When the drama with South Africa over yellow fever cards blew up, diplomacy took the front burner while the underlying and more important sad tale of how poor our healthcare system in Nigeria is…
I was good at faking an illness in boarding school back in my junior secondary days. I wasn’t a prescription drug addict so it wasn’t about wanting to have pills shoved down my throat. I usually did it close enough to our visiting day so my parents were worried enough to get permission to take me home for better treatment. That instantly meant plenty cable TV time without having to listen to my annoying Business Studies teacher.
But I must have been 12 years old or so when I actually fell ill for real, many days before visiting day. There was no one to baby me so I had no choice but to be sent straight to the school clinic and dumped with the school nurse. There were legendary tales about her. And you know secondary school tales can be legendary.
Anyways, the malaria was killing me and I just needed something, anything to make me live again. She called me up after a few minutes. I tried to stand up but was too dizzy. She went; “My friend stand up. There are other people waiting.” I eventually went to her. She felt my neck with the back of her hands, checked my eyes and told me to sit. She pulled out a syringe, and filled it with something, then told me to pull my shorts down and submit my buttocks.
Poke! Then she pulled out the needle. I thought to myself that it went by really fast. Just as I was about to put on my shorts, she said; “I haven’t given it yet.” I was startled. Then she wiped another spot on my butt cheek with her cotton wool and poked again. Three seconds later, she pulled it out again. I asked if she was done and she said; “No, I’m not getting the spot well.” At this point, I was just about ready to die and make sure she got sued for murder.
She ended up getting it right at the third attempt and I recovered a few days later. She stayed on the job a few more terms before eventually getting the boot as the reports of her recklessness got overwhelming.
Healthcare and Nigeria should almost not be used in the same sentence. We all have unbelievably shocking stories of a family member, or friend who died or barely survived simply because nobody here really cares.
One of my friends had to go to India recently to get a kidney transplant after constantly being told in Nigeria that he should just lose weight and his constant ill health would stop. A close relative of mine had an open-heart surgery in the same Asian country after Nigerian doctors told him he was exaggerating the pain in his chest whenever he coughed. A girl I know that survived the UN building bomb attack, would be without limbs today if her parents weren’t rich enough to send her to America after doctors at the National Hospital in Abuja insisted she be amputated.
When the drama with South Africa over yellow fever cards blew up, diplomacy took the front burner while the underlying and more important sad tale of how poor our healthcare system in Nigeria is, was relegated to the background. Why are sensitive health cards, being sold at airports without any checks? Why are we more interested in telling South Africa to quarantine and inject our citizens instead of making sure we do the right thing here first? Why on the face of the earth is polio still a problem in this country in 2012?
We love to sweep things under the carpet; and we can only keep pretending that these things don’t bother us. I just wonder how long before we actually have the soul to start fixing things. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti once sang; “Yellow Fever, you dey bleach oh you dey bleach.” Thankfully, we all know that behind every bleached skin, lays an epidermis that is slowly rotting away…