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A Week in the Life of a Neurosurgeon



A full clinic

My week started with a full clinic in the hospital. It was with the usual suspects: patients with spine conditions such as cervical and lumbar spondylosis. One of my patients, Mr X, had come back for further discussions surrounding his impending spine operation. Poor man, he was having trouble raising the money for his surgery. This even after significant reduction in the bill estimate.

Unfortuntely, there was little more we could do for him short of offering him a free operation. The cost of operations in Nigeria is a third of costs in places such as India and almost a tenth of the bill estimates in the USA and UK. For example, a simple uncomplicated back operation costs about a million Naira in Nigeria and as much as five million Naira in America, Dubai or Israel. This without adding the cost of travel for two people and the cost of further follow up visits abroad.

The highlight of my day in the clinic was however a young girl with intractable seizures (frequent and poorly controlled). She was on several medications already and had also had a special operation for epilepsy performed in the USA. She was still having seizures and indeed had 2 episodes prior to coming to the clinic. Turns out, we could help this young girl through collaboration with other hospitals to make her seizure free.


An operation

Woke up early on Tuesday for our scheduled operation. We were operating on an elderly chap with severe back pain, leg pains, worse around the left hip and difficulty walking. Indeed, he walks bent forward and only for short distances. He presented two clear problems related to arthritis. One was arthritis of the hip and severe arthritis (lumbar spondylosis) of the back.

I had decided that most of his pains were related to the back and so offered him major spine surgery which was scheduled for 6 am. I like operating early in the morning to free up a great chunk of the day for clinics and other activities. Also, kind of feel that the brain is working at its utmost freshness and sharply too, early in the morning. Uncorrupted!

Anyway, the operation ended up being cancelled. Some confusion about whether the chap was ‘0’ positive or ‘0’ negative (blood group). It was important to get it right so as not to do harm transfusing the wrong blood into the patient. ‘0’ negative blood is the universal donor. They can give blood to every other blood group type. Unfortunately, they cannot receive blood from anybody else.

The operation was performed the next day and all was well.


I kissed a girl

On Thursday, I kissed a girl! Yes, sad but true. I kissed my wife goodbye after her visit to Abuja. She had taken time out of her busy schedule to spend a week in Nigeria. I actually think the poor weather and extended winter in the UK had something to do with it.

Anyway, she was travelling back and I escorted her to the airport. The airport staff would not allow non-travelers into the airport so we kissed by the x-ray machine. No, it wasn’t my artificial hip that made noise.

Still, I waited in the car till she gave the all clear. She had passed through the gauntlet of customs officers, searching her bags for the umpteenth time, with grubby hands and asking ‘Anything for the boys’.


The open day

Our open day at the hospital came on Saturday morning. We had moved into our new hospital premises in Wuse 2, Abuja during the previous month. So, we invited colleagues, friends and clients to come see the new place. A small ceremony with the symbolic cutting of the ribbon and a walk through the premises. The ribbon cutting was done by four professors: Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, former Minister of Health, Professor Olufemi Babalola, the President of the Guild of Medical Directors, Professor Lovett Lawson of Zankli Hospitals and Professor Manny Aniebonam, the President of Afrihub Group.

The other special guests on the day were Mrs Issa Brahim, wife to the Ambassador of Chad republic, Dr Nwana, the Chairman of the GMD, Dr Abonyi, the Chairman of the AGPMPN amongst others. The ceremony was short and sweet. It needed to be as we were booked on a flight to Portharcourt for an operation in the Garden City early in the afternoon.


Flight to PH

We flew to Portharcout at 3 pm Saturday to review a few patients and plan an operation for 6 am the next day. No, we did not travel on Dana! We landed safely without any doors coming off or a drive into the bush.

All in all, a busy week. Full of drama, suspense, intrigue and fun in parts.




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