Before the intervention of billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola to foot the medical bills of ex-international Peter Fregene who is down with spinal cord disorder, his wife Augustina Fregene spoke with Yours Sincerely describing his situation as 18 Years Of Hell….
Can we meet you ma?
My name is Augustina Fregene. But relatives simply call me Tina. I am a petty trader. I am wife to Peter Fregene. We have been married for years.
How long has your husband been sick?
He has been sick since 2001.
What is the nature of the ailment?
Spinal cord disorder which came about as a result of stroke.
When exactly did you first notice the signs and symptoms?
Sometime in October 2001….and since then, it has been 18 years of hell…
What was your first step?
We had to cry out to well meaning Nigerians and some of his friends and colleagues in their days in the national team who actually rallied round him. I must say here that Chief Segun Odegbami (MON) was the first person who showed deeper concern.
Odegbami linked us to the then Governor of Lagos, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). Fashola spoke with me on phone. He then sent in two doctors who came to examine him here in Sapele from Lagos. The doctors were accompanied by coach Emmanuel “Tetteh” Okonkwo an ex-international and close friend of my husband. It was on the doctors (Dr. Mrs. Okagha and Dr. Ali Baba) recommendation that the governor asked us to bring him to Reddington Hospital, Idowu Taylor in Victoria Island, Lagos.
My husband underwent surgery there. All bills were footed by the then Governor, (Fashola). The surgery was successful.
When was this surgery?
The surgery was done in 2009.
Between 2001 and 2009 when the surgery was carried out, what happened. I mean how was he taken care of?
We first took him to his hometown, Aragba here in Delta State where we were administering herbal and traditional medication on him. But due to lack of fund, we couldn’t meet up with the bills of his treatment then. This was between 2001 and 2002.
The authorities of NEPA stepped forward to assist us in 2002 but at that point my husband’s health has grossly detoriating. NEPA took us to University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan. But by the time we got to Ibadan, UCH was on strike. We then met one Dr. Greenfield a consultant with the UCH. He took us to his private hospital at Ringroad. We were there briefly but again, it was difficult to sort out bills despite the efforts of NEPA though the whole arrangement took a bend due to the strike in UCH. Staying in a private hospital for a week was pretty expensive and we had to return to Delta. It was at this point that James Ibori who was then Governor of Delta State came to our rescue. Ibori took us to University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH). That was in 2003. The governor also took charge of everything and all expenses there. But because it was still at the early stage, the surgery was not needed. After his treatment at the UBTH, it was again difficult for us to sustain the tempo of his treatment especially travelling from Sapele in Delta State to UBTH in Benin. Feeding, transport and medical bill were difficult for us to afford. This led to a relapse in his health. All efforts to reach then Governor Ibori proved abortive as we were told by his aides that he either travelled out or was too busy.
At the moment what is happening?
We are just helpless. We are praying for divine help, mercy and grace. It is really a terrible experience. He crawls on his buttocks. I help out in massaging his body and legs daily, try to get food and all that. In fact, I can even say that hunger is fast taking its toll on us and contributing adversely to his health situation.
Have you reached out to the present government of Delta State under the leadership of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa?
No we have not. Truth is that previous efforts we have made met brickwalls. I don’t really understand why it is this difficult to reach out to government officials. It has been from one protocol to another. Each move we made ends as soon as we speak to the person we are directed to meet. That is the point we are.
So how have you been coping in the face of this painful revelations and experiences?
Well, it is really pathetic. The place we presently stay at Renald road by Ikomi, behind Okotie Eboh in Sapele was given to us by my brother in-law, I mean my husband’s elder brother, Victor Eborajolor.
So how have been surviving in this situation?
I am a petty trader. Whatever I realise from my business we use to compliment what we get from helpers, friends, family members and colleagues of my husband.
What of your children?
They are there ooo. They are seven. Two of them are grown ups. They have been doing their best too. But the jibs they do are not paying enough to sustain the family and cater for the treatment of the of father. It has been from hand to mouth.
What method of treatment are you giving to him at the moment?
It has been herbal. Some traditional physiotherapists also come to massage him weekly.
Aside your petty trade and efforts from your two grown children, where else do you get help from?
I must commend Sapele Boys Club where my husband belong. They have been wonderful. They often come here with food stuffs and token for his upkeep, Segun Odegbami, Alhaji Durosinmi Etti, Augustine Uti, John Toby, Chief Obulu, coach Adigun, Dr. Agawun, and a few others whose names I can’t remember now have been helping us. Our Church has been of tremendous help too. I mean All Faith Revival Ministry under the leadership of Pastor Godwin Akoria. The Man of God has been really supportive. I must not forget Pastor Event who brought my husband’s situation to the world. He was the first person to announce his health situation by inviting his friends in the media like Mr Omorokpaye who reported the story.
Your final word.
I am using this medium to appeal once again to Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the Honourable Sports Minister, Barr. Solomon Dalung, the President of the NFF, Amaju Melvin Pinnick and the sporting fraternity to come to the aid of my husband. He is dying slowly but with help from all and sundry, he will surely survive it.
Thanks for your time.
The pleasure is mine.
By Desmond Ekwueme