Mayowa Salami was taking his bath one morning three years ago when his mother, Abiola Salami, noticed a growth on his lower abdomen. She also observed that he was emaciating despite eating and not feeling sick.
Mayowa had been living with his grandmother for years, keeping her company, but Mrs Salami decided to bring him back to live with her at Ojota in Lagos because his education was not progressing in the manner she wanted and his health was deteriorating.
“It was swollen but I didn’t know what it was,” Mrs Salami said in Yoruba Language. “He said it ached sometimes. His grandmother did not know. It sometimes moved from his lower abdomen to the area near his private part. A neighbour later told me it was appendicitis.”
Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch that projects from the colon on the lower right side of the abdomen. Pain increases as the inflammation worsens.
Mrs Salami, whose financial hardship worsened when her husband died after an illness, told FIJ that she sought help through traditional medicine. It cost her N8,000 but it didn’t work.
“We were told that the growth would melt but there was no difference. So I stopped giving him,” she said.
One night, Mayowa was rushed to the hospital after he puked blood. Medical interventions stabilised him and he was referred to another hospital at a location closer to them.
“But when the spot continued to grow, we were told to stop because herbal drinks could not solve the problem. Whenever the pain started, he would be weak,” she said.
A Basic 1 pupil of Olusosun Primary School, Mayowa is said to be the oldest in his class but he continues attending school.
“His growth is stunted; he is actually 16 years. His education was also affected when his school told us to go and take care of his health. He was out of school for about three years. If not because he likes school, he would have stopped attending because of his age.”
Barely making enough to feed, Mrs Salami who sells bottled and sachet water at motor parks, became depressed when a hospital in Lagos asked her to pay N100,000 for the surgery to remove the appendix. In Osun State, a doctor demanded N50,000.
With no health insurance and savings to rely on, she came up with a plan; secure a loan from a microfinance bank to pay for the surgery of the last of her four children and try to get a location to sell in order to repay the loan.
“When the Covid-19 lockdown started, I could not get the loan. Even where I was selling, the Lagos State Taskforce and the Kick Against Indiscipline officials chased us from there,” Mrs Salami said.
HAWKING TO SUPPORT HIS MOTHER FOR THE SURGERY
FIJ first met Mayowa on Saturday during the June 12 protest. It was a sunny day, one to make brisk business as chanting protesters patronised him and other minors hawking cold water.
After selling all his wares, Mayowa neither went to play nor replenish his stock. With his bowl in one hand and the money he had made held tightly in the other, he joined the protest and walked 11 kilometres with the protesters from Ojota to Maryland and back.
“I want Nigeria to be better,” Mayowa told FIJ during the protest in response to why he joined. “I hawk to augment my mother’s income.”
Mrs Salami said she resorted to hawking and collecting loans and repaying when survival became more difficult after her husband died on his sick bed. She had to collect a N200,000 loan to pay the school fees of one of her children who was recently admitted into a university in Lagos.
The decision to take a loan to pay for her child’s school fees came at the price of living in a wooden shack built on the deck of a building at Ojota, with little to no protection from rain and sun. Months ago, the shack caught fire due to an electric surge, but it was put out.
“Someone gave us this place to live when we were considering leaving Lagos because there was no money for house rent. One day, it rained overnight; I packed so much water I fainted,” she said.
With the eviction notice she received from the government, it won’t be long before she becomes homeless and makes the hard decision to return to her home state, leaving Lagos which she had lived in for a long time. But Mayowa’s surgery tops the worries that keep her awake at nights.
“I don’t like to see him hawk, especially with his condition. But I don’t have a helper. I just pray to God to help me,” she told FIJ on the day she was going in search of a guarantor for a loan to pay for surgery.
“They said it (appendicitis) is dangerous and could kill someone. I will struggle to get him help because I can’t afford to lose my son.”
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