My mother is in her 70s and she enjoys a good conversation; I speak to her every day and when I fail to call, she calls, asking about my day and updating me with hers. I enjoy talking to mother.
Then she had this growth in her throat. At first, we thought it was an infection; ‘gaggle, with this and that,’ we advised but after a few months, mother said it’s no infection, it is a mass of meat and it was getting bigger. When I touched it, it was hard and resistant.
‘Does it hurt?’ I once asked her.
No, only a slight discomfort, she said. So I figured we could live with until I had time to take her to go see my doctor.
I never did. Thankfully though, mother’s younger sister, a retired matron at one of the general hospitals in Lagos, took mother to LASUTH where after several weeks of registration, booking an appointment, finally seeing a doctor, she was advised to do several diagnostic tests to determine what was going on. I followed up with the tests and posted same to my siblings.
For some three to four months, I think, mother and her younger sister were going back and forth to the General hospital. My thoughts were, she would eventually be prescribed a drug to shrink the mass since we had found out early that it was benign. Perhaps this also accounted for why I wasn’t anxious or maybe I just got careless.
Then mother was scheduled for surgery and we had to prepare her for it in earnest!
That zoned me immediately into panic mode. My siblings too were aware and suddenly, what we thought was random now required surgery. We then began to make enquiries; we began to talk to our doctor friends; names of specialists were suggested; we were told it was best to get it done at the General Hospital…there are specialists there; private hospitals often call doctors from general hospitals to do many surgeries, you are in better hands at Lasuth…
So we stayed at Lasuth, my sister and I made time to attend subsequent clinics with mother and her sister. We interrogated the doctors mother was seeing. How long will the surgery be? How long is recovery? What should we prepare for? Will mother be okay?
Some of our queries were answered, the rest, like you know in General Hospitals, where one doctor attends to no less than 100 patients per day, we were often dismissed after we took more time than usual with doctors who were not used to being queried by internet-dependent offsprings of their patients.
Surgery done and mother was wheeled out with a tube in her throat.
‘What’s it doing there?’ I queried.
We weren’t prepared to see a tube beyond the serrated stiches.
‘…We touched something,’ they said, ‘that is why your mother has a tracheotomy tube inserted.’
‘What does this mean?’
‘…so she can breathe…’
‘You touched ‘something… what did you touch?’
No answers, until a few weeks later when I wouldn’t stop asking them what they ‘touched’ whenever we attended clinic with mother.
Turned out, the ‘something,’ was a nerve, damaged during surgery!
Who’s to blame?
Was the doctor incompetent?
Could there have been a better qualified doctor but the government couldn’t afford to pay the person?
Was it because the hospital didn’t have the complete and correct surgical equipment?
Was there sudden power outage and the backup gen didn’t start on time and so the surgeon’s hands shook and hit a nerve?
What we were told is a simple operation has become a complicated one. No thanks to what the doctor ‘touched’ she is yet to regain the use of her voice and is saddled with a tube down her throat which is very discomforting and highly irritating as it grates her throat making her wheeze for several hours a day…
Now conversations with mother…just don’t happen anymore…
But mother is among the lucky few.
There are hundreds who won’t get the much needed help with these persistent strike actions by resident doctors over the arrears owed by government and the recent strikes by Nigerian Labour Congress over the federal government’s non implementation of the new minimum wage;
add this to the paralysis that come with these strikes and the nonchalant attitude of the government- it’s as if we can truly do without doctors or lecturers or workers…
Today the hospitals are empty; patients are being dismissed, only emergency cases are being addressed. While mother was on admission, a woman whose operation had become complicated with her guts spilled under the cover of her bedsheet was asked to go home…there are no doctors.
Another patient, an old woman, probably in her 80s or could be younger but who looked aged from the constant pain she was subjected to after surgery, would not stop moaning from pain…’Go home,’ she was told, ‘no doctor to see you.’
What will happen to people in need of Medicare? Over 97% of Nigerians cannot afford treatment abroad or even go to private clinics. And at the rate at which doctors are fleeing Nigeria, even government officials seek medical help abroad. There’s a big problem at hand.
Doctors deserve their wages; they deserve to be treated better with more favourable conditions of service, if we value human lives, it’s logical to take care of those who handle it.
It’s time to elect leaders who care about the issues that concern everyday Nigerians- education, health care, infrastructure, power…
Now, if you haven’t got your PVC, you are part of the problem.