How one ECU professor is working to alleviate the health care crisis in his native land.
Eneriko Omoding’s thyroid gland was swollen into a goiter the size of a large gourd. It protruded uncomfortably from the base of his neck, and extended internally into his chest. He could no longer sleep on his back at night for fear that its weight would suffocate him while he slept. He could not swallow without great difficulty. A farmer, he could no longer work in his fields and provide for his wife and four children. He had been told that the goiter was likely to continue to grow, and he knew that without help he would eventually be unable to eat. Then he would slowly waste away until he died.
It is hard to accept that a thyroid goiter can essentially amount to a death sentence in some areas of the world. Most thyroid goiters are caused by iodine deficiency, and they are practically nonexistent in places where table salt is supplemented with iodine. When goiters do develop, they can be treated and cured. But in Omoding’s home of rural Uganda, the complete lack of health care allows seemingly benign medical conditions to become life-threatening.
Like many sub-Saharan African nations, Uganda toils in poverty and most of its citizens suffer under the burden of poor health. Malnutrition, contaminated water, and tropical diseases—especially malaria—are devastating. In Kadami village, where Omoding lives, there is simply no health care of any kind.
Dr. Sylvester Odeke, assistant professor of endocrinology at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, is a native of Kadami. He returns home once a year to visit family and friends, and while he is there he does what he can to help. On one such trip, Omoding came to him for help.
People began lining up before dawn to see the visiting ECU doctors in 2006.
It was immediately apparent to Odeke that Omoding needed surgery to remove the goiter, and that the tissue should also be analyzed for cancer. And in Kadami, to get that, he’d need a miracle.
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