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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

In 2010, Rahmat Ibironke Visited Germany For Medical Help And Then She Found Love(Read)

How Nigerian medical tourist found love in Germany

The life of Rahmat Ibironke contains many rarities. Although she has her challenges, there are compelling reasons to believe not many who have similar challenges could be as lucky as she is.

Waheed Bakare   first met Rahmat in November 2010 when she needed 26, 500 euro (N5.5 million then) required for a surgery at a German hospital, Mainz Universiti Klinik, Germany.

The lady was diagnosed with Arnold-Chiari Malformation Type 1, also known as congenital
malformation of the brain. Rahmat, a 2008 graduate of Food Science Technology from Yaba College of Technology, was born with a malfunctioned brain. But it took 25 years before she was properly diagnosed of the ailment by Nigerian doctors due to lack of modern medical equipment in the country.

Her ailment was properly diagnosed for the first time as congenital malformation of the brain after she had Magnetic Resonance Imaging at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, in 2006. If it took 25 years before she was properly diagnosed, it was given that her case was beyond redemption in Nigeria owing to dearth of equipment.

Hence, she turned to the German hospital for help. For the first time, Rahmat, who was 29 then, knew the road to her recovery. But it was a case of a road without destination because of the huge sum involved. When this correspondent first reported her case in 2010, Good Samaritans rallied round her and donated money into her account. However, the money realised was still a far cry from what was needed. But an anonymous couple who read her story were moved that what could have been corrected by a simple surgery had festered due to lack of proper diagnosis.

The couple sent one of their staff to investigate how genuine Rahmat’s case was. And when they were satisfied, they got in touch with the hospital and paid the entire sum to the hospital’s account. Rahmat had said, “I don‘t know the couple. But they are elderly and they are philanthropists. After reading about my story, they did not even get in touch with me. Rather, a woman, who works for them, was the one that was calling me on the telephone on their behalf. She said her boss read about my story and wanted to help me.

They now got in touch with the hospital. “The money did not pass through me at all. I am very happy at this uncommon gesture. It is my prayer that God will replenish them. The woman, who was calling me on the phone refused to reveal their identities.“I am also touched by the gesture of some Nigerians that also sent money into my account.

People were so touched to the extent that some even sent N500 to me. I really appreciate everybody.” So, Rahmat left Nigeria on December 11, 2010, and arrived in Germany the next day. She was given 21-day visa with the hope that her surgery would have been done and she would be fit enough to travel back to Nigeria within 21 days. On December 14, 2010, she had her surgery and was discharged in January 2011.

She then moved to her uncle’s residence in Germany. “While I was with my uncle, I needed to use the rest room and I wobbled to the toilet because I still could not walk with my legs properly. I could manage to walk but that came with a lot of pain and with distorted gait. While I was in the toilet, I had a seizure and went into a coma.

“But before I went into coma, I was told I raised the alarm and this attracted my uncle. He immediately called the ambulance and I was taken to Saint Josef Hospital. At the hospital, it was discovered that there was an error in the surgery I had and after I was stabilised, I was advised to go back to Mainz. But I said no.

Saint Josef could not do the surgery because they do not have a Neuro Surgery Department. “Since I insisted that I did not want to go back to Mainz, the management of Saint Josef got in contact with another hospital, HSK, where I had three surgeries. After every surgery, there were complications and that also led to loss of some nerves. At a point, I was bleeding in the brain. “When I had the last surgery, they put something in my head to be draining the fluid from my brain at certain pressure to my stomach. It is to the glory of God that I am alive to tell my story today.

I saw hell but I went through it. Thank God is my name. I have a life and I can go to any where I wish to go. The doctors were surprised that I am still mentally stable despite bleeding from the brain,” Rahmat said. Meanwhile, her medical bill had risen to over 100, 000 euro being the cost of surgeries, drugs and rehabilitation for over six months.

The hospital presented her with the bill and wanted to know how it would be settled. “I told them that the money I brought from Nigeria, which I got from Good Samaritans had been exhausted. They asked if my uncle who resides in Germany could not settle the bill and I told them that he could not since he did not bring me to the hospital.

I told them I am an orphan and how I raised the money that I brought to Germany. “I told them that back in Nigeria,my relatives cannot even raise such money. I was held hostage but was still being given all the necessary medical attention and was being fed. I told them that if they held me for years, I won’t be able to raise that money.

Luckily for me, the surgeries I had made it impossible to board a plane or even go near an airport. So, I could not even be deported. “The management of the hospital later arranged for medical asylum for me. And through that arrangement, the hospital no longer bothered me with the bill and subsequent ones,” she added.

While admitting that her luck is rare, she was worried that there were thousands out there who might not be as lucky as she is. She took a swipe on Nigerian government officials who travelled abroad to enjoy first class medical facilities but could not replicate same at home despite the enormous resources in the country. She said, “Germany does not have oil, yet it is a great country.

Our leaders are wicked and callous. They are deaf to the cries of the masses. You can imagine how many of our leaders come to Germany to seek medical help. Whenever they are here, they get a private room and if they need the service of a therapist, they will also get a private one.

“Whenever there is a top Nigerian goverment official at the hospital, some of the staff who are my friends would always tell me that they have a VIP from Nigeria. Some of them even disguise while coming to the hospital by covering their faces. But will they be able to cover their faces when they meet their creators? “I know of a particular top Nigerian politician who frequents HSK.

I have seen him many times when I came for check-up. Whenever I tell my friends that I see him at the hospital, they would just hiss and call him “idiot.” Urging the Nigerian government to improve the health sector, she also advised the government to create awareness on brain malfunction.
After she was discharged from the hospital, she moved to her own apartment and this was how her love story began. She attended an event and a German, Frank, who later became her husband saw her there and that was the beginning of another chapter in the life of the Nigerian lady.

Describing the event that culminated in marriage as an “experience of fate and sheer luck”, Frank later saw her photograph with his friend and decided to try his luck.“He saw my photograph with his friend and he was captivated by my eyes and look. It was love at first sight.

We started talking on the phone until he decided to visit my apartment one day. On the day he visited one of  My mum approved our relationship in her last moment –He is a happy go person, something unusual for a German. Germans are quite formal and conservative,” she said.

When asked how Frank proposed to her, Rahmat, who is usually called “Ronke”, the short version of her middle name, “Ibironke”, by her husband, recalled that he knelt down and proposed to her with a “real gold” ring about six months after the relationship started.

However, the couple waited till April 4, 2014, when they tied the nuptial knot at a ceremony in Germany which was attended by some of Rahmat’s relatives from Nigeria. Rahmat said she would forever remain grateful to Nigerians who gave her money particularly the anonymous couple who gave her the initial 26, 000 euro.

“I pray that whoever they are, may Almighty Allah consider this as part of their efforts to better humanity. I pray that He should forgive them of their sins and reward them with paradise. I do not wish them only earthly desire and materialism. I also pray for Nigerians who gave me as little as N500. May Nigeria too continue to prosper.

“I also pray for my Nigerian surgeon who tried his best to keep me alive and gave the right advice that I should seek medical help outside Nigeria. He is competent but was handicapped by dearth of medical equipment. I hope our government will react to this wake-up call and do something about our medical system.”

Since her marital status has changed, she no longer enjoys medical asylum. Rather, her husband now takes care of her medical needs through his insurance policy. Rahmat, a practising Muslim, said despite being a Christian, Frank still allows her to practice her Islamic faith, adding that ”at times, he would be the one to remind me if I have said my prayers.”

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