March 20, 2019

Dear Nigerians, mind how you fall sick o – Peju Akande

Dear Nigerians, mind how you fall sick o – Peju Akande

The hospital is a place one should visit once in a while, just to realise that the most important things in life aren’t the tangibles but intangibles; like the ability to just breathe, the ability to walk- put one foot in front of another and move with ease, the ability to keep chugging down spoon after spoon of rice and actually tasting it; being able to lie down and sleep, even if fitfully; to sit up without pain, bathe oneself, dance, laugh, fart…yes, fart!

These are luxuries for so many in the hospitals.

At the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, it’s very easy to just die; and indeed, in the week I was at the hospital to see to a relative on admission, I saw several families suddenly break into loud wails, often going wild and tearing at their clothes over the passing of a loved one. It is a daily occurrence there at the hospital.

I know, even in hospitals, people die and yet, the magnitude of deaths recorded, the numbers of bodies that get wheeled off in iron coffins from the wards to the hospital’s morgue was one too many.

Lasuth is more like the place people with the worst kinds of diseases come to. People who’ve been told by doctors in private hospitals they can’t be helped are there as a last option to get well. I saw an amazing array of sicknesses that can ever befall man; it’s little wonder the health personnel at these hospitals have developed a thick skin; they are hardly moved by tye pain and sufferings of their patients; they won’t budge at screams from people for help over a dying man jerking in spams and in the throes of death, nope! Neither will they rush in with the only oxygen tank working to save the life of a new-born…what’s one more life lost?

From the female surgical ward and indeed all the wards in the hospital; patients going on admission must bring along a care giver or care givers, depending on how large your circle of help is; these will serve as the nurses, errand person(s), cleaners, people who will feed you, bathe you, should you be unable to…well because of surgery, perhaps, take you on therapeutic walks around the ward to get your blood flowing and avoid clots after surgery.

Without your personal caregiver, you will suffer neglect in the wards; who will take your beddings for wash? Don’t wait for the hospital’s laundry department, they take their time and so you’ll be caked in your blood for two days before they will come round to change the sheets.

Now, getting drugs and medical supplies within the hospital is a nightmare. Because the government is trying to plug excesses and corruption, the process for payment is very cumbersome; (they are losing valiantly here, I must say, but give them a T for trying) first you get a prescription from the doctor, run to one end of the hospital where the accounts department is sited; there are always several queues with people making payments for items that range from admissions into the wards to surgeries, drugs, medical supplies in general…you take your place on the queue and after 30 minutes or so, it’s your turn, you make payment and hurry to the pharmacy.

There again, the queue is endless with people sitting on long benches and shifting their bums until they get to the front of the personnel, who attaches a price to the items, writes it on your prescription paper, then sends you to the cashier to pay.

From the cashier, you shift your ass on the long bench to the pharmacy, all in one room, then you get your supplies and rush out… the doctor has left your person to attend to other patients and likely won’t be back until another shift…forget the nurses, they’ll tell you to wait until the doctor returns again before the drug or item purchased is administered.

Usually, only two nurses are appointed to watch over some thirty patients and they are mostly overwhelmed with patients who need urgent help.

Take the case of a lady who underwent cancer surgery and after a few days in recovery suddenly became breathless, her caregiver, weary out of her mind from running errands did not hear because she had fallen asleep on the plastic chair beside the patient.

When she did, she immediately raised an alarm.

No help came. The nurses shouted back at her. They told the caregiver they were busy; and indeed they were, they were polishing off a bowl of rice – man must wack  – after all; they’d been on their feet since 4pm when they resumed  and at 1am, they needed to eat or they be dead themselves.

One of the nurses came around eventually, she rushed to get the oxygen tank from another patient who’d been using it some thirty minutes before, she came back to install the equipment for the gasping patient.

It was too late.

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