Waiting on Hope

Although she is 14, Prudence Unaidet has stopped growing and remains bedridden in the last 12 years. Now she needs help from public-spirited Nigerians to be able to live a normal life


She knew she had company, but the tiny teenager on the bed could not focus on her visitors. Her stiff arms and frail fingers were turned upwards at an unnatural angle. Her huge eyes stare upwards at nothing. Movement is impossible for Prudence Unaidet, a 14-year-old girl who has been bedridden for 12 years. She is one of a set of triplets, she lives and sleeps on a hospital iron bed, totally unaware of her environment.


Somewhere in another part of their family house, located at a seedy part of Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo State, Precious and Peace, Prudence’s siblings, were busy fetching water. That aspect of life is unknown to Prudence who lies down alone and cold in the room even as her siblings pursue the Golden Fleece in academics.


But until she was two years old, Prudence had been an active, precocious toddler. A high fever has literally put a stop to her life which has hung in the balance ever since. However, while movement and her cognitive abilities appear impaired, her physiological clock has kept ticking. Nkechi, Prudence’s mother, told the magazine that despite the odds, her daughter has started experiencing her monthly menstrual cycles.


That development as well as Prudence’s general condition has been a serious financial and emotional strain on the Unaidets. “I have been mocked, I have been cursed for having such a child. Neighbours and family members do not want to have anything to do with us. They say we must have done something very terrible to deserve a child like this,” said Nkechi.


What neighbours may not know is that Prudence was diagnosed with severe cerebral malformation at the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, in 2006. Since then, she has been managed by a number of consultant pediatricians and neurological surgeons at the UCH.


In a referral letter to the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, United States, US, Adefolarin Malomo, a professor and senior consultant surgeon wrote: “She is an old patient of the Paediatric-Neurology Unit and was admitted and treated for viral encephalitis in 2001, but had residual quadriparesis, bilateral visual loss, hearing and speech impairment. On examination, she was conscious but had impaired cognition, speech and hearing. There was generalized hypertonia and hyperflexia. She had a spastic quadriparesis worse in both lower extremities. Cranial CT showed severe brain malformation with absence of large portions of the right temporal and parietal lobes, calcar-avis calcification and Dandy-Walker malformation with pan-entriculomegaly. A diagnosis of severe cerebral malformation was made.”


In simple, layman language, the professor meant that Prudence was initially treated for an inflammation of the brain but had a neurological weakness in both arms and legs. Her speech and hearing abilities have also been impaired as a result of the brain inflammation.


For Prudence to regain her functionalities, Uchenna Ibe, medical director, Healthline Foundation, US, who is facilitating the referral process, says she would need $200,000 including the cost of airfare, surgery, physiotherapy and other rehabilitation procedures.


But the Unaidets, who cannot even afford to renew their rent, are overwhelmed already with the daily maintenance of a family, which include five children. Speaking with the magazine, Kendrick, Prudence’s father, appealed to well-meaning Nigerians to help give his daughter a chance at living a normal life. “We want to thank kind-hearted Nigerians who came to our aid the last time. We were able to raise N100,000 which is a far cry from the $200,000 we need for the surgery,” he said.


Kendrick is also seeking assistance from the UCH, an institution he claimed mismanaged the case of his daughter right from the onset. Kendrick alleged that even after paying the cost of some recommended surgery some years back, the hospital is yet to perform any surgery on Prudence more than ten years after she was admitted. The troubled father explained to the magazine that a second opinion on Prudence’s case shows that a correct intervention in the form of an earlier surgery could have drained the fluid in Prudence’s brain and prevented the brain damage she suffered.


In a July letter to the chief medical director, made available to the magazine, Kendrick stated: “Your medical team advised us in April 2002 after she was partially clinically stabilised, that her condition will improve with time…. Irrespective of our persuasive determination to help this child improve her living condition, your hospital again refused her the recommended medical care which was to include a brain surgery in 2006.” Kendrick wants the authorities of the hospital to admit responsibility and contribute to “further medical treatment and full rehabilitation to enable her live a normal and productive life again.”


Although efforts of the magazine to get the views of Temitope Alonge, chief medical director, UCH, on the plight of Prudence and allegations that UCH initially mismanaged her case were unsuccessful as he refused to respond to enquiries, what is clear is that Prudence needs urgent financial and medical attention to step out of her room to the world stage. To make this happen, charitable Nigerians who want to help may send donations to Prudence Unaidet, account number 2054905748, United Bank for Africa.

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