I have been learning about emotional intelligence for some months now. At an event recently, I saw 1st hand just how important it is in our daily lives. Emotional intelligence has many definitions but one of my favorites is this “It is the ability to recognize and manage emotions in yourself and others”. There is a gift called empathy. When you step into the shoes others or try to see things through their eyes, you not only win them over, they will even defend you.
I was invited to give a health talk to a group of professionals as a panelist along with 3 other health care professionals. Before we were called up, a lady spoke on etiquette. I missed the beginning of her speech but I just got funny vibes from her. She probably did not mean to but she came across as combative and judgmental rather than engaging. I put it down to her personality type but what happened next was shocking. Questions were requested from the audience and a lady came forward and took the microphone to speak.
“Please Ma, you said that we do our jobs ‘anyhow’ because we know that we will be paid whether or not we come to work. That is not true because some of us love our jobs and do it with all our hearts,” she said.
The lady who was giving the speech looked shocked. I could not believe my ears as well but there was more to come. The MC asked politely, “What is your question?”
“Ma, you mentioned magic words. Could you use your magic word and say ‘I’m sorry’ to us?”
By this time my mouth was hanging open. A couple of audience members were shouting that the speaker had not generalized but said “some people do their jobs anyhow” while others were demanding the apology. It was brutal. The speaker explained that her statement was misquoted but went ahead to apologize (which I praise her for). The audience then applauded.
This lady had given a well-researched and delivered speech but a lack of empathy ruined it for her at the end. I bet so many will remember her for the gaff rather than the pearls of wisdom she dropped earlier.
Let me narrate a 2nd story. A number of friends of mine were complaining about their husbands’ lack of attentiveness to them. They felt their husbands were not spending as much time as they would have liked listening to them or talking with them. Rather they brought work home or watched TV. I decided to get my husband’s perspective. He said my friends were right about needing attention but were going about it the wrong way. In his opinion their husbands were under pressure trying to meet up with societal and family obligations and the more my friends demanded attention the more they alienated their men. He said their husbands would feel they were under attack and also lash out. If they attempted to be supportive, their partners would see them as confidantes i.e. part of the solution not part of the problem. This ensures that you have a partner who rushes home to tell you all about his/her day because you will listen first and empathize.
Even with friends of the same sex, no one likes a griper. I am sorry to say there are people whose calls I avoid because 15 minutes with them will rob me of my peace of mind.
Today, give someone the benefit of the doubt, a long rope, a break, name it
See through the eyes of others.
Be the 1st to forgive.
Listen without making assumptions.
I have learned that only God promised to always be there for you even until the end of time. Others can be busy or unavailable. Next time you can’t find anyone to unburden yourself to, look up and say “Hi, Jesus! Are you up for a chat?”
And do write me to share what He tells you.
I write this with sorrow, because of the lives lost daily due to ignorance. Nigerians are highly superstitious. I know how many products I have bought at a bargain, just because I was the 1st customer of the day. Such a person is believed to bring good luck, and sending him away signifies a day of poor sales. I grew up in a church where I was taught that faith in divine healing, meant not needing medical attention. In fact, one ‘loser’ convinced himself he wanted to marry me when I was 16. He said I should not study Medicine as I planned because, it would soon be obsolete. The world would know of divine healing, and I would have wasted 6 years.
This was someone who had no future ambition, no income, nothing. Everyday, he mounted the stage to testify of how they were praying over empty plates at home till someone knocked and offered them food. I always wondered why he didn’t jus tget a job, anything menial, to feed his family. No! He had faith! I digress.
A close relative lost a son recently. The only time I saw him, he was about 3 months old. He had an abnormal facies (sorry for the jargon), and I suspected he had a genetic abnormality or a heart defect. Throughout my 2 day visit, I only got a glimpse of him. It was either he was sleeping, or being fed, or being changed. Note: In Nigeria, babies are fiercely protected. I have to struggle with mothers and grandmas to be allowed to examine babies in the hospital. Though the sun is high, the child is covered in winter clothing, plus a blanket. Yet, they ask me to switch off the air conditioner.
“Doc, do you want him to get pneumonia? “, they accuse.
Probably, I want to make him sick, so they will pay more money. You literally have to tread on egg shells. Back to my story, I could not examine that baby to determine if my suspicions were right. Few months after, I was told he was admitted in hospital with an ailment.
“What did the doctor say?”, I asked.
“It is a spiritual attack”, his mom replied.
“No diagnosis? I doubt he told you that”, I queried.
She insisted that she was in church praying. He was on oxygen for 3 or more days. I kept asking what kind of ailment he had but they deflected me. They were in a different town and I did not have access to the doctor. Each time I called, they were somewhere praying. Finally, the boy was discharged and pronounced well. We rejoiced. I called from time to time to ask about him. He was said to be “fine” .
Suddenly, one night, they called to say he slumped.
“Have you rushed to the hospital? “, I asked.
“No! This is not a hospital matter. It is a spiritual attack. We took him to church”
“What did the pastor say?”
“He prayed and sent us home?”
“Why didn’t you go to the hospital after the prayers?”
I heard weeping and so on in the background and realized the boy was dead. The pastor must have noticed same. That was how that child died. Later, his mom complained that the devil had tormented that boy from birth. He did not grow normally, achieve his milestones on time, or ever become independent. He could not hold his neck at 8 months, crawl even after 1 year, and barely made a sound. Note that he was not her 1st baby. Every parent is taught what to expect at each stage of development. When those signs are absent, you scream for help.
She was not a bad mother, not in any way. The only problem is she was numbed by the deceit of “spiritual attack”. Long ago, I read something in Creflo Dollar’s book that I still struggle with. We were taught if you have faith to heal headache, you don’t take analgesics. He said, if you have faith for your eyesight to be healed, you pray and put on your glasses. When you are healed, your vision will be distorted by the glasses. You will need no man to tell you to throw them away. Besides, you need them to read the word and build your faith for divine healing.
What is my point? A spiritual attack that manifests physically, requires a medical diagnosis. Jesus asked the demon possessed man, “What is your name?”
When you get a diagnosis, you can formulate a plan of action. Get as many 2nd opinions as you like. Is it curable? Then let them do their thing. Meanwhile stand in faith. It is possible that a cure that should have taken 1 week will be effective in 2days. That is still a miracle. If it is incurable, can they give temporary relief? This will give you time and strength to build your faith.
Don’t conclude everything is a spiritual attack, I beg you. We are losing precious souls. I mourn that child. They had me but they never complained of him not growing well. Even when I asked, they deflected my questions. Dear reader, do not ignore your loved ones. They may mean well in their ignorance. Let’s stamp out this error. Hospitals are expensive and medication is inconvenient but, God has provided medicine as a relief. Imperfect, yes, but so many lives have been saved. Will you speak up today?
I think one of the most dreaded tasks any doctor has to perform, is to deliver a positive HIV test result. The thought of the patient’s reaction, (people have been known to collapse), is enough to make one sweat. Usually, there is pre and post counselling. Also, I personally, try to guage the patient’s temperance, hoping and praying he or she is not given to fainting, or worse still, taking it out on someone. Some incidents in the past, have led to my deciding to do this post.
This is about a young man, no more than 30, who came in for a medical fitness assessment few years ago. Most Nigerian companies, ask for HIV tests. They claim that they will not discriminate against those found positive, but potenial employees doubt this. I’ve had a man go on his knees begging for his result to be falsified, because he believed it would affect his chances of getting a job. Unfortunately, the hospital can only recommend that the subject is fit despite being HIV positive, but cannot fight for the person.
So this young man in question was positive, and had come for the results. I held the sheet, wondering how to break the news. A handsome, well spoken, gentleman, I felt he would take it badly.
“As you know we ran several tests”, I was buying time.
“Yeah, I know”
“Among them, tests for syphilis, hepatitis B, and more. All the tests were negative but one”
“Really? Which one?”
“Before I tell you, I hope you know that having any disease is not a death sentence? There is….” he didn’t let me finish.
“Is it the HIV? I know it’s positive” he stated.
I let out a breath. Why was I so worried?
“You already knew your status?” I asked.
“No, I did not”
“Then how did you conclude that the result is positive? ”
“I just suspected”
“Why? Did you hear from a previous partner, that she is affected, or you noticed any symptoms?”
“No, I just had a feeling”
“Why?” I asked.
” Before I became a Christian, I was very promiscuous. I was in bed with a different girl every night, sometimes 2 at a time. Occasionally, I used protection. During my service year, after university, I did the test when an organization offered us free, voluntary counseling, and testing on camp. It was negative. I was so happy about the result, the next time someone preached to me, I gave my life to Christ”
I was by this time, leaning forward, eager to hear the rest of the story.
He went on. “I began to preach after camp.Everybody in my neighbourhood knows me as a preacher. I usually hold crusades, and so on. The truth is that I have been celibate since that time, but I just felt that I may not get away with the rough life I lived”
I was very sad. Here was a man who genuinely repented of his lifestyle, and still had to pay this sort of huge price. Was God unable to deliver his own son? How would the people he had converted take this news, if they got to know? Would they believe he had been celibate, or assume he was living a double life?
“I am not even worried for myself, what do I tell my fiancee?” he added.
I was dumbfounded. “You are due to be married?” I asked in shock
“Yeah, we’ve fixed a date, informed my parents. This job was supposed to cement everything. I don’t know how she’ll take this news”
I thought for a while.” Ask her to come in for a test. You can tell her it’s a pre marital tests since most churches demand genotype and HIV tests. If she is positive, we’ll break the news to her and decide what next. If not, you will decide how to tell her that you are infected”
“We have never had sex” he informed me.
“Really? That’s great news! I’m so happy to hear that. You have to think. What kind of a person is she? Does she believe in you? Is she a tale bearer? Can she keep a secret? If she can, then open up to her and follow it from there. On the other hand, if she is the type who will go and tell the world that you are HIV positive, just break up with her, without telling her why”
“I can’t imagine living without her, I love her so much. I’ve been looking forward to our wedding night, keeping myself for her. How can I leave her?”
“Well, this does not mean you can never marry.There are ways to protect partners who are not carrying the virus” I chipped in
“No, I can’t do that to her. I can’t take the risk”
“I don’t want you to give up. Don’t decide that you deserve this diagnosis because of your past. You have to appeal to God for healing based on his word that any man in Christ is a new creature. Old things are passed away. Can you practice what you preach? ”
I will end this story, here for I never saw the man again. Please write and tell me how you would have handled the situation. If you were his girlfriend, would you rather not be told? Does repentance exclude us from the fruits of our mistakes? How do we break the cycle?
Dear doctor, I came across ur blog and I have some questions. I have some growths on my vagina lips and sometimes my mons pubis ,they disappear and reappear in different places. I used to think they where shaving bumps but am beginning to think otherwise. Pls advise.I reside in Lagos .i cant go to my family doctor because of his closeness with my parents. I am 27. Thanks and God bless.
From Dr. N.
Hi. I need more information. Are you in a sexual relationship? What do the growths look like? Round or shapeless? Soft or hard? Are they painful? The commonest cause of soft growths is bartholin’s cyst. Usually looks transparent like a small sac of water. If it’s hard, it may be a syphillitic nodule. If shapeless, it may be a wart, caused by herpes virus. Bartholin’s cyst usually requires surgical removal, which is a simple procedure under local anaesthesia, ie you’ll be awake. The others require medication and further tests. Also, if you are in a relationship, your partner has to be tested and treated. You may wish to abstain till you’re sure. I’ll advise you to find a hospital where no one knows you, especially the government hospitals, and get examined. All in all, I don’t think there’s cause for alarm. Keep me posted.
I used to work in a very busy hospital about 4 years ago. Often, I had to prove myself. Though my boss considered me as good as the others, those who met me for the first time had to decide within 2 minutes whether they wanted to take a chance, or ask to see someone who looked older. I sympathized with them, and schooled myself not to take offence. After all, a number of ladies insisted on seeing me. Who was I to begrudge my colleagues? It gave me more time to chill, anyways.
One day, a young man was ushered in. He looked uncomfortable. I tried to put him at ease, but he apologised. Telling me that he wanted to see the doctor who saw him previously. I directed him to his office but, he spent a few more minutes apologising; telling me it was not that he didn’t want to see me, but the guy told him to insist on seeing him. I assured him I was not offended. The hospital was usually busy, so I had no time to spare. Few hours later, he came back looking sheepish. I was surprised.
“Didn’t you see him? I called to confirm he was on seat” I asked.
“I saw him but, there’s something I want to discuss with you”
“Really? What would that be?”
“You know I told you that I didn’t insist on seeing the other guy because I doubt your capabilites. It was because he sent me for some tests and wanted to interpret them himself”
“Yeah, what is wrong with that?” I asked
“Please read the test results yourself”
I took the paper from him. The test was what we call ‘Seminalysis’; an analysis done on seminal fluid to determine its viability. There are 5 major criteria used to judge that sperms are viable.
. Motility (Are they showing signs of life)
. Morphology (no missing tail or head and so on).
. Swimming in a forward direction
There are normal ranges for all these, and I will not go into them. Also microbiological tests are done for infections.
“I’ve seen the result. What exactly is the problem?” I asked.
“He told me that my sperm count is low, and that I will not be able to impregnate a woman”
I tried to hide my surprise by looking down. “So what should you do?”
“I should come for several injections, which will solve the problem. The only thing that made me suspicious is he said I should bring the money for the treatment to him, and no one else”
“Well, my interest is not in what anyone said, let me interpret the result and you can decide what you want to do” I told him.
The count was borederline normal, the motility and morphology (normal forms) were average. Every other parameter was normal. I didn’t see why someone would have the heart to deliver such a depressing diagnosis, without getting his facts right. I am not sharing this story to pat myself at the back, or condemn anybody. Many of my colleagues are honest, bright, and godly. I want you to know that there are selfish people who will tell you anything to make a quick buck. It behoves you to get a 2nd opinion. Personally, I try to get God’s opinion 1st, then weigh all opinions against His.
Also, I want to deliver a number of men out there who are on medication, herbal and otherwise, trying to boost their libido, increase their sperm count, make their private part bigger, and so on. There is no drug or procedure that can increase the size of your member. The size is proportionate to your body, stop trying stuff that will harm you. One man took a concoction that gave him a permanent erection. He had to be operated on. Please disregard any advert in the papers, or on billboards, claiming that your last girlfriend left you for some silly reason. Maybe she left because she met a richer man, a more romantic man, a taller man, who cares? Stop trying to prove a point, nobody really cares.
This is a story I struggled with sharing, because of the issues it brought up but, I feel that knowledge is power. Power to say no to manipulation. Another note to brothers out there. The best tip to sexual health is abstinence. How many male virgins have you seen at the STD clinic? The number and quality of your sperm, declines with the infections you contract from multiple partners. I have seen men with almost 0 count. Yet, they look normal.
You can ensure your future fertility by some smart decisions. Do away with alcohol,tobacco, hard drugs, multiple sexual partners. Treat all diseases immediately and properly, don’t hide symptoms. Men should wear loose fitting, cotton underwear, and keep cell phones and so on away from their pockets. Riding on bikes should not be for long hours. Mothers, immunize sons properly, as Mumps can lead to infertility in men.
A final word, if you have a confirmed negative diagnosis, there is a word God gave Abraham in Genesis 15:5. Your seed will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. If you can count the stars, so will your seed be. You can hold on to that when you pray. There are some medication given to boost the count if it is very low, but the outcome is not predictable all the time. I feel the psychological impact is so damming that no one should have to go through that. As they say, prevention is better than cure.
Anxiety is an emotional state that can become a disorder, and even lead to ill health, if not addressed. It is alarming, how many christians are anxious. You would expect us to have the advantage, but we don’t use it. Jesus said ” Do not worry about what you will eat or drink”. Elsewhere, it is written, “Be anxious for nothing”. When the people who should be the salt of the earth, are consumed by worry, who then shall be saved?
A lady brought her 9 month old son and told me he was breathing fast. I examined the child, but nothing seemed to be wrong. When I informed her he was not in respiratory distress, she got angry and turned to the nurse.
“Wont you nebulise this boy for me?”
The nurse told her she would not, if I did not authorize it. The nebuliser is a device that converts liquid drugs to gaseous form. It is used for asthma patients, so when they inhale the drugs, it acts directly on the lungs, and they are relieved quickly. Her son was not asthmatic. He had a cold, and was breathing a bit noisily because one nostril was blocked. I explained this to her, using diagrams and so on but, she looked at me like I was silly.
“Is it that the nebuliser is not working? ” she asked the nurse. She ignored me, believing she had a better chance of convincing the nurse.
“Madam, I will not use it on this child”, she insisted. “Last month, a lady came here and left angrily when we refused to nebulise her child. She went elsewhere and convinced them to do it for her. The child ended up with heart failure. She spent close to N2 million in the hospital where he was treated”
“God forbid! It’s not my portion!”, she exclaimed.
Meanwhile, the child was sleeping calmly. I pointed this out to her, telling her no child in distress would fall asleep. She ignored me.
“Even if you use it, it will not harm him”, she carried on. “Let’s nebulise him”
To cut a long story short, she stormed out, angry that we did not do her bidding. The nurse later told me she had 4 daughters, and had adopted a boy when a son wasn’t in the cards. I had wondered about her having such a young son, as she appeared to be middle aged. You can see why she was moved by desperation.
When I was discussung it with a colleague, he told me that someone else would have put water in the nebuliser and charged her good money. I told him that I did not do that because, I wanted her to know the difference between asthma and catarrh. Part of my call, is to set people free from unnecessary hospital visits. It is not a good thing, being hypochondriac; you waste time and energy health workers could have invested in those who were actually ill.
Do you find that you panic easily? Are you suffering illnesses no one believes you have? Do you hear your heart beating very loudly? Sometimes you hear your abdomen growl loudly? I appreciate what you’re going through. Take 3 days off your busy schedule. Write down 10 scriptures that mention peace, healing, provision, safety, and so on. An example is the one I quoted earlier. Use google or a study bible. Memorize them and walk round your house early in the morning quoting them loudly. During the day, when those symptoms show up, quote them again. Soon, they will be a distant memory.
Every doctor, even the non Christian, will tell you an optimistic patient, is one who will soon get well. I pray that you believe me and impement my advice. Live well.
I have mentioned in a previous post how averse Nigerians are to visiting orthopaedic hospitals because they fear their limbs will be amputated for no just cause. They prefer the traditional bone setters who offer you care for the fractures medical doctors refuse to ‘patch up’. At the time this happened, I was working for an orthopaedic surgeon. He was an excellent doctor, so we got lots of referrals from others.
A man was brought in unconscious. The doctor who admitted him told me later that he was brought in by some of his church members. I enquired whether he collapsed in church and he said no. The patient was an ‘elder’ in the church. He had complained of ill health and so they took him to their church, (location unknown), for serious prayers. His wife and children did not even know where he was. During the prayer session (which lasted several weeks), they observed he was getting weaker. At the point that he became comatose, they rushed him to the hospital intending to drop him and scurry off, like rats deserting a sinking ship. In fact, they called his relatives to come and take him away as he was close to death. It was his elder brother who agreed to pay his bills before they brought him. While trying to figure out the cause of his coma, his blood glucose level was found to be extremely high. Medication was commenced to correct this but, he kept slipping in and out of consciousness. His wife was not in the picture, his relatives were busy quarrelling amongst themselves, the church members prayed much but, would not cough out money for his drugs. It was frustrating. When you as a professional try to hold up the banner of Christ at work and others rubbish your efforts, you just feel like booting them out!
This man was brought in as a new patient and no one could give his past medical history. He had an injury on his right thumb which was causing the flesh of that hand to decay so, we were dressing the wound as well. 2 days into his stay, a doctor who had been on leave came into the ward and recognized him. It turns out the patient was a highly placed official in the local government and quite rich. His financial contribution to the church caused them to appoint him as an elder. He was so honoured and revered, he began to believe the hype. Soon, they convinced him his wife was plotting his downfall. They had him eating out of their hands because they knew how to stroke his ego. This doctor said he presented with a hand injury he sustained while fishing. When he mentioned he was diabetic, he was offered in-patient care, in order to prevent gangrene. He refused and left with some oral medication.
Few days later, the hand injury was getting putrid, he kept lasping back into coma after being conscious for some hours, his blood glucose was fluctuating. An Internal physician reviewed the case and suggested amputation of the thumb. This, he said, would enable us control all the other symptoms. Let me explain a bit. Infections and diabetes have a complicated relationship. Diabetes makes patients prone to infections because the increased blood sugar creates an enabling environment for bacteria and other organisms. As the bible says, where the carcass lies, vultures will gather. Diabetes also compromises the blood supply to certain parts of the body, especially the feet and hands. Healing is a function of the blood, as antibodies and other defense mechanism are transported by the blood. For this reason, their injuries are more difficult to treat.
Of course, both the family and church refused the amputation. We were weary of battling for his life. He kept me awake many nights, moaning in pain. The nurses were sick of cleaning his hand which was quite foul smelling, and the gangrene was spreading. Finally, we asked them to make a decision or take him elsewhere. Believe me, each time an instruction was given, the church would give their opinion, then the brothers, then the kinsmen. In all this, we never met his wife.
After about a week, they gave permission for the amputation of his right thumb. It was too late though. He died anyway. Immediately, the brothers went to his employers to get his benefits. They were asked to get a death certificate. We refused to give it to them until his wife showed up. A young lady of 25 or less, she and her children were kept in the dark till he died. She was told he was ill and in hospital but not how serious it was or which hospital he was in. They prevented her from speaking to her husband on phone or contacting him in anyway. Ethically, he who pays the piper calls the tune so we could have obliged them but, we kept the death certificate because they exhibited obscure motives.
Note that no one can love you more than you love yourself. Next in line, are your wife and children. Be suspicious of those who try to replace your family. Take your health in your hands, no one should make you feel guilty about seeking help. Prevention is always better than cure. While I prefer divine healing, not everyone will agree to pay the price. That is the reason for the proliferation of false prophets. People want someone else to read the bible on their behalf, pray for them, be holy in their stead. When challenges come, it is the spiritual muscle you have built up that you can use. If you dont have any, or the one you have is tiny, see a doctor and follow his advice, while you build your faith. Be blessed
So this lady comes in and says her periods have been irregular and she doesn’t know why. She’s worried she has an infection that is causing the problem. After a number of questions I couldn’t get to the root of her complaints.
“Which is the problem?” I ask. “Do you believe you have an infection or it is your period you’re worried about?”
“My period is the issue but I think I have an infection so I need antibiotics” she replied.
I scratched my head in frustration. She was giving me evasive answers, expecting me to prescribe medication without a diagnosis. This is a ccommon problem Nigerian doctors face; patients who don’t know the difference between symptoms and diagnosis.
Glancing at her folder, I noticed her age was not recorded. All that was written was adult. I decided to tread carefully. This was obviously someone who was sensitive about her age.
“Roughly how old are you?” I asked, pretending to be looking at the folder.
“Em….. I’m not too sure” she murmurred. “Is it because of my period? My mother still saw hers at my age and my older sister is still menstruating”
“Do you have children?”
“Not yet. I’m believing God for children”
“Why didn’t you just say so when you came in, rather than going on and on about infections?”
“I believe that if you treat the infections I will conceive” she stated.
“So is it possible you are 35 years old?” I asked slyly.
“Could you be over 40?”
She nodded again.
“Do we just conclude that you are 50?”
“It’s not really about my age”, she argued.
“I’m not trying to embarrass you but you have not had a period for 3 years, you might be headed for menopause. That does not mean you cannot conceive but you have to admit the truth first”
The story is too long to relate here, but why would you lie to a doctor you expect to help you? I rest my case.
I was working in a high brow part of town. The clinic was a children’s clinic and we had to battle daily with all sorts of spoilt brats who just made you feel like prescribing a spanking. Most of their parents were bored housewives who had been convinced to put aside their dreams to play ‘Trophy wife’. They often came in posh cars, chauffeur-driven, with nannies in tow. Designer bags, foreign accents, and high heels completed the look. Sometimes my boss would be so embarrassed by their revealing clothing, he would actually walk away.
This lady comes in with her son who has a fever. After examination, I make a diagnosis and prescibe anti-malarials.
“Let me call the gynaecologist who attended to me in London where he was born and the pediatrician who managed him” she quips, bringing out the latest smart phone. (This ‘baby’ is over 5 years old).
I smile indulgently. She calls someone and we chat.
“So are you sure he has malaria?” she asks.
I assure her that the laboratory tests could not be wrong.
“Give me the prescription; when next I travel abroad, I’ll get the drugs for him” she requests.
Dear reader, what should I tell her? Do you know anyone who goes to Russia or Dubai to buy anti-malarials?