Nollywood actor, Charles Okocha is about the luckiest person on earth, and very grateful to James Louis Okoye, an event manager and chief executive of Jalou Events Limited, who twice helped to save his life.
Okocha’s incredible run of good luck began on December 27, when a drunken policeman pumped a fusillade of bullets from an AK47 rifle into his stomach at a traditional wedding ceremony, held in Uruagu, Nnewi, Anambra State. The hail of bullets also hit another person, Sam Belonwu Dim, a Lagos-based businessman, who died on the spot.
Doctors at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi, Anambra State performed surgery on him, but the stomach later burst, allegedly because the wrong surgical material was used. But the prompt and cool-headed reaction of Okoye in the hospital once again saved the actor’s life.
The twice lucky actor is now recuperating following the corrective surgery that was still done at NAUTH, though the tertiary hospital debunked the allegation of improper handling of the case.
Okoye, who mobilized other people to save the actor’s life, recounted to Sunday Sun reporter what transpired on the fateful day: “I am not just worried but I’m mad about what happened as we tried to save Okocha’s life. I was at Danduko’s house on December 27, 2015 for the traditional wedding of his daughter. What really happened was that the trigger-happy police officer saw an actor he recognized and in excitement he said, ‘Look at this my guy, let me throw one in air for him (meaning to give him gun salute).’ As some people said, he was drunk and apparently forgot that he had previously set the gun on rapid fire. His intention was to fire one shot into the air. He pulled the trigger, but could not control the gun again because up to eight or nine bullets flew out. The bullets hit two people, Sam Belonwu Dim and Charles Okocha. But I didn’t see the other guy (Sam) and there was a noise at the other end.
“When I rushed out of Danduko’s compound, I saw Charles Okocha lying helplessly on the ground. People started shouting, ‘Hey, ewoo, it is that actor oo.’ Some people even brought out their camera phones and started taking pictures of him without doing anything to save his life. Here was somebody who was dying and needed help. I shouted at them. So many cars that were parked outside blocked the way. My own car was parked at a primary school some metres away from the scene of the incident. Okocha’s intestines were already coming out, but he was strong enough to hold them.”
Okoye immediately got some people to help him carry the actor to the primary school where his car was parked. Continuing the tale, he said: “With two other guys accompanying me, we sped to Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi. But what we experienced was a nightmare. Okocha was crying, ‘Please help me, I don’t want to die, Jesus help me.’
At the hospital, the conduct of the nurses and doctors was so annoying. The other people who helped to bring the actor to the hospital were angry and started shouting at the medical personnel. I told my friends that making trouble or even shouting at them could make our friend Charles to die unattended to. I had to beg the nurses and all that. They were just telling us, go here, go there, sign for this, sign for that. I was obediently doing all that even faster than they expected.
“It was over two hours and thirty minutes before the doctor that was to conduct the surgery came. Then I was told to go and sign approval for transfusion of blood. I told them to check if my blood could match his, and said that I was willing to donate blood to save his life. They said it would take longer time, that they already had blood in their bank. But they said what they had in their blood bank would have to pass through test one, two and three for HIV/AIDS. They said they were waiting to do the last one. For the fact that the case was urgent, they said that if I had no objections, I could sign that I approved for them to use the one they were not very sure of being HIV free. They said they are waiting for the last confirmatory test that the blood was HIV-free.
“At this point I said to myself, between this guy dying now and dying many years later for HIV/AIDS if at all the blood will be HIV positive, that the option is to save his life now. Today HIV positive patients sometimes live longer than those who do not contract it. It can now be controlled. But that will not be the portion of my friend, Charles Okocha. When I went to the person managing the blood bank, she said: “Ahha what can I do for you and she continued eating her food. She expected me to wait for her to finish eating when someone was dying. But when she saw my red eyes, she dropped the food and covered it to attend to me.”
After the issue of blood transfusion was settled, Okoye said that the simple act of moving the patient from the emergency ward to the theatre by the two female porters became another hindrance to the effort to save the actor, as he said that they were very sluggish. His offer of assistance to help push the wheeled stretcher was rebuffed.
His words: “At the end of the day I was just pleading, petting and begging and they were able to move the young man in a stretcher to the theater door. Then an argument ensued between them. Friends and my brother who came along with me wanted to shout but I pleaded with them to calm down so that the matter would not get worse. From what I observed, they don’t really care about people, whether they make it or not. After all, they did not cause the accident and, therefore, not interested in whether the person lives or dies. That is the impression people have about the hospital.”
All through the duration of the surgery that lasted for four hours, Okoye waited anxiously. When it was completed, Okocha was wheeled into the male special ward.
“I don’t want to mention how many people that gave up as I was waiting on the same night as I was at the emergency unit. I don’t want to talk about an accident victim brought in there and was not treated because those who brought him could not pay N500 for him. And I had to pay for him. I am not talking about another accident victim who was brought in that night and what a nurse could only say was, ‘Imagine the kind of alcohol smell that is coming from his mouth, look at what he has done to himself,’ while the guy was bleeding profusely,” Okoye said.
Even after the surgery had been done, it was as if the devil was still determined to harvest the actor. More trouble came his way after he returned to the hospital to have the external stitches removed. What happened immediately after the stitches were removed was shocking, as Okocha further narrated.
His words: “He was just sitting down and all of a sudden we heard a noise like a balloon burst. Behold, everything in Okocha’s stomach came out. You know it was a major operation.
“Nurses rushed over, looked at him and ran away. Anybody who looked at his dangling intestines could not behold the sight. It was a gory sight. But Okocha was courageous enough to hold his intestines from dropping on the ground and he turned his face away from his hands so that he would not faint at the sight of his own intestines coming out.
“After about 25 minutes the so-called surgeon came in again. He went back to start all over and Charles began to go through the pains he had a few days ago. It was an annoying thing. When they came to the ward they said openly that they were supposed to have used nylon three for the stitching but what was available was nylon one and they had to use what they had at least to save his life that day. Why I am angry is that they could have told us to rally round and get the right material and any other thing they needed. Any drug given to a patient at the teaching hospital is paid for before it can be administered.
“Is it not a reasonable step that they should have sent us to get the right stitching material, that is, nylon three, to avoid the bursting? They were bold to tell us why the stomach burst. That is the reason I’m mad. I have never seen a thing like that before. And we heard that the nylon is only sold for N700.00.
“I know that I’m nobody, just a young man who is trying to survive. But I have contacts through my business as an event planner. I have been sending text messages to important people I know, pleading with them to get the federal government to conduct investigation into the way the teaching hospitals operate. This thing must be investigated. People are undergoing bad moments in some of these government-owned hospitals.”
Sunday Sun reporter met with the Chairman, Medical and Advisory Committee, NAUTH, Nnewi, Dr Evaristus Ede Afiadigwe, who stood in for the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Professor Anthony Igwegbe, and he dismissed the claims of Mr Okoye even though he admitted that there was an incident of a burst stomach involving the Nollywood actor, Okocha. He said there was no negligence in the treatment of Okocha. He noted that the bursting of a stomach was a medical experience that could occur any time.
His words: “I heard about the eruption, stomach burst. The doctor wanted to use Nylon 2 Defilon but what was available was Nylon 1. It is not possible that everything you need, the number and quality will be available at every given time. And you know that was on a Sunday. But the Nylon 1 is used and one still gets a perfect result. I don’t know why this should be made an issue. I investigated the incident by myself and discovered that there was no negligence. The Nylon 1 and Nylon 2 are of high quality not even the 3 you are talking about. Life and death are actually in the hands of God. We did everything humanly possible to save Charles Okocha’s life. And this is what one should be grateful for instead of painting the hospital black.
“We do conduct audit on how our doctors and nurses work and we have a disciplinary committee, which handles erring medical personnel. There is no negligence in this matter. Some doctors even use Nylon 1 ordinarily. It is just that the doctor said he wanted to use Nylon 2. Nylon 2 was available in the hospital but it wasn’t available at the time the doctor was doing the surgery. There was a repeat surgery and it was successful,” Afiadigwe said.
He later took the reporter to the theatre where he showed him the Nylon 1 and 2, still arguing that either of them could be used in the absence of the other. He also took him to the male ward to see Okocha whom, he said, would soon be discharged, even though Okocha could not react to questions put him as he was still in pains.