June 12 1993

Dateline: June 12 1993

The day had finally come. The buildup had been exciting with all the radio and TV jingles, discussions, debates culminating in a high level of expectation. Nigeria seemed to finally be on the move as the deceitful Head of State had been cornered. The failings of the last democracy were pushed into the recesses of memories, although not forgotten, as a new start beckoned. The two party system also made it easier to decide where to pitch ones’ tent. It was either NRC or SDP. It was Abiola or Tofa. There was a clear favorite as the businessman, philanthropist politician had become a rallying point. Bashir Tofa was no competition for him but the process of an election had to be  played out.

It was the first election I was eligible to vote in. I had registered to vote and play my part in securing the future of my country and her future generations. I remembered “supporting” UPN and Awolowo in the previous election and being upset I wasn’t allowed to vote, wondering if the votes of my friends and I could have help Awolowo oust Shagari and his NPN. The reports of rigging in the 1983 election opened my eyes to cheating on a scale my young mind hadn’t heard of before. The reports of corruption prior to the election had given me more than a peek into man’s injustice to his fellow men. The Buhari coup had been welcome to halt the rot; the War Against Indiscipline had been confusing in that why did we have to be forced to do the right thing; the execution of drug pushers was conflicting as it seemed right to curb the crime, but probably not with such extreme measures, especially done publicly. The Babangida coup was surprising as I gained an insight into man’s quest for power as I was maturing. I learnt more about corruption as the Evil Genius established his reign. But thankfully there were still more than a few good men and quality opposition leaders in Nigeria and integrity persisted in many places, as the maradona was tackled until he knew he couldn’t keep up the charade of dangling the carrot of a promised election in our faces any longer.

Unfortunately I would not be voting on that day. Fate had contrived to put this house officer (newly graduated doctor) on call on June 12 1993. So I woke up early and set out to provide emergency services for those who would need it. Thankfully my jalopy started with the first kick and I smiled to myself as I thought of battery charger, a self-acclaimed political analyst. I was sure he would be the first in line at his polling station. It was 7.30am when I set out and the roads were deserted. My Fiat was the only car on the Third Mainland Bridge which kind of eerie, more so because I scared he might develop a fault and there’d be no one to help me, like there had been on at least three previous occasions.

Thankfully we made it to General Hospital Lagos without incident. After taking over from the previous day’s call team, mine sat and waited. I was in the surgery department then, and we were anticipating a tough day given the possibility of violence arising from the elections. Extra sutures and bandages were in place, blood in the blood bank, medication in the pharmacy and doctors in the emergency room. We waited. We waited. We waited. But no one came. No emergency drove in. Occasionally we listened to the radio and television to get news on the elections and heard of a peaceful ongoing process. The screen showed optimistic Nigerians casting their votes jovially in a well-organized election process. Abiola and Tofa were also shown casting their votes. MKO flashed those teeth and gave the characteristic two hand wave to give me goose pimples. The Nigerian messiah was here.

The sun went down and about 8pm an emergency came in. A taxi driver who had run into a fallen road sign on Eko bridge. He was in a bad way but we were more than ready with loads of equipment, hands and energy to handle him. He was quickly resuscitated and stabilized. He lived. It felt like he was Nigeria and we were the new Nigerians, ready to work together at National revival. The freest and fairest election ever in Nigeria had just been concluded. We were on the verge of a new dawn. We were united and ready to move forward. June 12 1993 was Day One of the journey.

 

 

*sigh*

What a journey it turned out to be. Like a man who refused to ask for directions, we seem to be going round in circles. This makes one wonder what would have happened if June 12 had been allowed to stand.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Managing Stress

It was about 7.30pm on a Thursday. Not my best time of the week as the work and life burdens of Mondays and Tuesdays usually peaked on Wednesday evenings/nights and plateaued from then on till relaxing Friday evenings. In the medical profession it’s hard to find such constant trends but mine was determined by the 24 hour shift I did weekly on Wednesdays. A brief rest on late Thursday morning and afternoon was always rudely interrupted by the evening locuum I had taken up to make the extra buck. Stressful but I needed the extra buck to move to the stage where I would not need the extra buck, as least not so desperately. I called for the next patient.

He came in and I threw the casual greeting glance at him and fixed my plastic smile on my face to compliment it. I needed the plastic smile today as the previous day had been bruising on call. He was one of those bankers, big boys in their suave dressing, looking sharp even at this time of the day and oozing of a smell of a classy perfume, the type that lasted 24 hours.
“What can I do for you sir,” I asked, as I jotted my notes on him like an inexperienced court clerk, thus looking down at the notes as I wrote.
“I have a headache,” came the response.
“How long has it been?”
“A few days.”
“Is it it whole head?”
“Just one side.”
“Does it affect your concentration, make you feel faint, associated with any fever….” I mechanically asked the routine questions.
“No, not really not at all, never….” etc were the negative answers I got.
There’s nothing wrong with this man I thought and looked up to subtlety dismiss him and push my evening faster. With a closer look at him, I had to reconsider.
His eyes were bulging, he was breathing quietly, but heavily, such that I almost saw the air go in and out. His hands were shaking.
“Why wouldn’t one have a headache in this Lagos sef with all its stress,” I said changing my approach to empathize with him.
“In fact doctor………” He started as he launched into a 20 minute monologue in which I heard the details of his stressful job with its targets and demanding boss and irritating colleagues, his commuting challenges with Lagos traffic, his struggling to be there for his wife and children who demanded his time despite his tight weekly work schedule and mounting bills, and some other things I didn’t really understand.
I empathized further by agreeing with him and telling a short version of my stress story. I reassured him that his blood pressure and other vital signs were normal. I “prophesied” that this was just a passing phase in his life and things would get better.
I offered to give him some medication, mild pain killers and a light sedative, but he declined.
“I feel better, thanks doc,” he said. In fact the headache is gone.
The miracle seem complete as his eyes were brighter, the breathing more stable and his hand very stable as I shook it to say bye.
I was also feeling less stressed at that point in time. As I heaved a deep breath, a more genuine smile decorated my face.

 

STRESS
Stress is everywhere. It is no respecter of person or status and it is hard to quantify as it varies in intensity and tolerability from person to person. What exactly is stress?
The dictionary defines stress as “a state of physical, mental or emotional strain.” The medical definition states that “Stress is defined as a process in which environmental demands strain an organism’s adaptive capacity resulting in both psychological demands as well as biological changes that could place the individual at risk for illness.”
However I like the definition that says “stress is an individual’s response to pressure.” This is built on the premise that stress can be positive or negative. The human body elicits a fight or flight response to stress in order to tackle it. This is characterized by:
– An increase in heart rate and a rise in blood pressure
– Hardening and tensing of muscles
– Slowing of digestion and increased acid production in the stomach
– Faster breathing to take up more oxygen
In the long term when they are not controlled and linger long, these can lead to hypertension, ulcers, reduced immunity, depression and even suicidal thoughts. The effects on our relationships at work and at home can also be devastating. On the positive side these responses can help us brace up to challenges and tackle them head on.

What are the sources of stress?
Like my patient above stresses is caused by situations at work and in relationships.
Over the years, the identified top ten causes of stress are:

– Spouse’s death

– Marital Separation

– Jail term / imprisonment

– Death of a close relative

– Injury of illness

– Marriage

– Loss of job

– Marriage reconciliation

– Retirement

However, of particular importance in Nigeria today are causes such as:

– Poverty

– Unemployment

– Violent crimes most especially armed robbery

– Kidnapping

– Political uncertainty

– Permit me to add school fees, uncertainty about the future and a fumbling football team

But then again my favorite source for definitions says there is only one source of stress. YOU! This goes with the definition of stress being our response to pressure. The beauty of this definition is that it sets a template for us to prevent, manage and treat our stress. In order to do this we must look at the stressors within us. These include:

-Our thoughts

-Our responses

-Our lifestyle

Controlling Your Thoughts
Our perception of events can lead to stress. This is sometimes unnecessary as the worst we fear may never happen and they are also not helpful when we indulge in pity parties when things do go wrong. We can generate new perspectives on an issue by:
1. Writing the facts of the matter on paper for clarity
2. Putting ourselves in the shoes of others to see how they might perceive the situation
3. Talking to others is always quite helpful in getting a different perspective
Having done this we can choose the perspective that reduces our pressure.
Controlling and reinforcing our positive thoughts by putting them into words with repetitive self talk and saying them out loud is also very helpful. Our thoughts help to influence our responses.

Managing Your Responses
Our responses to pressure are crucial to our managing our stress. These responses may be:
-Physical
-Mental
-Emotional
-Behavioral
Rather than respond spontaneously to circumstances, we should always try and do the following:
-Get more information
-Be open minded
-Share our concerns with others
-Reduce pressure by learning to say No when we can and should
-Avoid blaming others
-Resolve conflicts amicably respecting the others opinions and aiming for a win-win situation. Listen to others.

These steps help us take control. Remember it’s your pressure, your response, your choice and your life.

Correcting Your Lifestyle
Stress affects the mind and the body. Controlling thoughts and managing responses help the mind. Correcting our lifestyle will help the body. What to do?
1. Exercise. The value of exercise cannot be underrated. Exercise helps improve our fitness, clear our minds, improves sleep and prevents disease among others
2. Eating healthy
3. Cut off bad habits; smoking, drinking, excessive TV, etc
4. Relax… Yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, just chillax like the new generation will say
5. Have healthy relationships; family, friends, colleagues can be very helpful when talking to relieve stress
We must create time to focus on these positive lifestyle patterns as the common excuse is not finding the time or space to do them. Truth is that we are always running out of time with each passing minute. Time to be used for good, time to be used to really improve our lives. We MUST find the right balance and it is doable.

Since excessive and prolonged stress can be very detrimental to one’s physical and mental health, a timely diagnosis, including identification of the stressor(s) and proper management using the techniques mentioned above, is necessary to avert the mentioned negative effects on our health. If you think you are under a significant stress, you are probably right. It is time to take a look in the mirror to see the source of your stress. Talk to yourself, breathe and smile. You could also talk to someone about it. If you’re lucky you may also find a not so tired or stressed doctor with a listening ear, an original smile and good counsel.

written for Skribble magazine of Resource intermediaries

http://resourceintermediaries.org/wp-content/uploads/skribble/2017-first-edition/mobile/index.html#p=13

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back To School

Most schools in Lagos and globally will resume this week. For the children it’s like going back to “work” although it’s often with more excitement compared to parents who go back to work after a holiday. Back in the 80s in FGCL Ijanikin, boarding school would have already resumed since Friday and by the time it’s the 3rd term of your first year, you went back with excited, relishing the “freedom” and adventures that awaited you. It’s not like leaving home is easy but by the time you get to Mile 2 you have reset. At Alraine you are already “home”.

The major joy of resumption is seeing friends again. At school almost everyone is your “friend” as handshakes, “long time, how you dey etc” greetings are done and said numerous times on the day. It’s all smiles and there is plenty of laughter. The teasing starts from the first minute even as you are offloading your suitcase from the car. Having done that you scout around for your caucus, which may involve a stroll to another house, and along the way seniors and juniors are met with more smiles and greetings. When the whole “gang” get together, the laughs and feel good feeling escalates to another level.

Stories of escapades from the holidays were shared and those who travelled to abroad always stole the show as there was always a memento for the rest of us to gape at with envy. That was usually after summer holidays. After Christmas holidays it was often stories of village trips which also stimulated envy from some who didn’t go anywhere. Everyone had a story anyway and many ears were ready to listen.

New designs of sewn house wear uniforms are scoped and that is when everyone is at their neatest. Probably that adds to the colour of resumption.The fact that everyone is well fed from home and the new haircuts also glamorizes the picture. Even the dorm toilets are clean on day one, although I wonder who goes there on that day to even take note. Not that you want it as morning duty for day two though by which time “normal service” is being assumed. This is essentially because school food is ignored and bowls of rice from different homes are shared. We gobble them down with relish and gluttony cause we know we will not taste good food like that until the next visiting day.

Quite occasionally at about 6pm some of the girls come out for a “stroll” to the classroom area. I often wondered why as a junior, but I learnt by year three that is was more of a parade of some sort and of course we the audience appreciated the show, as those funny emotions and reactions within our adolescent bodies were rekindled after being on holiday for a while too. The friendly guys were always quick to provide an escort for the ladies on this stroll. Later on, some guys would do their own parade to Coles Joint for drinks. Business was always good for Mrs Cole this week of the term, everyone was rich!

After a late night with no lights out, the fake dormitory inspection organized by prefects and house masters was played out with relative ease; after all bed sheets are very white and ironed and so is the school uniform or house wear. Faces not seen the day the before are given the remnants of the still very warm greetings from the day before. An outdoor game, usually soccer, breaks out and a good crowd gathers to watch. The dining hall is still largely ignored as provisions are still aplenty and money to buy bread and sardine, or even baked beans is available. The first visit to the dining hall is reserved for Sunday and is the highlight of that day.

I doubt if anyone actually opens an academic book until Monday, so really maybe that is when school does resume; after that 1st assembly during which we “reconnect” with the Principal and all the teachers present, whispering their nicknames and giggling at the yabis targeted at them. Meeting up with the day students completes the reconnection cycle and we are ready for the term.

The term will write its own story. There will be many adventures. There will be fights, new boy-girl relationships and break ups, sports thrills, struggles with the books, bullying or whisking as we called it, truancy from classes and from school, school parties, dreaded exams, cashew hunting and plenty more laughter. All these things and more played out every term for 5 years, mounding us into the final product pushed out on graduation day. By then a significant phase of our lives would have been completed and we move to the next chapter.

It really was a blessing for me to have that experience of my life in FGCL. The school and it’s students from before my time and after my time continue to create new stories and plenty more laughter. Here’s wishing all the students resuming school a pleasant return to school, and here’s praying they will be well moulded socially and academically to produce a better generation for this country.

image

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maternal Mortality

 

……and so the woman died
Died with her hopes, her dreams, her potential and her love
Love for the 3 children she left behind, the last one a 3 day old baby
Who might soon join her beyond if special care is not taken
Love for her husband, who must be confused at the adjustment he has to make

She died…..
because she wanted to have a baby
Because she had a surgery to deliver the baby
Probably because the surgeon wasn’t skilled enough
Because she bled after the surgery
Because she couldn’t get enough blood after
Because her kidneys failed after
Because she wasn’t referred early enough
Because (all) efforts at resuscitation proved abortive
Because of a struggling health system
Because of a plundered country
Because of……..so many causes

So many opportunities to stop the death
From before pregnancy to antenatal care to delivery and to the postpartum
We’re these opportunities seen?
Could they have been taken?
Could more efforts at prevention, treatment and resuscitation been taken?
I think we all know the answer is yes

Let us move from knowing to acting
Let us act in prevention, treatment and resuscitation
Let us go the extra mile
Let us have more compassion
Let us not be numb to death
Let us remember our calling as health care personnel
Let’s save their lives

So help us God

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Called to do

It is a terrible thing to wish the judgement of God on any man
The judgement of God is based on a harsh truth which stands in line with His Word
Who can stand blameless if God were to judge
The murderer, thief, adulterer, pedophile, etc all seemingly deserve that judgement
But in reality what they deserve is God’s mercy and our pity
For they were not born that way
They were misled by man and his social vices
Some were oppressed into sin as we call it
Some were deceived into sins miry pool
Others not even knowing what they were doing indulged in it
But the good Shepherd laments at the loss of his sheep
And always goes out to look for them
Unfortunately so many of us are lost
Some wander away and luckily find their way back
His sufficient grace always welcoming us home
His love comforting all prodigals
Not always curing us from the scars of our travails
But easing the pain and helping us heal within which is what matters
So let’s pray the grace and mercy of God on all
Let’s pity the “sinner” who is lost and causing pain to many
The earlier he changes the better for us all
If he dies without changing more people will suffer from his depraved state
Only then can he truly face the judgement of God
For God is merciful and patient with us all
Patient with we the “righteous” the “saved” the “sinful” and the “depraved”
Jesus died for us all
Hoping to show us what true grace is
Hoping to show us what true humanity is
Hoping to show us what true love is
Hoping to show us what really matters
Hoping to show us who God really is
It’s a tough walk this trek of life
It needs direction and focus for a Pilgrim to progress
For there are many distractions along the path
Even within the church and among the “righteous”
But His grace abounds and delivers us
Picking us up when we fall again and again
Leading us on and giving us strength
Showing us who we truly are
And delivering us from the judgement of God
It is a terrible thing to wish the judgement of God on any man
Leave that for Him to decide
The grace of God can cause pain and anguish
Leading to repentance and wholesomeness
So let’s learn to forgive and pray the mercy of God on all men
It’s a very tough ask and almost impossible
But it is what God Himself calls us to do

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Battle Within

As he lay on the feather stuffed cloth,
His eyes, fixed on the drab abode of hungry spiders,
His face, twisted in consternation,
Responding to the chaos from the battle within,
Which caused his head to sting in drum beat manner;
The lashes on the upper and lower lids met,
Enveloping the emerging darkness,
Strangely he could see more clearly
And felt like he was at that beach in Normandy……..

The voices boomed as the mob argued,
Some of them he recognised,
Others he never knew dwelt there.
The fish seller was there, proclaiming his cause alone,
The green eyed monster concurred,
Confirming their deviously struck pact.
Mr G.R Eed demanded his untamed desire,
Aided by his partner in crime, Mr Anger.
Youthful Lust carnally sneaked in,
Silently but recognisably,
Urged on by the others to take the stage.
Timid Guilt’s protests were conveniently ignored,
As Shame typically covered his own face.
Struggling to be unshackled, Hatred roared,
As all of hell was about to be let loose….

Suddenly there was a hissing sound,
Which triggered a calming hush,
Heralding the entrance into this scene,
Of a Ghost said to be divine.
In tow were virtue and other birds of the same feather,
Gentle but strong in their characters and ways.
The silence hummed as the fiends cowered,
For now Peace was to have his say…..

The tips of his lips curled northwards,
And the fluttering of the lashes allowed the radiant light in,
The calm remained, with a feeling of warmth.

Even the starving spiders seemed content.

p.s
Normandy is a place in France where the final assualt on the Germans in the second world war started.

image

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TRAVEL NOTES

Travel? Well, it’s not easy to get to travel out when you live in a 3rd world country of penury such as this. One has the freedom to travel within the country though, but this has its perils which include roads littered with pot holes, drivers high on pot and vehicles as old as your mother’s first cooking pot!

I have sought to travel out of this country, indeed it was my ultimate ambition once upon a time. Like Dick Whittington and his cat, I hoped to go and pick gold on the streets of London, or America. I didn’t mind silver or bronze in Jamaica, Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago or Fiji Islands either. To watch Michael Jordan play basketball in Chicago or to play soccer for Huddersfield Town were some of my hidden motives.
I prayed to the Almighty, attempted the exams, sought governmental assistance, wrote all the letters and showed up at 3 embassies but was rejected on all these fronts. Anyway Michael Jordan has retired and I’m 30 (which is old in football years), so maybe it’s just as well!

Watching the birds soar freely in the sky often makes me wish I have wings. This gives me an insight into the craze for bonji jumping and sky diving. The latter 2 still look crazy to me, but to pick myself up and fly like an eagle would be simply sublime.
I do get to travel sometimes, so do not think of me as an isolated man within a cell. Thanks to the internet and cable TV, I am transported to continents far and wide. Thus I can watch Manchester United games and I witnessed the turn of the century in Australia live!
Music and books, especially those etched in history trans-locate one to the Pyramids in Egypt, Columbus’s ship, the Bastille prison in Paris, inside Mozart’s head, the courts of Borgia and other far off places.

I tried to tell Romeo that Juliet was not dead, I followed King Richard to war, I merried with Robin Hood, I travelled with Gulliver, I survived the Titanic submersion, I was awed by Nostradamus and I sympathised with Job as he awaited his Redeemer.

In life there are many journeys to make and we can choose where we want to go. Sometimes we get to our destinations and sometimes we don’t even get to pack our bags. We have expectations and anticipate what awaits us at end of our travel. On a deeper reflection, it does feel like at every point in time, we are always “traveling”, so maybe we need to stop and ask ourselves where we are headed.
I did so and sorted out the confusion in my head. I am now embarking on the ultimate journey, fully kitted and running hard with everything I have. Sometimes it’s a tough road and seemingly insurmountable obstacles appear with distractions and disappointments to slow me down. However I get my strength from what awaits me at my destination. The open arms into which I’ll fall make me smile as I plodder on at an increased pace, breaking into a trot.

Yes, if you’ve guessed right, the major trip for me now is the one which is taking me to heaven.

p.s

I found this in a Year 2000 diary of mine on a page titled “Travel Notes.” I just had to write something on that page then, more so as I hadn’t had the opportunity to travel out before then.

May we always get to travel and may we always get to our desired destinations.

image

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment