Having survived kidney ailment that held him down for months before kindhearted Nigerians intervened and got him treated in the United Kingdom, Nollywood actor Leo Mezie is now focused on how best to give back to the society for standing by him during his ordeal. Though the Abia State native had organised a special thanksgiving in Lagos to thank God and well meaning Nigerians for saving his life, Mezie seems determined to do something more tangible in that regard.
Weeks after he returned from a successful medical treatment abroad, the actor has set up the Leo Mezie Kidney Foundation, which aims at supporting patience with kidney ailment, helping them with tips on how to manage the situation and find cure. Though the Foundation, according to Mezie, will also assist patients with other ailments, the focus currently is on kidney.
“This idea came to me while on my bed during dialysis. While I was going through my ordeal, what kept amazing me was the love I was getting; the prayers and the financial support especially, was overwhelming. I believe that was one of the major reasons I stood my ground that I cannot die. As for me, I had lost hope; there was nothing else to live for. But with the kind of encouragement I was getting from people, I was like, ‘okay, if I give up on myself, there are a lot of people out there, who didn’t give up on me.
“There are a lot of people out there, who believe in me; praying, calling, sending text message, visiting and spending their resources. So, it crossed my mind that, ‘who am I? Why is my case so special?’ Then, I began to wonder, there are many other Nigerians out there, who have this kind of challenge, but don’t have the kind of opportunity I have; how they suffer, how they die. So, I vowed that once I make it, I would ensure I give back to the society by reaching out to those, who don’t have the same opportunity that I had,” he said.
For the actor, setting up the foundation remains one practical means of saying ‘thank you’ for what kindhearted Nigerians did in an effort to save his life.
“I want to reach out to those people out there, who nobody knows, who are having this challenge but are dying quietly. Those, who have given up like I did; I want to reach out to them. I want to start with those, who have the similar challenge that I had, then we will see how we can help lift our fellow Nigerians. I’m talking about Nigerians, who need help, who need support, prayers and encouragement, but they are not getting it. For me, ‘thank you’ is not enough for; showing the appreciation is better of,” he said.
Part of the Foundation’s mandates is to educate the public about kidney and how to live healthy and avoid endangering the sensitive organ. This will involve organising seminars, workshops, training and symposiums, with expert on ground to speak on different topics.
“Personally, I want to spend time to teach people about kidney because, since I came back, the question has always been, ‘what caused it?’ Everybody is scared; they hear about this everyday, they see people suffering from the same situation, including big men. Some are asking me, ‘is it drinking or smoking so I can stop it?’ But first of all, I want to have series of seminars to teach people how you can get the problem, how to dictate it at very early stage and what you can do to stop it before it escalates,” he said.
Mezie is currently speaking with some medical doctors in the United Kingdom and here in Nigeria, with the hope of getting their support for the foundation.
“I’m working with a couple of doctors; we’ve had discussions and they are really interested in coming down for our seminars to speak on this matter. When we are ready, we want to first of all educate people about functions of the kidney; what damages the kidney, how do you know when the kidney is damaged, what diet is suitable for the kidney, how do you take care of kidney patients and things like that,” he hinted.
However, for the actor, kidney transplant is not the best.“To be honest with you, transplant is not the best at all. It’s better you start early to manage it; you can get out of it. The problem with this ailment is that you don’t know until it’s over; you will see someone out there looking very agile, but you won’t know his kidney is about getting to the last stage of collapsing. So, we will teach people some little symptoms that you see around you that you think would go away; these are symptoms of kidney disease. Once you have the information, the next thing is how can you deal with it early,” he said.
On how the Foundation plans to support patients, Mezie explained that, “for those already at the point of no return, we want to support them. Those we can support financially, we will support; those who we can help get good treatment, even abroad, we can help. Those who don’t know how to manage it, we will help them,” he assured.
While explaining the possibility of living healthy with kidney ailment, Mezie informed, “while in the UK, I met a lot of people, who have been living with kidney diseases for over 10 years and they are okay; they just do their dialysis and they are out, they don’t do transplant. The doctors will tell you that taking it out is not the best; if you can manage it carefully and make it a routine, you will live a normal life. These are the things we want Nigerians to know,” he said.
As for funding, “well, that’s one of the biggest challenges it looks like we are going to have, but we believe we won’t have that kind of challenge. We are going to make it look like an insurance policy for everybody because; you don’t know when it will be your turn. It’s like opening an account and making a monthly donation. One day, you may know somebody who have that challenge and the fact that you have the account with us, the person gets support financially,” he said.
Meanwhile, there’s also plan by the foundation to partner with government, especially in the area of dialysis for patients.
“We are also going to be working with a lot of State owned hospitals in Nigeria; we will be making some provisions, as well as supporting them with dialysis materials. We intend to strike a deal with them to have a particular percentage discount of the real cost for patients coming from us. If I can get the kind of support I got from Nigerians, I’m hoping that some of them will still come to support us to help other Nigerians, who have the same problem. Finance is a challenge, but we are not afraid. The most important thing is to know that prevention is better than cure; we don’t want to cure people, we want to prevent it,” he said.
Having gone through kidney ordeal, Leo Mezie seems to be seeing life in different light now.“My brother, life is nothing; what are we all fighting over? You ask yourself, what’s all these about? Just a snap of finger, it’s all over and when it’s over, what’s next? Just imagine yourself sleeping, what do you know? Where do you think you are,” he quizzed rhetorically.
“What accounts for life is how do you spend it? I’ve come to realise that all these hustling and bustling, trying to outsmart each other, it all belongs to me, trying to be there forever… it’s all vanity! I’ve decided to take life easy and live like the Lord’s Prayer; I focus on this day. Whatever tomorrow will bring, I leave it to the Master to decide,” he said.
As for his wife, who stood by him all through his trying times, he said, “I don’t even know what to say about her; she was even more confident than myself. To be honest, she motivated me because, whenever I see how confident she was about my recovery, it gave me hope of living again. I don’t even know how to pay her back,” he noted.