I read a post on this topic on bella naija today and I refused to comment because I didn’t want the blog nazis to come after me. However, it reminds me of a patient I had some years ago. She was a very beautiful, shapely, and arrogant bank manager. Unmarried, in her late 30s, she was so rude that no one really liked being the one to attend to her.
Of course, she demanded the best of care. Only the most senior of doctors could lay hands on her and she kept them on their toes. I pity the nurses assigned to her. Her acidic tongue was enough to make you feel like handing in your resignation. One day, she was brought in while I was on duty. Some how, I had won her over during a previous visit, when my MD paid me compliments to her hearing. Reluctantly, she allowed me to see her.
She had a very high fever, was very pale, rather weak and nauseous. I recommended somelaboratory tests. She immediately protested.
“Why? What are the tests for?”
I was surprised. Such people are usually sticklers for doing things by the book. I would have expected her to even insist on those tests.
“They are to confirm exactly what is wrong”
“You mean you don’t have a diagnosis? “, she looked at me like I was incompetent.
“I do. However, the tests will help me rule out other possibilities. Are you worried about the cost?” I knew she would balk at the thought.
“No! I just want to know exactly what tests you are doing. Explain them and why I have to do them”
I picked up the request sheet and explained each test to her.
“Full blood count will tell me your hemoglobin level, and the white blood cell count will give me an idea of possible infections. The ESR is a non-specific marker of infections. The thick and thin film will show if you have malaria. Urinalysis will help me rule out a number of diseases and the culture will detect infections”, I reeled off calmly.
By this time, she was holding the request form, perusing it carefully. I could only conclude that she wanted to ensure that a particular test was not done. You don’t have to work in health care for long to realize how fearful HIV tests make patients. People literally break out in cold sweats as they mentally review all their unprotected sexual encounters.
The quickened pulse, melting knees, throbbing groins are forgotten. All that flashes through their minds, is the thought of carrying a disease whose cure is still being worked on, for life.
While she was on admission, my phone rang. It was a Senior colleague who had resigned from the hospital earlier.
“Is Ms. So and so in your care?”, he asked.
I said she was and gave an account of her symptoms.
“She doesn’t want you to do a HIV test. Please ensure that you don’t. I diagnosed her few months ago and only the MD and I know her status”, he informed me.
“I guessed as much. Her ESR was very high”, I replied.
“Just keep it to yourself. She doesn’t want the other staff to know”
I thought to myself how selfish she was. She wanted the nurses to expose themselves to the risk of her infection but, would not even treat them kindly.
How mean! Later, my MD told me that she had slept her way to the top. She was in a relationship with a very prominent citizen who ensured that she was untouchable in any bank where she worked. In fact, many banks went cap in hand to get her on their staff. She could attract huge deposits and cripple any bank she resigned from.
Madam was discharged the next day, feeling much better. For the first time, she actually said thank you. I pretended not to know her status, as agreed. This is not to vilify the banking institution.
I write this because, you cannot sleep your way to the top. What is the top, anyway? Anti retroviral drugs for life? Mocking glances from the men who have either seen you naked, or know friends who have? Sneers from staff who know you are an empty skull?
No, there must be something you can succeed in without compromising your dignity. Your own top is different from my own top. A musician’s top is not an engineer’s top. Stay in your lane, keep your head down, burn the candle, and acquire the experience.
It may take longer, it may be harder, but, when you succeed, you will be able to say, “We did it together, God and I”
Cheers, Dr. N
ESR: Erythrocyte sedimentation rate