If you have an African mother, you know how much power a glance carries. As children, when we visited a friend of the family or a relative, we knew better than to jump at every offer of food or drinks. You had to check with mom. Sometimes she would not say anything. It was left to you to recall her “earlier expressed sentiments” about that individual. Silence can be so loud, I tell you.
In my line of work, confidentiality is absolute. Or is it? So many things happen in the hospital that make you want to scream. Unfortunately, you have to plaster on a smile and carry on. I want to use an incident that a matron told me she was personally involved in, to remind us all to learn to take a hint.
This lady had been the matron in charge of that particular hospital for years. She knew every patient, their kids, their addresses, their dogs, and even their cats. She’s the kind of lady who could reel off a patient’s medical history if his file got lost. That’s how good she was.
One day, a spritely young nurse was employed in the hospital. She was very pretty and eager. Before long, there was a rumor that she was being courted by one of the hospital’s richest patients. This man had the kind of money that makes people answer “Yes, Sir!”, when no one called them. (That was meant to be a joke in case you didn’t get it). He was in his mid forties, either divorced or widowed, and had been a patient for a long time. The matron called the young nurse aside.
“Is it true Mr. Moneybag asked you out?”,she enquired.
Young nurse rolls her eyes, and makes a face.
“I’m just asking”, Matron reassures.
“Yeah, he asked me out”, Nurse replies, looking away rudely.
“Are you interested in him? I thought you had someone before you came? ”
“Eh…He is not really serious…”
“I just want to advise you, as my daughter, investigate well before you have anything to do with anyone. Some of these men are not straightforward”
Young nurse made some non commital sound and walked away. Shortly after, another member of staff walked up to the Matron to ask her if she had any problem with young nurse. It turns out that she had told a number of people that the matron was jealous of her. The wise lady realised she was being labelled a “hater”, “enemy of progress”, and worse. She went back to the nurse and apologized for being nosy, assuring her that she had no evil intentions.
You may have figured it out. Mr. Moneybag had AIDS and his status was a closely guarded secret. He and the nurse had a lavish society wedding. The who is who of the town attended. She had everything she could ever dream of. The Matron shook her head while the lady danced and he sprayed her with Naira bills.
AIDS is most certainly not a death sentence. You can live a very normal life and even get married. However, I am sure, any sane person will prefer to go into such a marriage, fully informed and prepared. There lies the crux of my message. You know better than every one else. The property you want to acquire, someone tells you that area is prone to floods but, you won’t listen. The job you are taking, they have been owing their staff for months, yet you plunge right in. I don’t even want to speak of relationships.
Will every situation be perfect? No! Sometimes, we need to take risks. However, according to Ben Carson, risks should be evaluated carefully. This year, keep your sensitivity acute, your ears sharp and your intuition active. You will need it.
Nigerians are very friendly. We offer unsolicited advice for free at the slightest opportunity. It doesn’t matter who is hurt, some people just won’t mind their business. Culturally, it is impolite to reject such advice. It takes guts to tell the person no. Today, I want us to debunk some myths.
Where I did my NYSC (Read my post ‘Eat that frog’), there was a belief that Malaria was caused by eating too much palm oil or spending too much time in the sun. I tried my best to correct the impression before I left. A pastor even invited me to his church to speak on the issue and you need to see how many stood up to argue with me.
When I had my first baby, the resident Mrs. Know-it-all, ran out to the car, waving frantically at me. I told my husband to stop. Though the delivery was painless, I had an episiotomy (a cut given to widen the outlet for the baby). When sutured, it is usually quite painful to sit or make sudden movements fora few days. Do you know what she said?
“Doc, when you get home, buy a hard wooden kitchen stool. Sit on it all the time. Don’t sit on soft cushion. That way, the wound will heal very fast”
I thanked her and asked my husband to speed off before she came up with worse. Sit on hard stools indeed! Why would I inflict such pain on myself? Some men avoid certain foods cause they believe they lower libido. Yet, they have unprotected sex,smoke, and consume copious amounts of alcohol. When you check them, they are surprised to find that they have poor quality semen.
A child was brought in drunk. He had a rash which a neighbor diagnosed as Measles. She recommended that he be given palm wine to drink. It was when he became intoxicated, that they remembered a hospital exists close by. Yet another story, is of a mother-in-law, who came to the hospital, and took away all the beverages at the patient’s bedside. Reason, it is not good to take milk or cocoa drinks when you just had a baby.
My question is, what qualifies these people to give us advice? Why can’t we ignore them or even tell them off? I have nearly fought “concerned moms” who wanted me to cover my babies in blankets when the sun was high. One lady saw my son sucking his thumb at 8 months and told me she used a razor to make incisions on her daughter’s thumb. All in a bid to stop her from sucking.
If any one gives you medical advice, find out his or her qualification, experience, and mental status. Even a doctor’s counsel is subject to a 2nd opinion. Feel free to discard questionable advice. Politely, but firmly, reject any statement that sounds fetish, fictional, cooked up, or has no scientific basis. Apply common sense always.
Cheers, Dr. N.
“I wouldn’t tell you if we were not friends! You know I like August but, I know that girl. She dates married men, politicians, name it. You need to assert your position before she snatches him. This one you are not sleeping with him. It will backfire O!”
“Where is your faith?”
“My sister, how can you marry a man you have never slept with! It’s dangerous O! You need to taste the goods! What if he is impotent?”
“God forbid! ”
“How do you know if you are compatible? This is why a lot of Christian marriages are crashing. You marry a man you never knew, only to find out he is freaky and you can’t keep up”
“Bisi, I thought you were born again?”
“I am but, heaven helps those who help themselves. I tried that abstinence thing and lost a great guy. Now, I buy pornographic movies and books on sex”
“Yes? Wisdom is profitable to direct. Even pastors are doing it”
Uche shook her head sadly. She wanted to defend her decisions but, the shock of finding out about August’s affair numbed her.
“What did you say her name is?”
“Vero, the man eater”
“I’ll ask him about her”
“Don’t mention my name O!”
“Of course, I won’t”
“Let me change. I’m hungry and your stew smells lovely”
“Good. You can boil the rice”
“Who is your slave? I made stew, you boil rice. Stella will wash up”
On another day, Uche would have laughed. Today, she shook her head sadly and exited to her room to bawl her eyes out.
August and Uche were sitting on the ground, in the park. She had packed a picnic. He noticed she was moody and wondered why. She ignored him.He filled the silence with gist about Law school, his lecturers, class mates, and more. She was lost in thought. How to get the truth without sounding accusing, was the issue. She didn’t want to sound petty but, she had to know.
“August, who is Veronica?”
“You heard me”
He was silent. She crossed her arms and fixed her gaze on him. He squirmed under her look. After a long silence, she got up to storm out. He stopped her.
“Uche, please, she’s nobody”, he turned pleading eyes on her, holding on to her hand.
“What do you mean?”
“She’s just a friend?”
“Why haven’t I heard about her before now? Why does she have your picture displayed on her phone?”, she snatched her hand from him
” Please sit down Uche. Let’s discuss this like adults”
After glaring at him for a while, she sat down and crossed her arms again.
“Uche, I would never cheat on you. I spend almost all my time with you. You are my girl”, he began.
“Who is she?”
“She’s just a friend”
“Does she know she’s just a friend?”
“Nothing is going on between you?”
“Yes, I swear!”
“Alright. Call her, I want to meet her. Let us pay her a visit”
August kept mute.
“Call her now! If you are not doing anything with her, let’s drive to her house. Introduce me as your girlfriend!”
“Have you ever introduced me as your boyfriend?”, August sputtered angrily.
“I asked, have you ever introduced me as your boyfriend?”
“You girls want to eat your cake and have it. You are stringing me along, keeping another guy by the side. Yet, you are angry that a girl put my picture up on her phone!”
Uche was silent.
“I have done everything for almost 1 year to show you I love you. What have you done for me?”
Uche looked away.
“No kiss, sideways hug, no smooching, nothing! The girl is providing what you refused to give me!”, he declared.
“August! You are sleeping with her!”,Uche couldnot believe her ears.
“We have never gone all the way. And that is because of the way I feel about you. She has almost accused me of not being man enough but, I can’t just cheat on you”
“You mean kissing and smooching are not cheating?”
“Really? I thought you were born again?”
“Forget that crap! No full blooded man can live without some sort of satisfaction. I should even be commended”, he boasted.
“I know many men who have abstained without dying”, Uche stated.
“Something is wrong with them”
“In what way? What of Ikenna? Segun, who is even in a relationship? And many others?”
“Are you living with them? If you knew what some of them do, you would give up this your holier than thou attitude”
Uche kept silent for a while.
“Baby, I’m sorry. Please, say you’ll be my girlfriend. End things with this Lagos guy. I will tell that girl off. I love you. I don’t want to lose you”, he pleaded.
“How can I trust you, after this?”
“Baby, I’ll make it up to you. That girl is gone! Please give me a 2nd chance”
“I just want to go home. Please take me home”
He spent a few more minutes pleading. When she remained adamant, he got up and picked their picnic basket. Silently, they made their way to his car. Uche was holding back tears. He was wondering how to dig himself out.
Back home, she dialled Laura’s number. She had discussed with her before confronting him. Her perspective would be godly, unlike that of Bisi. When she answered, she told her all that had transpired. Laura was dumbfounded.
“A faithful man, who can find?”, Laura wondered.
“My dear, this one takes the cake”
“We would never have found out O!”
“And to think he even accused me of double dealing?”
Laura was silent.
“What?”, Uche asked again.
“I am not accusing you but, you were stringing both men along”
“But, I let them know!”
“What should I have done? I wasn’t sure who I loved?”, Uche scratched her head.
“Are you sure now?”
“My sister, I am afraid O! The Dan may not be any better. August said every man has a way of satisfying himself”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I should forgive him, since they never had sex. He is willing to break up with the Vero of a girl”
“Vero, the man eater!”, joked Laura.
“Vero the man eater has eaten my man O!”, Uche laughed for the 1st time that day.
“How are we sure they didn’t have sex?”, asked Laura.
“Do we ask Bisi to investigate?”, mused Uche.
“That’s not a bad idea”
“I’ll think about it”
“Okay, dear, don’t let it get to you”
“Take care of yourself”
“You too. Goodnight”
(To be continued. You can comment by clicking on the title)
Most, if not all hospitals in Nigeria, have in their employment, people I call “principalities”. Usually a middle aged woman, chatty, often wearing glasses, and over-bearing. They have no or minimal medical qualification, and often, are responsible for dispensing drugs. Pharmacists don’t come cheap and the drug companies pay better, so few hospitals employ them. Even when they do, they can’t work 24 hours, so Mrs. Know-it-all, comes to the rescue.
They are the ones who spread old wives tales and confuse people. You may have heard someone say “A doctor told me this case is beyond medicine, I should seek a herbalist”. Usually, the recommendation was made by Mrs. Know-it-all. Nigerian movies fall into the trap of promoting theories propagated by such people, and viewers swallow it hook, line, and sinker. They are incredibly persuasive, motherly, caring,insistent, inquisitive, I could go on and on. Next time you meet her, please, give her a tip and walk away. Why tip? That is often what they are after, underneath the veneer of caring. Consider this part 1 of my Mrs. Know-it-all series. Thank me later.
I was walking past the labour ward one day, (this happened a few years ago), when I sensed commotion. 2 ladies were in various stages of labour and a capable nurse was stationed to monitor them. I checked in every hour or so. At that time, I had just finished carrying out an ECG (electrocardiogram), on a patient and was returning to my office. I entered the ward to find a very interesting scenario. The visiting gynaecologist had come in and ruptured the membranes of 1 of the women in labour. This is a process in which the sac that protects the foetus in the womb is broken so as to speed things up. The rule is that it is done in the theatre, and a doctor should be on ground to monitor from that time, as things usually happen very fast. I will never know why no one called me to inform me such a procedure was being carried out, or why she was returned to her room afterwards. Things just went south.
The baby’s head started popping out when the trained nurse had just gone to assist the 2nd woman in labour to ease herself. Guess who she left to monitor things? You guessed right; Mrs Know-it-all! She started attempting to take the delivery herself (afterall she had like 20 years experience), not knowing that it was a macrosomic baby. On the average babies weigh 2.5 to 3.5 kg at birth. Any baby above 4.5 kg is macrosomic.
When I entered the ward, she was struggling to drag out the baby (wearing no gloves), with the mother screaming fearfully. Her sister was standing by the bed, pleading “Blood of Jesus”. Infact, she had to be forced out of the room because, her “blood of Jesus” chants were more important than giving room for me to work. The midwife had rushed to the bed, but was intimidated by (you know who), and just stood there also pleading the blood! I took 1 look, and asked for gloves, then politely nudged Mrs KIA aside. She had almost botched things, so I pushed the baby’s head back and turned it the way I wanted. Because she was very big, it took some tugging, and a generous episiotomy (a cut made to widen the exit) to get her out. Guess what Mrs. KIA was saying, “Doctor, you’ll break her collar bone!”. So that if anything happened, she would be the hero.
I take my faith to work, I don’t leave it in church on sundays. That you don’t hear me plead “The blood of Jesus”, does not mean I’m not praying. I had already decreed “There shall be no loss”, it was time to get to work. In emergencies, doctors go into a strange mode. You will have to forgive us if we shut down emotionally. It’s okay for you to roll on the floor and cry, but imagine if the doctor joined you? No need to say more. That is the 1st and only time I have delivered a baby in the ward(I have delivered a baby in the hallway but that is a story for another day). She ended up weighing 5.2kg, and was hale and hearty last I heard.
Dear muse, please, don’t let Mrs. KIA confuse you. We cannot do without her because, our health care system is immature and underfunded. Her pay is usually very miserable, and she is the only one who will work so hard and cheerfully I might add, for peanuts. Now you know why you should leave her a tip, and discard most of her advice. She actually means well, just doesn’t know any better. Hope you had a great weekend? Stay healthy. Cheers