1: We had a patient with a massive brain tumour. The tumour was a pituitary macroadenoma. This is a tumour that causes pressure on the optic nerves leading to blindness. Our chap was 42 years old and had actually gone into coma due to the pressure of the tumour. We rushed him to theatre for an operation to remove the tumour. Following the operation, he was taken to the intensive care unit where he remained comatose and subsequently died.
We proceeded to certify that he had died. The wife refused to accept this and said, we should wait. ‘He cannot die’, she said. ‘The pastor is coming’. When the pastor came, I called him aside and told him we had certified the patient dead and he should please console the woman as best as he could. The pastor said, ‘Don’t worry doctor, we are here now’. ‘He is not dead’.
So, we stepped aside and allowed the pastor access to the patient. Well, he was buried a few days later. Guess the pastor was unable to raise the dead. The fact remains though that the ‘powerful pastor’ could have saved us all the trouble by praying away the tumour in the first place. That seems easier than raising the dead.
2: A woman found a lump in her breast. She went off to see a herbalist who told her he could treat her. Oh, yes, he has treated many women before and they all got well. She was to see him weekly for breast massage, rubbing of leaves, potions and lotions on the breast. However, on no account must she go to a hospital. Any operation on the breast would kill her, he said.
She kept faith and saw him regularly. On one occasion, the herbalist was not available. He was not available for 3 weeks till she raised a raucous. That was when they told her the herbalist had fallen ill and gone to the hospital. She was distraught and went to the hospital. Alas, on review she had a fungating tumour which had spread all over body. She died soon after.
He had appendicitis that required surgery. He was operated successfully and is alive and well.
3: There was a nationwide strike in Nigeria a few years ago. The strike was undertaken by the Association of Resident Doctors and paralysed services. The effect was so bad that the government had to do something. So, the then Minister of Health, my good friend Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu went on air and announced the suspension of all resident doctors and the cancellation of all residency programs in Nigeria.
It was an incredible move. It was like trying to clean a gun and shooting yourself in the head. You know we are short of doctors. You know we are short of trained specialists. You know residents become specialists and they do massive amounts of work in the hospitals. So, for the government to suspend this cadre of doctors was serious business. It was a political move but it did not make sense. The doctors were fighting for improvements in services and the condition of doctors.
This week, we heard that the President, Muhammadu Buhari has signed the Residency Bill into law. A long time coming and a welcome development. Resident doctors are the work horses in hospitals and are young doctors training to become consultants and specialists. A very important member of the health care team and should be coveted, not used and abused, as often is the case in Nigeria.
Raise your voice
We write to inform and educate healthcare practitioners, the public and the government. Some religious leaders like in the first story above pose major healthcare dilemma for our population. After all, has God not given man the knowledge to make advances in medicine and technology?
Our traditional healers and herbalists must recognize the limits of their therapy, set egos aside, be honest and advise patients to seek medical help.
There are many more stories such as the ones above. Meaningful stories that can be used to inform and educate. Stories that can be used to change the health seeking behavior of the Nigerian patient. Stories that may modify government policy and move Nigerian healthcare forward. These stories will have more meaning and more impact, if more voices are involved.
We need more voices. We need more people talking and more people educating both the public and the government. We must come together and collaborate in increasing the volume of the discourse. We need to disrupt the status quo in our healthcare system, explode it and rebuild it from the ashes. Because if you have not been hurt by the current system, it’s only a matter of time before you become a victim.
We need to ring the bell of change in Nigeria!
Loud and clear!
We need you and yes, you can contribute!
NB: The Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA) has thrown down the gauntlet and vowed to raise the decibel both nationally and internationally. However, all other health organisations such as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Medical Association of Nigerian Specialists and General Practitioners (MANSAG) must join in and contribute to creating a healthier Nigeria in a healthier world.
If you have stories of such real-life events on healthcare in Nigeria, please kindly share. Ring us, anytime, anyplace, anyhow and through any means!
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