As a young boy growing up in Besongabang village, a rural community in Mamfe Sub division in the South West Region of Cameroon, life was very challenging. My parents were separated and my mother was a source of inspiration and hope to my present success.
As the first among five boys, we grew up in the farmlands, cultivating food & cash crops with our mother to help us through school and to acquire our basic needs. My mother had little or no education since she had to stop school after obtaining her First School Leaving Certificate to give an opportunity to her only brother to gain an education. She became a hairdresser and farmer – professions she handled so passionately all through her lifetime. She engraved in our minds, and mine in particular, the importance of education, hard work, honesty and love. This was demonstrated via her efforts to hire private teachers to teach my siblings and I at home after regular school hours. She was a disciplinarian and a no-nonsense mother. Her efforts and investments became evident in my academic life when I finally enrolled in to college. My outstanding performance via secondary and high school made many belief I was born a genius, not knowing my intelligence had been cultivated by an ‘illiterate’ mother.
Unfortunately, my mother felt seriously ill a few months after I obtained the GCE Advanced Level examination in flying colours and had to enroll in to medical school – her dream. She had hidden her illness from me in a bit to protect my emotions and I was informed of the former when she became unconscious and couldn’t talk anymore. She died a few months before I became a medical student.
As a student and now medical doctor, I came to understand that she died from a liver disease – viral Hepatitis B – which was neglected and poorly managed by a medical centre. Due to limited finances, she had consulted at a local clinic in the South West Region where the doctor did an ascitic tap to drain fluid from her distended abdominal cavity and instead of referring her to see a specialist the doctor sent her home with a leaking abdomen. She developed generalised swelling and progressively felt into a coma (encephalopathy) from brain intoxication.
Later in my life my fiancée’s mother had a progressive spinal cord compression syndrome which later rendered her paralysed and dead because she could not afford the means to consult a neurologist or neurosurgeon for timely and adequate care.
In my years of practice as a medical doctor working in rural communities in Cameroon, I have encountered a lot of patients who ended up with disabilities or death from illnesses which could be prevented and properly managed had they had the information and means to seek for appropriate care at the early stages of their illnesses. Many could not pay to see a specialist, do a follow-up investigation or pay for surgery and so resorted to visiting charlatans or tradi-practitioners in the communities.
These are the emotions and experiences which motivated the creation of FALCOH to provide affordable, essential and comprehensive healthcare services to the underprivileged and vulnerable populations with chronic infectious diseases like Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS, and non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes and cancers.