Thursday, June 20, 2019
Harrisburg, PA, USA

Continued from Part 1

Nigerians need to form the habit of getting yearly health checkups (physicals):

ne of the most important habits Nigerians must learn from Western nations is the concept of yearly health checkups or physicals. Some believe that one only needs a doctor when one is sick. Trying to convince me that he was healthy, a contemporary in Nigeria told me that he last saw a doctor “five years ago”. He did not understand that every ailment goes through different stages of incubation. If detected early, treatment is easier, less costly and chances of survival are higher.

During yearly physicals, doctors subject a patient to a battery of medical and physical examinations. Anomalies are treated preemptively. Through research, scientists in advanced nations have identified medical and physical tests that should be administered on a patient at certain age range. They know the age range when women are most vulnerable to diseases like breast cancer and hence breast examinations and mammograms are recommended at those stages. They know the age at which men’s susceptibility to prostate cancer is highest and recommend required screening. All these prophylactic actions save lives in the United States and positively affect longevity.

Nigerians need to become more curious about ailments that their family members are susceptible to. Seeking out and providing their doctors with their family medical history to use for designing their health checklists for yearly physicals, will be a step in the right direction.

In addition to not getting yearly physicals, some do not even go to doctors when they are sick until it is too late! They believe that people can diabolically send ailments to others by air although that belief is slowly fading. When folks that have these types of belief fall sick, they assume that their ailment is supernatural and hence need supernatural healing. Instead of going to a doctor, they go to herbalists who give them concoctions to take. Most times, these concoctions harm rather than heal. Some people just uproot from their homes and head to “healing homes”, where they are kept for weeks for “fasting and deliverance”. While all this is going on, the sickness would be getting worse. Only when symptoms become debilitating do they see a doctor. At that point, it would have become late. This antiquated mindset needs to be changed through education.

Advanced nations have state of the art hospitals and Labs: Another problem that most Nigerians face is the scarcity of up-to-date medical facilities. A good doctor is as good as the equipment he or she has available for diagnoses. I talked to a contemporary, the last time I visited Nigeria, about getting a colonoscopy to check for stomach polyps that become cancer if not removed on time. Someone later told me that places that perform colonoscopies are very few and far in between in Nigeria. He added that if you find them, you will “pay through the nose” because not all doctors can perform the procedure. That is disheartening because that procedure is a life saver in advanced nations.

Medical labs lack sophisticated equipment for accurate test results. When my mother was sick many years ago, her lab test results seemed to vary depending on where the test was conducted. It became very confusing to tell exactly which test results were correct. Lab test results for one person should not vary so widely if equipment are state of the art. In the United States, so many hospitals continue to push the envelope of science. Their discoveries are helping to cure diseases that would normally kill people just a few years ago. They are complemented by state- of- the-art medical labs. New discoveries each day, lead to disease containment or outright cures. Nigerians must learn to pay attention to the hospitals and labs they go to. Don’t just go to a hospital or lab because it has a sign board that says, “hospital or lab”. Seek out and use reputable ones. Check their track record from people who already patronize them.

In advanced nations, doctors are current with medical advancement and new drugs: While I applaud the tenacity of doctors in Nigeria, putting in their best under some of the worst practicing conditions like absence of the right equipment, I have seen some that should not be called doctors at all because of their poor track records. Some private hospitals are so filthy that the environment alone could worsen a patient’s ailment. When my brother and I visited a mutual friend that was involved in an accident and broke his arm, I was alarmed when we entered the hospital ward. Everywhere was very dirty. Long after we departed for the United States, his wound still had not healed. I continued to believe that infection was a culprit.

Some doctors use unhygienic equipment for their services. Although there are no studies available, but it is my considered opinion that some of the senseless deaths we read about there, after hospital visits, have a lot to do with some of these anomalies. The bottom line is that every Nigerian should be wide-eyed. Don’t just go to a doctor. Check their reputation. Consult with patients that may have used the hospital and see if they were satisfied. It is your life, don’t let someone else ruin or end it.

Continued from Part 1

Author of the books- 1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays

2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War