…. one child attempted suicide twice
For Rufus and Felicia Atolagbe, the die is cast. All their children are with sickle cell anaemia. The couple would at least have been prepared for such an eventuality if the lab result in Felicia’s case had been accurate.
As it was, what many would regard as a disaster could equally be considered an ‘Act of God’.
Laid off work
Having been laid off work in 2015, former PHCN staff Rufus Atolagbe is no longer earning upkeep for the family. As though that was not enough, he was ill for long with a spinal disc ailment and is only just recovering. Thus the entire moral and financial burden of taking care of three special children and an ailing partner to boot rests on a harried mom and wife.
‘This is the fourth month of the year and I only managed to return to work just this week,’ Mrs. Atolagbe told SICKLE CELL NEWS in an interview April 5.
When he was working the family was able to keep its head above water. Within months after he stopped working, the family began selling off property to meet swelling medical bills.
‘When one child falls ill with crises, another follows suit within hours,’ says Mrs. Atolagbe.
The family can no longer afford to feed well, much less meet the medical needs of it wards.
Precious Atolagbe, 20, was so frightened at the thought of her father’s financial paralysis – not being able to complete her university education, for one – that she made an attempt at self-destruction.
On the second attempt – few months after the first – she confessed she wanted to end it all because of the constant stigmatisation and isolation she suffered from having SCD. Precious also made oblique references to her feelings of guilt arising from the thought that she and her siblings were draining the family purse.
The mysterious hand of God intervened on both occasions to scuttle her act of aggression turned against the self. It was the same hand that prevented her addiction to a dangerous painkiller known as pentazocine from spiraling into other vices.
Help here and there
The Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria learnt of the first suicide attempt and helped with tuition fees. Hospitals and caring doctors and institutions keep providing medical services, fully aware the family can’t pay.
Ajayi Crowther University, worried that an otherwise brilliant student might drop out, awarded Precious full scholarship to tide her through her final year. According to Mrs. Atolagbe, Ajayi Crowther spends more on Precious than the fees she pays each session as a Law student.
Dr. Afolabi Obe, of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), literally proved the Hippocratic oath, an exemplary physician, who stood by the trio and their parents.
in 2018, Pastor (Mrs. Folu Adeboye), wife of Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), surprised the family with a ‘hefty’ donation. The money was quickly gobbled up by long-standing debts that needed to be paid.
Friends and family do chip in help too, but there’s something called donor fatigue, especially when the demands are ceaseless.
The Three Children Hospitalised
In January 2019, Precious was seriously ill and received seven pints of blood at a private hospital. For several days, she couldn’t breathe on her own. Her siblings were also on admission, and in between them they received 14 pints of blood.
Younger sister, Praise, 18, has just completed Senior Secondary School, while Paul, 13 is still in school. All three were hospitalised early in 2019, requiring their mom to abandon work for three months. The company continued to pay her full salary, and makes no complaints about her proclivity to take days off work at short notice – an exemplary gesture of corporate social responsibility.
The Atolagbes need financial support to mow down a mountain of debts incurred over the years and rising by the day; the children need support to complete their education and transition to productive citizens.
Mrs. Atolagbe has often found herself entertaining suicidal thoughts – sometimes she feels so overwhelmed by her seemingly unending troubles. She looks ok on the exterior, but inside her she is deeply troubled.
She wants the children to go live abroad in an environment more conducive to their special needs. A US faith-based organization seems willing to take the children but getting visa is another issue.
‘I appeal to humanity to come to our aid,’ says their mom. ‘My husband too needs a suitable job considering his convalescent state.’
To help the family, please note the details:
Name: Felicia Atolagbe
AC NO: 0007187156
You can also reach out to her on 234 803 716 4624