Ruona Meyer, a renowned broadcast Nigerian journalist has detailed how she lost a sick aunt as a result of a spiritual intervention by a pastor who halted plans to take the deceased for surgery in the United Kingdom.
The journalist in a Twitter post explained how her aunt, Makpome Okpara, for fear of stigmatization silently suffered from a fertility-related disease for some time until she learned on Facebook that Meyer had undergone surgery on a similar ailment.
Meyer revealed that Makpome reached out to her and opened up. After a series of conversations with the deceased’s husband (Meyer’s uncle), she was scheduled for surgery in the UK, but her kinsmen halted the plan. They felt prayer could solve the problem. Although the journalist argued otherwise, but her uncle succumbed to the elders’ pressure.
“I had an aunt who hid her fertility issues & surgeries for fear of stigma. Even when one became botched (they sewed up a portion of her intestines during a uterine surgery),” Meyer tweeted. “When did she finally open up? When she saw a picture of me eating Chinese takeaway after the same surgery.
“I shared the picture on Facebook and only my family members could view it. When she saw I had done the same surgery as she did, she contacted us. And she And my uncle told me all she had been through. We arranged for her corrective surgery in UK. All Scans sent to my doctors etc.
“All was set to conquer the stigma that kept her suffering in silence, until the next hurdle came: cultural stereotypes. My uncle called me crying that her brother was a Pastor and said rather than her travelling for surgery, he should ‘hand their daughter over’ for prayers.
“The brother said I heal people all the time, talkless of my sister. My uncle, an Anglican Priest, was told he doesn’t believe in God if he takes his wife abroad for treatment. I begged him to not listen and said; what if God also brought us UK doctors willing to take her case?
“Isn’t this also a miracle too? He said yes but what would he do, when customs say he must listen to the elder brother? He said he was calling to apologize for all the efforts we had made, but he couldn’t disobey his in-laws. I said okay. But know that she may die. I told him.
“We cried and he hung up. Months later, she died. He re-married shortly after but also died quickly of a literal broken heart. And guilt. These things shook me to my core. And it’s why I share, because stigma and bad, misinterpreted cultural norms are killing people.
“I always think: if I never shared that Facebook picture: would she ever have opened up? I think no. But now they are gone.
“Rest in peace, Makpome and Ven. Oyovwe Okpara. May women and their men never have to die over the stigma of reproductive health challenges. Amen.”