Nigerian medics are a special breeed. I hate it when I go to see a doctor and while I am describing my ailment, he is busy scribbling notes after notes on his paper and before I am done, I have prescriptions in my hands.
So tell me doc, what did you write here?
‘You have malaria.’
‘No I don’t! You didn’t even let me finish. How can you conclude I have malaria?’
‘Symptoms ke. The ones I haven’t finished explaining!’
Or when I tell my doctor, ‘I Googled my symptoms, I don’t think it’s malaria, I think it is…’ and the doctor gets angry. To him, I have questioned his authority over what is going on in my body.
‘Go back to Google,’ One of them told me once and my reply was a quick: ‘Oga doctor, go and update your knowledge.”
I left him staring at me. If I am paying for the consultancy, I should have a say in it!
I sought a second opinion and I was right.
But hey, this isn’t about the patient being right or wrong. It’s not about belittling our doctors, no.
Many times, a second or third opinion is needed and many times, too, dear Nigerian medics, please give your patients a little credit.
I once had an IUD that got infected. I didn’t know it was infected. In fact, I just knew that I was in so much pain for days after the insertion.
The first few days, I put down to my body simply reacting to a strange instrument. I mean, if you have copper wires inside of you, you should feel something. Shouldn’t you?
Some Nigerian medics guilty of ‘hit-and-miss’
I thought I would soon adjust to the ‘invasion’ and the pain would subside. It didn’t. Instead, it became increasingly difficult to pee and bend.
After a while, I began to shuffle as I couldn’t lift my feet off the ground. Thereafter, I called the nurse who did the procedure of asking me to tell her my symptoms.
‘Aunty, it is the coil. You will feel better after some days,’ she said.
But I didn’t.
Finally, I went back to the hospital for a check-up. I met another nurse on duty. I reported my symptoms. Laughing, she asked me to lie down so she could check whether ‘Oga had shifted the IUD” which for her had to be the only reason why I was in such pain.’
I didn’t laugh because I didn’t think she was funny. I wanted to tell her: ‘No, Oga did not shift anything. Oga is not at home. So, please go down there and check why I am in this pain!’
‘Madam, your IUD is infected.’
‘Maybe the instrument was not sterile,’
‘Excuse me! That must have come from you guys because I don’t recall inserting the IUD myself. And I had no business poking inside myself after it had been done!’
Now I was properly angry.
I had to endure the pain of removal. Yes, it was painful as the coil was removed because of the infection. I was given antibiotics and told to come for implants when I was ready. I fled the hospital, cursing the nurse who did me in.
Now, this clearly was carelessness on the part of the nurse who performed the procedure. But thankfully, I came out unscathed.
Lives at stake
Meanwhile, a simple cleaning of these instruments would have spared me the pain.
But my pain was nothing compared to those who’ve lost their lives or got infected with incurable diseases. Or are maimed because Nigerian medics got too tired and became careless or simply didn’t care less.
One recent medical error got my back up.
I’ve written several times about my mum. Almost two years ago, she underwent a goitre surgery. We had been told it would be a two-hour surgery. But mother didn’t come out of the theatre until 14 hours later.
Yes, 14 hours later!
The surgeon had damaged a nerve. So, mother had to be fitted with a tracheotomy tube so she can breathe …Until the nerve heals, then the tube will be removed.
The nerve is taking its time to heal and mother, well, she has to endure the discomfort. The sleepless nights, the racking, nerve-wrenching coughs that reduce us all to tears…daily.
But on the bright side, mother is alive and surrounded by an ocean of love!
In a nutshell, we are treating a condition no one prepared us for. The course of treatment took us to seeing an ENT consultant somewhere in Anthony village for a laryngoscope video test. This was to determine if mother’s nerve had healed enough for the tube to be removed.
Removing the tube without a fully healed nerve means mother could choke to death on her own saliva or food or water or anything that misses its way from her mouth to her trachea.
So now, the consultant upon completing the test, assured us mum’s tracheotomy was due for removal. The damaged nerve, she told us, had healed as according to her, mother’s larynx was opening and shutting as it should.
Knowledge upgrade required for some Nigerian medics
This meant the possibility of food, water or saliva choking her to death was nil.
We were elated. We wanted the tube out ASAP! I mean, we got a good medical report…or so we thought.
Back to the hospital with our report and the video clip of our laryngoscope.
One doctor after another viewed the video and the report. One after another, they called their colleagues to view. Soon, a battery of consultants, after discussing at length, gave us a damning report…
The video does not show a healed nerve. It does not show a larynx that opens and shuts as it should. The ominous verdict was: “If the tube is removed, your mother’s life will be in danger.
We were crushed.
The consultant was then sent for. We could hear them berating her for giving us false hopes. For writing a report that didn’t reflect what was in the video.
She had done several videos that day and must have mixed up the report!
We were the first patient that day. I was in the room when the test was being done. I got the recording right after the test was done.
So, that story about having several patients and mixing things up was not true!
The long and short of all these, she wrote a new report. The earlier report was withdrawn from mother’s file. Thereafter, she apologized profusely for misleading us and we were sent home for another appointment.
A load of depressing possibilities
Here are the what-ifs.
- What if I hadn’t gone to the hospital to check about the IUD. Or simply ignored the pain or ‘chested it’ as we often do around here?
- What if we had insisted the consultant removed mother’s tube, got home and she suddenly began to choke?
Yeah, I know doctors are human. Nigerian medics make mistakes like the rest of us. But in a country where few are penalized for misconducts such as these, carelessness of personnel handling human lives just gets out of order.
Indeed, millions of Nigerians are dying from what shouldn’t have killed them.