Dr Ibukun Adeyemo – first doctor in Nigeria to deliver a set of sextuplets
Despite the best efforts of the government, doctors, nurses and other health care workers, the Nigerian health care system has a long way to go in meeting the needs of the country’s population.
The chronic lack of infrastructure and resources does not stop some exemplary health care professionals inventing, pioneering and breaking new grounds in various sectors within the health care system in Nigeria.
One such pioneering healthcare professional is Dr. Ibukun Adeyemo of Overcomers Hospital in Iju, Lagos State. Dr. Adeyemo is the first medical practitioner in Nigeria, to deliver a set of sextuplets. This ground-breaking achievement took place at his hospital in 2013.
Ajipe.com was privileged to have access to Dr. Adeyemo, who has practised medicine for over 22 years. We discussed his groundbreaking achievement of 2013 and other topical issues, relating to medical practice in Nigeria.
Ajipe.com: Dr. Adeyemo, could you please tell us a little bit about your educational background, including how you got into medicine.
Dr. Adeyemo: As a young child in primary school, I loved dissecting rats, I grew up to realise that everyone in the family called me doctor, because of my fondness for dissection. In my days as a young child, the profession that seemed to command most respect was medicine.
I was quite good in high school, I was one of the best science students in my class, I guess it was natural for me to think medicine is the natural profession to go into.
Ajipe.com: It is one thing to dream about becoming a doctor, it is another thing to obtain the required qualifications.
Dr. Adeyemo: You are right, its difficulty to get admitted and even survive medical school. I was lucky; I got my admission into med school at first attempt. I had my admission papers even before my WAEC result came out. Well, I survived medical school and graduated from OAU College of medicine in 1991.
I did my house job at the Lagos state university teaching hospital Ikeja, from 1992 to 1993. NYSC was in Kebbi state, North West Nigeria, from 1993 to 1994. I obtained M.Sc. in anatomy at the University of Lagos in the year 2015 and I am currently carrying out my research thesis on reproductive anatomy for my PhD at the same institution.
Ajipe.com: After qualifying as a doctor, how did your medical career start?
Dr. Adeyemo: My first job was with the Kebbi state government, as a medical officer at the general hospital, Kamba. I established my private practice at Kamba in 1995; I was there for five years, before relocating to Lagos in the year 2000. It was the sharia crisis in northern Nigeria, that made me relocate to Lagos. I established overcomer’s medical centre in the year 2000, I have been its medical director since.
Ajipe.com: What are the influences that made you choose obstetrics and gynaecology as your area of specialisation?
Dr. Adeyemo: You mean reproductive Anatomy. I did not choose obstetrics and gynaecology, because I hate night calls, which is unavoidable for doctors in obstetrics and gynaecology.
I chose reproductive anatomy, because it affords me the opportunity to study new ways of achieving desired child gender, without having to break the bank. At present, if you want to determine a child’s gender using invitro fertilization, you have to be prepared to break the bank, as it is extremely expensive.
Charges at these clinics are so high, that it is not affordable to the middle class and the poor.
The object of my research is to find cheaper and easily understood ways of getting the desired baby sex; I believe it is when we achieve this that we can achieve some level of control of our population growth, which is at about 7%. Large families are forced on people in Africa who desire to have male children and will not stop until they have the desired sex, resulting in overpopulation and other attendant vices that follow the children and couples that have more children than they could cater for.
Ajipe.com: Why did you establish a private hospital?
Dr. Adeyemo: I felt I would be of much help to my community and the society. If I establish my own private practice, as opposed to working in government hospitals where you have to get approval from higher authorities to render the smallest assistance to the needy. It also gave me some level of financial independence. It was not just about making money, for example I have many elderly people that I have been treating consistently free of charge, for the past fifteen years.
Ajipe.com: Have you ever worked for the Lagos state or Nigerian government?
Dr. Adeyemo: My only work with Lagos state government was the compulsory housemanship, but I worked with the Kebbi state government for about 3 years.
Ajipe.com: What are the most common cases you attend to in your hospital?
Dr. Adeyemo: Apart from the usual tropical diseases like malaria and typhoid fever, we attend to many obstetric and gynaecological cases, including emergency obstetrics cases like caesarean section, myomectomy, general surgery cases like appendectomy and herniorrhaphy. We also handle primary and secondary infertility cases, endocrine diseases like diabetes and many more with our consultants in different fields.
Ajipe.com: Your client who had the sextuplet in 2003, was she an antenatal client in your hospital?
Dr. Adeyemo: Mrs Taiwo who delivered the sextuplets was not a registered antenatal patient of our hospital, she was in fact a registered antenatal patient of general Hospital, Orile-Agege, and the delivery of the sextuplets took place on the 31st of March 2003.
Ajipe.com: How did she become your client?
Dr. Adeyemo: She was 7 months into her pregnancy, when she started bleeding per vagina, she was rushed to the general hospital Orile-Agege, where the obstetric ultrasound she had revealed she was carrying triplets.
She was a poor woman, a corn seller on the road side, her husband was a bricklayer that was out of job. She was asked to go on admission and the bill for all the requirements for admission was given to her, she could not afford it, she was not placed on admission and had to go home to source for money for the admission. She collapsed on her way home, it was a good Samaritan that took her home, the bleeding continued throughout the night and when it became profuse somebody informed them there is a Dr. Adeyemo who may be able to assist them pro bono. I am known for rendering services to less privileged people that is how she was rushed to my hospital in the middle of the night, it was 3am on the faithful day.
Ajipe.com: What were your initial thoughts at the prospect of a client having a sextuplet in your Hospital?
Dr. Adeyemo: I never knew she was carrying sextuplets, the scan she brought from the general hospital showed that she was having triplets; nothing prepared me for what happened. I was weary though, because of the size of her abdomen.
Ajipe.com: Can you please tell us a bit more about the delivery of the sextuplets, was it straightforward?
Dr. Adeyemo: There is nothing straightforward about delivering sextuplets. Her bleeding was profuse; the dominant thought in my heart was to save the life of the woman, doing an immediate caesarean section was going to be too expensive. I also felt she could deliver vaginally, if induced, so we induced her with oxytocin, she started having contractions after one hour. The first baby arrived around 5:30 am, a baby boy. The second, a baby girl came 15 minutes later and the third. The next baby girl was delivered after another 20 minutes. I heaved a sigh of relief thinking it was all over, what was left was to deliver the placenta, but I was shocked when on examination I discovered another baby, and that is how one after the other, we delivered the remaining 3 babies making a total of six babies medically referred to as sextuplets.
Ajipe.com: And after the delivery, how was the mother and children’s health?
Dr. Adeyemo: The challenges were that of haemorrhage (bleeding) and sourcing for blood to transfuse, lack of funds, the woman and the husband did not have a kobo to their name. The children were premature and under weight, their gestational age was 26 weeks, the biggest of them weighed 1.2 kg, while the smallest barely weighed 0.4kg. Even at the best of centres, the risk of infant mortality is very high.
Urgent incubator care was needed, a facility my hospital did not have. As soon as the delivery was completed, I went out to buy 5 pints of whole blood for transfusion. The transfusion was started before daybreak; of course, I used my own money. From about 6.30am, the whole hospital was packed with so many people, trying to catch a glimpse of the babies.
A detachment of police was sent to maintain order and provide escort, as we took the children to LASUTH Ikeja for incubator and specialist care. They were rejected; despite plea from the convoy of people that followed us, their reason for rejecting the babies was that they were born outside LASUTH premises, and could therefore infect fellow neonates in the incubator unit.
The second reason was that they had only one functioning incubator available and a child of a top government official was currently in the incubator. We finally ended up at shepherd medical centre Opebi, where the children were accepted after a deposit of 50,000 Naira, donated by those good Samaritans that were following us. Unfortunately we lost four of the babies; those with very low birth weight. The first two survived till I last heard from the parents,the state government was embarrassed by the damming editorial comments against the government of the day by the punch and the guardian newspapers whose reporters followed us to LASUTH where they were rejected.
Ajipe.com: Please reflect on the challenges you encountered with the sextuplet delivery.
Dr. Adeyemo: The challenges were enormous; they included lack of funds, severe haemorrhage that required multiple blood transfusions, lack of basic incubator facilities at the tertiary centre we took the children. Lack of mobile medical facilities, like ambulance services that we could have called.
Ajipe.com: Thirteen years on, how are the children, are you still in touch with the family?
Dr. Adeyemo: As at the time when I was still in touch with the parents, two of the kids were still alive before I lost communication with them because of the government of the day using the father of the babies against me.
Ajipe.com: Multiple births tends to be associated with fertility treatment, was there a fertility treatment involved in the conception of the sextuplets?
Dr. Adeyemo: There was no fertility treatment involved. Genetics could have played some role, because the mother and father were heterozygotic twins. They also come from the Yoruba tribe, known the world over to have the highest incidence of multiple births, especially of heterozygotic twins.
Ajipe.com: We at Ajipe.com believe that this excellent feat of delivering sextuplets for the first time in Nigeria should be shouted from the rooftop, what do you think of the media coverage you received at the time?
Dr. Adeyemo: It was fantastic at the beginning. I was interviewed on NTA newsline twice; prominent newspapers in Nigeria, including the punch, the guardian, vanguard, etc, interviewed me. Then the Lagos state government started a criminal and press war against me. They felt I embarrassed them by telling the press that incubators were not available in their tertiary hospital. My persecution went on for 3 years. I was finally exonerated, that is a story for another day, for the records, I personally spent about 200,000 Naira on the client, and I did not receive a single kobo from any one.
Ajipe.com: What do you think about the Nigerian medical and dental council’s policy on advertisement?
Dr. Adeyemo: Medicine is a noble profession, I believe it is unethical for a doctor to blow his own trumpet or advertise, my old school believe is that advertisements are usually filled with half truths and make believe, I don’t think medicine should be put through the ridicule of advertisement. Many unsuspecting people may fall victim of fraudulent doctors, I think the patients that have benefited from our expertise should be the ones to recommend us to potential patients.
Ajipe.com: Your hospital has a charity arm and you seem to do a few pro bono work. Would you like to tell us more about this area of your practise?
Dr. Adeyemo: We offer free health services to elderly people in our community, and before the economic recession, we used to organise health week for our community. During health week, we hold health talks. Seminars were organized to teach the members of the community on healthy living, laboratory tests such as blood sugar, blood group, genotype, malaria parasite test and some free medications are given to members of the community that needed them.
Ajipe.com: How is the charitable arm of your practise financed?
Dr. Adeyemo: I provide about 50% of the cost, the community development associations (CDA) and other well-wishers contribute the balance, occasionally some pharmaceutical companies supply us some drugs, we have not been able to observe the health week this year due to the economic downturn.
Ajipe.com: Are there challenges you face in your private practice you will like to share with us?
Dr. Adeyemo: The major challenge is absence or lack of access to soft loans to procure necessary facilities; most loans available are from shylock banks and microfinance banks. The government is not helping the private health sector; they are only interested in collecting taxes. The second challenge is poverty, many people cannot afford health care, the health insurance schemes is to me enslavement of the doctors who are paid stipends by money bags who have the 77 million required by law to establish health insurance scheme in form of HMOs. The owners of these HMOs feed fat, while the doctors are paid peanuts for their services.
Ajipe.com: What do you consider the most significant obstetrics and gynaecology challenges in Nigeria today and what can be done about it?
Dr. Adeyemo: High maternal and infant mortality rate, we are among the poorest ten in the world in terms of maternal and infant mortality indices.
Ajipe.com: Are there things governments, individuals and organisations can do to make life easy for a practice like yours?
Dr. Adeyemo: Making loans easily available and at reasonable lending rates, not the cutthroat rate we currently have.
Ajipe.com: What is a typical day like for you?
Dr. Adeyemo: I do go to LUTH on Tuesdays and Thursdays for my research work, while other days are spent at my private practice. I relax by watching football, especially the EPL, my favourite team in the EPL is Arsenal FC. I also read novels, space travel stories and space science news.
Ajipe.com: In your 22 years of medical practice, what are the highest points and the lowest moments?
Dr. Adeyemo: The day my interview on the NTA newsline was aired on television was a very high point for me, my lowest point was the day the father of the sextuplets turned against me, accusing me that I had collected large sums of money from the government and corporate organizations, an allegation that was totally untrue.
Ajipe.com: Do you have an advice or suggestion for Nigerian women?
Dr. Adeyemo: They should marry as soon as possible, and complete their families between the ages of 18 to 36.
Ajipe.com: Is there anything you will like to add to this interview that we did not ask you?
Dr. Adeyemo: None other than to say thank you for having me.