doctor since the beginning of March has been tutoring women, girls and whoever cares to listen about endometriosis. He spoke to Effects about the ailment and other issues. Excerpts:
March is the month of endometriosis. Can you explain it in simple terms; what’s endometriosis?
The body is made in such a way that a woman’s monthly menstrual flow comes out through the inner lining of the uterus and then goes through the cervix to the vagina and then flows out. But for some people and for whatever reasons, we are not too sure about, they have endometrium which means the inner lining of their uterus is present in some other places apart from just the lining of the uterus.
What happens is that every month they bleed, those endometrial implants on other places also bleed. So, let’s imagine that a woman has this lining in her abdomen, it means that every month she bleeds in her abdomen and because the abdomen does not usually have blood in it, all organs in the abdomen will start reacting to the unusual presence of the blood in the abdomen. After a while, cyst tissues start to for
m in the abdomen, which then results in all kinds of symptoms like pain in the abdomen and most times, the doctor examines her but would not find any reason why the pain is persistent and all the doctor could do in such situation is just give her some pain relievers or worse still, tell her that there is nothing wrong with her but it is in her head. This is the life of many patients with endometriosis. In fact, some people have deposits in the chest and therefore, can be emitting blood from their throats and that could be mistakenly interpreted to be tuberculosis. There are also few women with deposits in their brains. So, these ones bleed into their brains. This most often results in epilepsy and so you see these woman convulse and all that. The symptoms are so widespread and that’s why it’s called masquerade of diseases. Sometimes, it’s very difficult for doctors who are not specialists on endometriosis to recognise it. In Nigeria, many women until about a few years ago, died from endometriosis while only a few of them were fortunate enough to travel abroad where doctors were able to diagnose endometriosis by which time it would have been almost too late to do anything as they would have suffered a lot of consequences as result of the disease.
When did the awareness campaign begin in Nigeria?
ESGN campaign started in 2005, and it has the sole aim of assisting women with endometriosis. We try to be at the forefront, actively lobbying for better outcomes, education and awareness, care, treatment and support for women affected by endometriosis. So, annually, we wear yellow so that our wives, sisters and daughters won’t have to suffer in silence. It’s disheartening that most women only present their cases to doctors when they have fertility problems. The diagnosis is made most of the time in the fourth decade of life like when the women are from 31 to 40 years and by that time, endometriosis is at its worst stage, especially regarding fertility. And that is why this year, we are talking on the theme, Endometriosis in Adolescents. Consequently, Nordica Fertility is taking the awareness drive to schools this time, this is in commemoration of the Endometriosis World Wide March 2017.The campaign, this year, started with a march in Abuja on March 2 and it continues today in Lagos. We are involving secondary schools even as we are organizing an essay competition on endometriosis for secondary school students and prizes will be presented at the Endometriosis Gala, which is slated for March 19 at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Were you stubborn during childhood?
I wasn’t a stubborn child but I was headstrong. If I believe in anything, you need Nigerian Army to change my mind. I love books and the best thing I do is read. If you have above average intelligence also, you could get away with so many things. I had a good childhood. My parents died when I was very young but I was very lucky all through my life. I think God has just been gracious to me. And then, I have learnt to live with whatever I have. I’m contented. Anything I can’t afford, I don’t miss it. That was how I grew up and still remain till date.
You lost your parents early in life, so who brought you up?
My uncle. I had a very loving and kind uncle. God bless his soul. He was wealthy and very good. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that he’s not my father. His wife was actually my father’s younger sister. Growing up for me was good, I enjoyed myself.
At what point did you become popular as a doctor?
I don’t know. I’m in my own world. People know Nordica but they don’t know me and I’m more comfortable with that. It’s only when I want to take advantage of it that I introduce myself as Dr Ajayi of Nordica. Most times, I pass by people and sometimes, I get mischievous and simply introduce myself as Dr Ajayi and I walk past. It’s only when I say Dr Ajayi of Nordica that people make the linkage. I’m not shy but I don’t like so much publicity. If you let that get into your head you lose respect. I know who I am and I know what I want to do.
I don’t need noise. Which is your favourite colour?
I like blue. I like all colours but my favourite is blue. I don’t know why I like blue. I also like white. What’s in for you now, you mentioned school sometime ago… No, but that’s online school. We are just waiting for the economy to improve. There’s no money in the economy now and it doesn’t stop you from thinking. A man is dead when he stops thinking.
What’s your biggest challenge as a doctor?
For me my concern is how to make people understand what we are doing.
The man on the street; how can you break it down that he can understand what you are doing?
The main difference between advanced countries and ours from the patient’s point of view is that, they understand the basic things about reproduction but here we don’t. We come sometimes with unrealistic expectations. We don’t understand the technology even despite the fact that we’re educated. Lately, a lady was asked why she left Nigeria, and she said Nigeria is a country where they don’t teach sex education. I thought that was extreme but it’s true.
Even up till now, what do people think about sex education?
What I am trying to say is that we don’t read, we are not hungry for information and information is not even disseminated in a way that everybody can understand it. That’s why my best friends are journalists. The media is very strong, TV is a very strong instrument, if well used but if not well used it can also be dangerous. There’s not enough attention on health. No matter how wealthy you are, if you’re not healthy you are gone. If a patient comes to you and you are explaining something, they tell you “…doctor I trust your judgment”. I don’t want you to trust me; I want you to know what I’m talking about, what I’m saying. Don’t trust me, because it’s mental laziness when you say you trust somebody when you should understand. When Nigerians have a car worth $50million dollar (naira has lost value) you take care of the car but when a doctor tells you to stay at home because of your health you tell him you must go out that you have a contract. Our health is so important but we sometimes trust them to quacks. You go to a doctor and you don’t know if he’s a gynecologist and you say you need IVF.
Are you out of your mind?
It’s your responsibility to know the doctor treating you, what’s his qualification? Is he qualified to do what he’s doing? To me, it’s my greatest challenge. But I tell people you won’t take your BMW car to a Toyota mechanic; that means your car is even more valuable than your health. I think we can do better in this country.