UZOKWE'S SEARCHLIGHT

Monday, July 8, 2019
obiuzokwe@comcast.net
Harrisburg, PA, USA
CITIZENS OF OTHER NATIONS NOW LIVE LONGER, WHY CAN’T NIGERIANS? – PART 4 OF 4

Continued from Part 3

edical malpractice in Nigeria is not helping longevity: I once narrated how a relative lost his sight, in Nigeria, because of the carelessness of the surgeon. The standby generator was not functional when the main power source went off, in mid surgery. There are also stories of patients being rushed to hospital in emergencies, but not attended to because they could not pay the admission fee up front, resulting in eventual death. Accident victims suffer that all the time. Some doctors would refuse to intervene to close the source of profuse loss of blood all because patient cannot pay admission fee upfront. In advanced nations, such doctors will be disbarred from practice because these are clear cases of medical malpractice. The solution is for the medical board in the nation to add more teeth to what it does. Sensitize the public to the fact that they can report suspected cases of malpractice.

Exercising accepted as a life saver in western nations. It has been proven time and time again that exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and hence aids in overall good health. I was lifting weights alongside a black American sometime back at the gym. After a while, he turned around and introduced himself and wanted me to spot for him. As I was doing that, he said he was 40 years old and that his father passed away at an early age of 45 from heart disease. Later in life, his mother developed heart problems too. He was afraid that he might inherit heart disease so with the help of his doctor, he has made lifestyle changes that include diet and exercise. That was why he joined the gym. In advanced nations, physical activity has become accepted as a source of good health and the result is showing. Here in the United States, the worst place to try to guess someone’s age is in the gym. Most people always look younger. Scientists attribute it to the antiaging effect of exercise. This helps improve longevity in western nations. Nigerians have slowly started getting into the habit. It is a great development.

Presence of functioning emergency medical call system in advanced nations help save lives: Here in the United States, every resident that has access to a telephone has access to emergency medical or fire emergency service. Once called, emergency personnel respond and quickly use first aid procedures to stabilize the patient before evacuation to the closest hospital for full medical attention, if warranted. They carry out their work with utmost dispatch, mindful of the fact that time, sometimes mere minutes, makes the difference between life and death. Timely arrival and intervention of medical personnel, to scenes of medical emergencies, continue to save lives of countless citizens and account for the high average life expectancy in the country.

Contrast the above with Nigeria. On a daily basis, people die from medical emergencies in their homes, in their places of business or work, in the marketplaces, along the streets under the baking sun, in schools and other places too numerous to mention here. Cases abound where people suddenly collapse in their homes from heart problems, diabetic complications, food poisoning, excessive heat, gastrointestinal ailments and more. They die needlessly because of the absence of or poor emergency call system. If Nigeria must join other nations in improving the average life expectancy of her citizens, it is imperative that a nation-wide medical emergency call and response system is quickly put in place.

When I visited Nigeria a while ago, I drove from my home to the closest teaching hospital in my hometown. From the condition of the road, which was riddled with potholes, if an emergency vehicle tries to evacuate a heart patient from a location such as my home to that teaching hospital, by the time the vehicle would get to the hospital, the patient would have died from gallops. Furthermore, hospitals are so scantily equipped that successfully evacuating a patient, in emergency to the hospital, does not guarantee adequate medical care. All these inadequacies are obstacles to longevity.

Health Education and Awareness is sine qua non for improved life expectancy in Nigeria: Another issue that accounts for high average life expectancy in the United States is that in many families, there is at least one person trained on how to administer CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) or chest compression on a patient in emergency. That intervention helps a patient buy time before the medical emergency team arrives. Statistic shows that because of that, lives are saved on a daily basis. In Nigeria, when someone is going through a medical emergency, especially those associated with the heart, family members hurriedly haul the patient into a vehicle and dash off to a hospital. Without any actions that would help the patient buy time, the result is almost always catastrophic! You hear of people dying on the way to the hospital or shortly after arrival in the hospital.

Health awareness education is a must in Nigeria if things must improve in the health sector. One does not need a formal education to learn how to apply CPR or chest compression. The Heimlich maneuver, which is used to dislodge food that cause choking, a frequent cause of medical distress and sometimes death, can also be learned without any formal education. Local government centers should start holding short classes on how to help people in medical emergencies. Secondary and tertiary schools should make compulsory a course in emergency procedures. In public places like places of work, businesses, marketplaces, life-saving equipment like defibrillators, for chest compression, should be placed at strategic locations for use in emergencies.

There are just too many issues that cut life short in Nigeria and hence depress life expectancy. Carbon monoxide poisoning because of keeping generators too close to home, drinking and driving accidents, poverty, poor diet, armed robbery, and more, are some of them. This four-part treatise was not meant to exhaust all of them but to point out some so that a robust discussion can begin on the way forward.

Continued from Part 3

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

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

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