•I became partially blind at some point
A young Bayelsa woman Ayebaekipreye Abinyefa and her husband who had conjoined twins were recently given a new lease on life when individuals and governments intervened to ensure that the conjoined twins were separated so that they can lead normal lives.
The journey for the couple began around December 12, 2019, following birth of the twins to the family of Raphael Ayebaenaemi by his 24-year-old wife. The conjoined twins were born through a Caesarian operation at the Nembe General Hospital, Nembe Local Government Area of the state. The blessing became a tale of sadness for the family that was not well to do and the father of the babies had to cry out for help.
Thankfully, help came their way as one of their own Gabriel Jonah younger brother to the then deputy governor of the state Gboribiogha John Jonah took up the case and brought them to Federal Medical Centre Yenagoa from where they were referred to Yola. The mother of babies Grace and Mercy who spoke in fluent English told Saturday Telegraph that all the expenses from Nembe to Yola were taken care off by Jonah whom she said assured them that he was going to take care of all the bills even if it meant flying them outside the country.
After eight solid months, the conjoined twins were separated as they have now started living their separate lives. As they were airlifted back to Yenagoa from Yola by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Saturday, 29 August 2020, the twins and their parents arrived the Bayelsa International Airport in company of the NAF Chief of Medical Services (CMS), Air Commodore Gideon Bako, onboard a NAF Beechcraft KingAir 350i aircraft.
They were received on arrival by the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, as well as other members of the Bayelsa State Executive Council and the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the FMC Yenagoa, Dr Dennis Allagoa, who all expressed their appreciation to the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar. Before they came back to Bayelsa state, they were hosted by the Adamawa State government.
The CMD of FMC Yola, Professor Awul Abubakar, noted that the successful separation of the twins, who were joined at the abdomen when they were born December 12, 2019, was as a result of collective efforts of medical professionals as well as support received from various quarters, including the NAF.
When Saturday Telegraph traced the family to their Nembe Community of more than two hours’ drive from Yenagoa metropolis, the young mother of the conjoined twins who was very happy recountting her ordeal right from the conception to the separation said: “I got pregnant last year and from three months, I started vomiting. I was so sick that I went to a masseuse because I didn’t have money for antenatal. When she massaged me, she said I had one baby but that the baby was not well formed.
“She said she will give me some leaves that would help the baby form properly and that the leaves would make the vomiting stop. So I agreed because the vomiting was too much. I couldn’t bear it any more. So she gave me the leaves. I took them and the vomiting stopped.
“When the vomiting stopped, I stopped taking the leaves. From what she said, if I took the leaves they would make the baby come together and form properly but she didn’t know that the babies were two. She thought it was one baby. I took the leaves but after three days, I stopped taking them because my sister said that she couldn’t find the leaves again.
“From six months, I started suffering because the babies were taller than my stomach. They were pressing me and I always told my aunt that the children were pressing me and she said she had not heard of that before because if you are pregnant, your baby will be comfortable but my heart was hanging.
“And before then I was telling her how I was feeling, sometimes I couldn’t even breath well. So later she said I should go for scanning and that I should go and register for antenatal. She assisted me to go and register for antennal. I registered and the people there also thought that it was one baby.
“Even scan revealed that it was one baby but that it was big. I was told to be ready for CS. So I was ready for CS but you know our financial situation was dire. So we were doing all these traditional ways to make sure that the baby was stable and good.
“It was on the day of the surgery that everybody found out that they were two and they were conjoined.
“When they were talking, I heard a doctor told another doctor that it was conjoined twins. That was the last thing I heard. From what they said, I wasn’t myself for about two days. I just heard it was conjoined twins and I’d seen conjoined before. That was the last thing heard. Before I knew what was happening they were taking me to FMC Yenagoa.
“I became partially blind. From what the doctor said my blood pressure shot up because of fear. I was so scared so my BP became very high. That was when I got to know that our youth leader, he is like a father to us, Gabriel Jonah, was taken care of all the bills.”
But Abinyefa was troubled. Beside the constant fear which had driven her BP up, she couldn’t help but wonder why this situation would befall her.
She stated: “I wondered why I was the first to give birth to conjoined twin in the state as a whole? The calls I was receiving were too much. Some will call me and say it happened because I am a witch. So the insults were too much. They didn’t know so they were insulting me and because of the insult, I felt so bad. So with that I stopped answering calls.
“I was crying almost every day but my aunty was the one that always encouraged me. When we got to Yola, Jonah took responsibility of the children. He said anything that we needed he would provide. Even if it costs him millions of naira that he would do it. So, anytime we were short of money we would call him and he would send us money – N100, 000, N50, 000 just like that till the time we returned home back.
“He even gave us money for transport, thinking that we would take public flight but the Adamawa State government arranged flight for us; even to and fro, it was Adamawa State government. They called the air force people and they said that they would be glad to do it. They took us to Adamawa and brought us back.
“Adamawa people are very nice. The medical director of the hospital is a very good man. They took care of us. They provided almost everything for us. Accommodation was free but we were the ones that said we wanted to cook our Bayelsa food. From there, we started cooking on our own.
“He accommodated us in one bedroom flat. He did everything and the separation. When they took the children in as a mother I felt so bad. I was afraid but my aunty called and prayed with me. With that encouragement, I was stable but yet I was somehow afraid.
“When we got there, they did scan which showed that the babies’ intestines were very small and they would not see some of them, so they said we should wait till they add some weight, that without weight they could not give them the injection that would make them sleep.
“They thought that they were joined at the intestines but both livers were joined at the back; it was not from the front from what they said.
Abinyefa who is still savouring the afterglow of all the attention was awed by the caliber of people that visited them. She added: “Before we came, the Adamawa state government did programme for us so from the programme, the Medical Director invited the state government and the federal people. Even secretary to the federation even came. He said he would call Bayelsa state to make sure that they give us job or train us so that we would be comfortable to take care of the children because they are not ordinary children.
“We were not expecting that deputy governor will come and receive us too. When we reached the airport, we saw him and you know he is our deputy governor and we can’t refuse him. When he came, he gave us N1m and we were so happy. The money will take us a long way.
“We only pray that they should employ us so that we will be using it to take care of them. I feel so happy because he said that he would train Grace. We are relieved on that side.
“He said anything that gets to one will partially go to the other one. At least, we hope on him for their education.”
On the husband’s reaction, she said: “My husband said he was heartbroken but my aunty was the one who stood by him. She talked sense into him and he became.
“It was not easy for me especially after the birth to handle them. I was there alone with my husband. Because of the corona virus, my aunty could not come. I was just carrying them alone. Sometime the father would assist in carrying them but one of them used to bother us a lot, so he doesn’t like carrying them sometimes.
“So I was the only one carrying them there. Even if one is sleeping, I will carry the two of them. When one cries, I carry the two of them.
“My prayer is that my children would be successful in life so that they would go and bless the people of Adamawa State for me. That state I don’t even know what to ask God on their behalf because they were so wonderful.
“I also thank Gabriel Jonah because he was the root of everything. Without him, I and my children would be dead. If there was no treatment, I would have been dead. I thank FMC Yenagoa for finding out such a place and transferring us early. I thank Bayelsa State government for receiving us.
Also narrating the experience, Ayi’s aunty Ada Ikor, said “On December 12, 2019, she gave birth to these children in Nembe City General Hospital. It was in the afternoon she gave birth. They took her to the theatre and did CS on her.
“The nurse came out and called me that my daughter had given birth to conjoined twin. They told the husband so that when he sees the children he would not panic because he had never seen it before.
“I told him that your wife has given birth to two girls. He somehow panicked but I told him not to panic. I looked at him and said let me not take him unawares. I told him ‘your wife has given birth to conjoined twins and he wasn’t happy again. Then I began to encourage him that may be God sent these children to elevate you people. So that those that are not serving God will say that God is wonderful.
“I told him not to be scared and actually when he saw the children he was fed up because it is not an issue that can be handled carelessly. Even myself too I was fed up but I just picked courage that God wants to glorify His name. After some time they brought out the mother again and because she was speaking I thought that she was okay.
“When people heard about the conjoined twins they started running to the hospital to see. After sometime she started convulsing. In the evening around 7 or 8pm, I just saw somebody making noise. I was carrying the babies then I called the nurses and they came and stabilized her. The husband was crying bitterly. After that the following morning around 6.30 it started again and that one was too tough. I tried to hold her mouth. The nurses came and other people that were at the hospital came and helped us. We started praying and she was revived again. Then the doctor called FMC Yenagoa.
“I didn’t know that it was Nengi James that sent ambulance to the general hospital. So when she regained herself we were all happy. Suddenly she said that she couldn’t see. So we were all afraid. She asked to bring the children so she could see them but she couldn’t see. She didn’t tell anybody before then but it was journalist were interviewing her that she said she couldn’t see anybody. But at last God brought her sight back to her. It was in Yenagoa that she regained her sight.
“After inquiries, the medical director said it was in Adamawa that they would separate the children. And in the first week of January they took them to Adamawa state. It was on August 10, that they separated them.”
As at the time Saturday Telegraph visited the community, the father of the twin, Raphael, was not around but he had told this correspondent on the telephone that they’re back to Nembe and had moved on with their lives.