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My mother’s cancer, death inspired me to study medicine – Graduate confesses

Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki

Perhaps, Dr. Obinna Oke could have been the next literary icon like Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and others who are being celebrated globally if he had stuck to his dream.

Oke is one of the 49 fresh graduates of medicine, who recently swore to the Hippocratic Oath in an event held at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (FETHA), Ebonyi State as part of requirements marking their graduation from the medical school. He studied at the Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki.

READ ALSO: Ebonyi: FETHA CMD denies weighty corruption allegations

As a child, according to him, his love and undying passion for literature was profound. He was born into a family where education was taken seriously. With his father a teacher, he was bred in a local environment where history was always narrated; literature and folktales always available.

With these in place, the young Oke resolved to take a shot at Literature once he secured admission to the university. He literally ‘gulped’ available literary works in their house as if his life depended on it.

But that modest preparation for a ride in the world of literature was cut short. He narrated that his mother took ill and was diagnosed of cancer by a team of medical doctors who examined her ailment many years ago.

While sitted at the bedside of his mother and clutching her hand affectionately, the young man observed how the doctors allegedly treated his mum lackadaisically.

“The Consultant Haematologist who attended to her was complaining aloud to his colleague at the corridor after seeing my mum, almost quarreling, asking why his prescriptions were not being administered appropriately,” he recalled.

These words pierced through the heart of the young boy who was desirous of seeing his mum well again. Perhaps, because of the alleged laxity on the part of the doctors, his mum kicked the bucket. That day, he took a decision.

“Of course, she succumbed to the disease (God rest her soul.) It was a horrible experience I hate to remember. After I lost my mum, I knew there was nothing else to do than to be a doctor. It was a decision I made beside my mum’s sick bed. “The idea was to stop that which hurt me from hurting others. Earlier, I had wanted to study Literature because I grew up in the midst of novels and moonlight stories until I changed my mind. And as against the many popular writers such as Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, etc who dumped medicine for literature, it might suffice,” he said.


It was not long after the young Oke secured admission into the university that hardship came knocking on his door. He disclosed that he went through hard time trying to put his body and soul together.
As soon as his father who was a teacher retired from active service, the situation got worse as his pensions were not enough to cater to the needs of the family of 12 with other dependants living with them.

“To have come from a family inches away from the poverty line made the whole matter worse. Towards the middle of my training, my dad’s occasional stipend was cut. He had sat me down and said: ‘Obinna, it saddens me to say this. I have become empty. But you must find a way. You must.’ At first, I felt heartbroken.

“But being fully aware that this was a retired primary school teacher who had to fend for 12 children and other poor relations who stayed with us and had faced the most devastating of natural tragedies such as caring for a sickle cell child (late), a wife with cancer; multiple myeloma (late), other chronic illnesses and bereavements, I knew better than blame him. Yet he at times sent in something,” he narrated.

But despite the daunting challenges, Dr Oke refused to be browbeating. He was resolute in his bid to become a doctor. He would not let go the horrible situation his late mum went through in the hospital.

“I had to look inwards. I wrote a few scholarship exams and got some. I also got money by editing manuscripts and papers, and through it funded the rest of my medical program. But not many people ever knew what I was passing through. As a matter of fact, my mates from rich families envied me from a distance as a wealthy student (smiles),” he narrated.

READ ALSO: Ebonyi natives get lifeline as group offers free medical care


“My experience while in medical school cannot be narrated in a paragraph or two”, is what Oke tells when asked about his experience in the medical school. How could an over eight years of rigorous journey be so told? But I would summaries it as an interesting journey full of pain and pleasure.

“Initially, it was scary; seeing the cadavers, dissecting them up to the bones wasn’t such a palatable experience. But the feeling waned off almost a few days after my first exposure. The exams themselves put us in a constant state of anxiety and sleeplessness.

“At some point I had no time to wash my clothes, and I had to steal time to feed. I fell out with many of my friends and family members. And a lot of them never understood the seriousness of my school and my timelessness,” Oke revealed.


The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the teaching hospital, Dr Emeka Onwe Ogah, could not hide his joy at the graduation ceremony of the 49 new medical doctors.

He said that the successful completion of their course and swearing to the Hippocratic Oath was like a new feather to their cap. Currently, FETHA is training about 400 resident doctors in the hospital as medical consultants.

Going down the memory lane, the CMD disclosed that the hospital has witnessed tremendous growth since its establishment. He revealed that they don’t only teach the medical students theoretically, they also grill them in the practical aspect of their course.

“It is a thing of joy when parents are alive to see the fruits of their labour and it is also a thing of joy for somebody who started as medical student to graduate as a medical doctor. Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, a teaching hospital that gives medical students the opportunity to do their clinical programmes while as a student.

“By way of history, the teaching hospital is a mega hospital and it has under gone a lot of metamorphosis. It started in the early 30s as an auxiliary where those that were wounded during the Second World War were being treated.

“It was transformed to a general hospital. In 1990, the general hospital was converted to a Federal Medical Centre (FMC) and in 2012, it was elevated to the status of Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki and the then Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital (EBSUTH) were merged with the federal teaching hospital.

READ ALSO: FG decries incessant medical tourism abroad

“The management decided to designate where you know as FMC to be FETHA 1 and where you used to know as EBSUTH to be FETHA 2. For our patients, if you are going to FETHA 1, what we have there is like mother and child hospital, the maternity section and the children section even though we still offer other services there.

“The FETHA 2 here is more of adult medicine clinic, those that are going for surgeries, those that have ear problems and those adults that need medical attention. We have emergency services in both hospitals.

“We have close to 400 resident doctors, both junior and senior residents that are undergoing training to become consultants in the hospital. By that, we offer a lot of wide range of services to our teeming Ebonyians and Nigerians at large.

“We do a lot of surgeries in this hospital; heap replacement and knee replacement in the hospital. A patient was to go to India to do heap replacement at the cost of N5 million but when she heard that we can do it here, she came here and she paid N1.2 million and she is alive today. Since we started the replacement surgeries last year, we have done eight of heap and knee. In no distant time, we will start doing spinal surgeries. We also do endoscope surgeries here,” Onwe stated.

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Tokunbo David
Tokunbo David

Writer and editor.

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