As a physician, Dr. Mercy Obeime has seen her fair share of illness but it was a trip to Nigeria, Africa that ultimately changed her outlook on the humanity of caring for the sick.
While Obeime was visiting one of her medical school professors in Nigeria, a man with very little money brought his wife in for care. Because the family could not pay for care upfront, the medical facility simply stood back and allowed the woman to die.
“If you take somebody to the hospital, they give you a list of things to purchase, you bring the things back, then they start taking care of the person. If you don’t, you might as well have taken the person with you,” said Obeime.
Obeime was more than qualified to help the dying woman, but there was nothing she could do either. Things only got worse. The man returned to the hospital with his five year old son.
“I’m thinking ‘Oh, no!’ This child is about to go home with his dad and dead mother. He doesn’t know the difference between life and death because he’s so young. And he was crying ‘Mommy, I’ve been telling you I’m hungry all day and you still haven’t given me food. I don’t know why you’re laying here not talking to me.’ I just lost it,” said Obeime.
Obeime’s compassion for the sick and the poor was the driving force for her to found The Mercy Foundation in 2003. Not only does the St. Francis Medial Group physician send medicine back to Africa, she helps patients here in Indianapolis.
One of her main missions is helping her poor obese patients and their families lose weight. She found that patients who could pay for programs designed to teach lifestyle modification had the best chance of keeping off excess weight regardless of how the weight was lost.
She also hosted health fair in Nigeria, which screened for diabetes, hypertension and HIV infection. The plan also included screening of all pregnant women for HIV infection with the hope that treating with retroviral medications will reduce the rate at which babies born to HIV positive mothers are infected by HIV.
“As I observe her patient interaction, I see that it goes way beyond a doctor-patient relationship,” said Kathy Deckard, Obeime’s office manager in a previous interview.
With the recent health care in America debates, Obeime is determined now more than ever to get her message across. She states in a country so wealthy, health care in America is unacceptable. The current system does not support preventive care and most importantly, it reduces the dignity of those who are in search of care.
She further says, those who are between the ages of 50 and 65 and the mentally challenged fare the worst due to lack of support and sufficient health care insurance.
“In Nigeria, nothing works there, but in America you have people who are citizens of this country, who believe in this country who have worked hard and can’t get care,” said Obeime. “Many religions teach that those of us who have are required and responsible for taking care of those who don’t have including children, the old and the sick. How can we as a nation say we are worried about the cost of taking care of our sick and poor, but try to save the rest of the world? This shows how we diminish life.”
To celebrate life, give education on preventive care and restore hope to the sick and poor, The Mercy Foundation along with Pacers Sports & Entertainment will be hosting the sixth annual fundraiser titled An Evening with the Mercy Foundation, Friday, Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m. at Conseco Fieldhouse, 125 S. Pennsylvania St.
In addition to the fundraiser and spreading her message of care for the poor, there will be an African marketplace and a Taste of Africa where event goers can buy African goods and sample traditional African foods.
“If we devalue life here, we devalue life everywhere. If people would do what I’m doing, just changing the things we can, we can help the people who can’t help themselves,” said Obeime.