By Ndidi Chukwu
“I’ve moved back; my things, my clothes, my books, my kitchen things, my shoes – everything is in Nigeria now” is what lively and intelligent, young Bunmi Ode, had to say after committing her service to save some 11 children who had successful open-heart surgeries at Abuja’s Garki General Hospital weeks ago.
Dr. Bunmi is a paediatric intensivist, a rare profession in the Nigerian health space, she trained at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and has worked in the United States for a few years prior to her return to Nigeria recently. She said her return is to help build the kind of health system that Nigeria doesn’t have but deserves.
“If you don’t develop a system, then you won’t have it, and if we spend all the time talking about what we don’t have rather than building what we need using what we have, we are never going to have what we need” said Bunmi.
Is the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) pediatric experience in US the same as Nigeria’s? She was asked, her reply was “No, it’s not, but if you don’t build an ICU experience in Nigeria you won’t have one. So, this whole experience of having people volunteering and traveling, setting up a system, doing work, teaching people and establishing a supply chain for the medications and supplies; it’s part of building an ICU system and I’m totally committed to being a part of the people building such. It is not American standard yet, but we are going to build something worthwhile.”
Nigeria suffers brain-drain, and thus the shortage of health personnel working for health, but Bunmi Ode thinks “brain-drain is a very complex situation” she opined that “Nigerian doctors work hard, we do our best given the equipments and facilities. Before I got back, I thought that Nigerian doctors don’t move back to Nigeria but since I’ve been back, I’ve met a lot of Nigerians healthcare workers who trained and worked abroad and have moved back to work here. I truly believe that there is a reverse brain-drain process going on right now where professionals with international training and experience are moving back to settle and work in Nigeria.”
She said “Working in Nigeria has been very fulfilling. It is something very inspiring working in a place like Nigeria and working with some of the people here, like Dr. Ikenna Omeje, who works as a pediatric cardiac surgeon in one of the top children’s hospitals the UK but returns to Nigeria to give care that is not usually available to the Nigerian child. I trained in the Harvard healthcare network, and worked in the US and I’ve come back to Nigeria to render a service that’s not usually available here; it is profound for me and there is no way to describe how fulfilling and rewarding I find it.”
She was among the group of volunteer Nigerian consultants who returned to help in “Hospital for Humanity” project series happening in Garki hospitals which hopes to save the lives of over 200 children with heart diseases. She worked in the Intensive Care Unit, where she took care of the children till they got through, with respiratory machines, and now have healthy hearts again, “it was an awesome experience for me, that all the 11 children we took to surgery survived; this doesn’t happen often, but I’m glad it happened in Nigeria” she said.