The sight of Justice Uzondu looks like a make-belief world as even a stone-hearted person will shrink down with emotions at the condition of his swollen stomach.
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The Tall, 62-year-old man had been living with the ailment for over eight years and the situation seem to be moving from hopeless to helpless.
Although Uzondu has a height that is somewhat intimidating that everyone will be positively attracted to but the strange ailment he now carries seems to be a more central point of attraction as his stomach is extraordinarily protruded.
Reading into Uzondu’s mind as he laid on the mat in a corner of his thatched home in his village in Umuonyeka-Umueze Ihitteaforukwu in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State, could be that he is asking God questions as regards his ailment.
As revealed by Punch, he looked helpless, hopeless and possibly miserable.
Uzondu was not born with the disease as he used to be a strong and agile man until eight years ago when his stomach started protruding.
Uzondu used to be a driver in Lagos until eight years ago when he came down to his hometown for the holidays.
He recounted the events that happened until it got to the pathetic state.
He said, “I was a private driver for someone based in Lagos. I came home for holiday and I decided to climb my oil bean (ukwa) tree to harvest it.”
One will wonder if climbing the tree was something he should never have done at this point as he fell down from the tree.
“I broke my spinal cord. I couldn’t walk again. When I fell, I lost consciousness. I passed out but God revived me through the medical treatments I got. I had to be confined to a bed for two years.”
Uzondu later noticed that his stomach was growing in size which he reported promptly to medical personnel who diagnosed him with “accumulated fats” in his stomach.
“I have gone to so many hospitals, including National Hospital, Abuja where I was asked to do so many tests including a CT scan. It was the scan that revealed that I have accumulated fat. The doctors said it happened because I couldn’t walk and because I have been confined to a place for a long while. It was in Umuahia, Abia State that a group of Indian medical experts also carried out more tests. They also said I was suffering from accumulated fats in my stomach which was brought about by the spinal cord injury that I sustained,” he said.
Uzondu had changed his diet to see whether the fat will reduce but to no avail.
“I had to stop eating fatty food. The doctors advised me to stop taking such food so as not to aggravate this condition. But nothing has changed. My stomach is this big. I am really disturbed,” he said.
However, friends and family including his spouse have deserted him not minding that his strange ailment has been medically diagnosed and has a cure. Several villagers attributed the ailment to whether Uzondu had committed an abomination and is being punished by the gods.
Uzondu revealed that his wife disserted him five years. she left because she could not withstand the size of her husband’stomach anymore.
“My wife left me with our 10-year-old child. I couldn’t take care of our son because of my condition, so somebody had to take him to train him for me. My wife said she couldn’t continue living with me as she didn’t understand this kind of illness. She said she was tired of taking care of me. I have not seen her and I do not know where she is since she left me,” he said.
Uzondu disclosed that it was his niece that had stood by him. The niece, 24-year-old Blessing Uzondu, is a student of Rufus Giwa, Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State, who had ensured that Uzondu does not die of hunger.
Uzondu further revealed that Blessing has been responsible for taking him to the hospitals and feeding him since his wife abandoned him.
“Blessing is in Year Two. She shuttles between home and Owo every other weekend to cook for me. She is just the only relative who comes close to me. I don’t know how she does it but she returns home from Owo just for me. I don’t know how to pay back and I don’t know why she loves me like this.”
“When she comes home, she cooks plenty food that would last until she comes back next time. She makes sure that everything is in order, including my drugs before she leaves for school.”
And since Blessing comes home once a week, Uzondu said he is just able to have a bath once a week, at least when his niece helps him to clean his body.
“There is no other person to help. I just manage to have my bath once a week, when Blessing is around. If she goes, that means I will not bathe until she comes back,” he said.
Uzondu speaks about his state further, he said the pains he feels are getting more excruciating and exasperating.
“I have endured excruciating pains and trauma for years. I experience loneliness. I have been stigmatised by everybody. People have abandoned me. My world has crumbled at my feet. I lost my job, I can’t even get another job and I don’t know when my condition will improve for the better. I had spent my little savings on my medical expenses. To even eat now is a problem because there is no money. I know I am hard working. If not for this condition, I would have been working. I only urge well-meaning Nigerians to come to my aid and help me get out of this situation by contributing to my surgery,” he said.
“Nobody wants me to sit beside them in the vehicle anytime I have to board the public transport for medication. They would accuse me of being the source of their troubles. It has been so painful. I remember during one of my trips to Lagos where I had also gone to seek medical attention, a man accused me of sleeping with another man’s wife. He said I brought a curse upon myself because of the abomination and that’s why my stomach is this big.”
Meanwhile, Uzondu has denied all superstitious allegations associated with the disease. he said it is a medical condition and will be cured. he added that he is a staunch Christian.
“I haven’t done anything abominable. I have never slept with anybody’s wife. My case is a medical condition and it is nothing spiritual. I know I will get out of this one day,” he said.
Uzondu lamented further stating that his companions are majorly lizards and chickens as nobody comes to see him.
“But I don’t want to die. The Indian doctors said for me to be cured, I would need around N6m for the operation in India. I don’t know how I can raise this. I don’t know what to do again.”
Uzondu said the doctors told him that he urgently needs to be operated upon otherwise he would lose his life.
“The medical experts told me that the N6m is for a medical surgery abroad, especially in India. The amount included the medical bills, my flight ticket and accommodation,” he said.
However, Dr. Ugochi Onuh of University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital has advised that Uzondu should repeat the abdominal CT scan.
“There is no way I can make a diagnosis based on a mere photograph that you sent to me. However, his saying that CT scan said this is an accumulation of fat is very questionable and none of the radiologists I showed the picture agreed to its possibility. I also think it is unlikely that the stomach issue is related to the fall he had. The fall should affect the back and not his stomach. If he had a fracture for his age, no matter the height he fell from, then we could look out for malignancies that could make the spine to be fragile. even in children, recovering from spinal cord injury is very slim, let alone an adult.”
“For a man his age, having what is medically called Egg on Stick appearance is top on the list of differential diagnosis. He could also be suffering from Abdominal Lymphomia or endomyocardial fibrosis or decompensated liver cirrhosis with or without malignant transformation. It is essential he repeats the abdominal CT scan. Otherwise, I would also advise he should go and do an ultrasound so that he would have something more concrete.” she said.
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