Recently, a video on neonatal resuscitation being done outside Nigeria was put on twitter with the caption, “Nigerian doctors, how far?”
The outrage from doctors was totally expected. There was no way that comment was going to be ignored. That video showed the basics that any doctor who has obtained the appropriate degree should have. It showed what Nigerian doctors have done, are doing and will still do. Not rating or recommending them, but even traditional birth attendants know to spank a neonate into crying and taking the first and most important breath of life. So, asking how far and directing it at Nigerian doctors is just an insult too big to let slide.
It is ignorance. It is mockery. It is evil.
It is Nigeria.
We do not even value what we have, who we are or what we are capable of. We barely even know our worth and if it is shoved right up our faces, we won’t recognize it for what it is.
We say it in proverbs, we talk about it in stories, we show it in statistics; you rarely know the worth of what/who you have till you don’t have it anymore. More so, a prophet is of the least honor in his own hometown.
I can go into defending other professionals whose worth is ridiculed day in, day out in Nigeria but I am a doctor and I will speak first for my own, unlike some citizens.
The average (Nigerian) doctor spends a greater percentage of his life in the hospital, working to save everybody’s life except his. People who work from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday are putting in 40 hours of work. They know how much they look forward to Friday and the weekend. They know how tired and fagged out they are by the close of work on Friday. They know how they dread Mondays. Yet, they have the privilege of going home once the clock strikes 4pm.
But for doctors, there is really no distinguishing line between weekdays and weekends. They are all just work days.
I’d show you.
Between the 14th of this month and the 22nd, I was on a 24 hours call on the 14th, 16 hours call on the 17th, 19th and 22nd and that was after being at work for the required 8 hours for those days and the other days I was not on call. Simply put, I put in 120 hours of work and that was still mild. When I was in Paediatrics Surgery, I was on 24 hours call from one Monday to the next.
In those times, I was not snoozing, waiting for the next day to come. I was not watching BBN (Big Brother Naija). I was not playing Candy Crush. I was not even able to update the ongoing story on my blog. I was working with colleagues to save lives, to give well being, attending to biological, psychological and social needs, sometimes contributing my last cash to help a patient procure drugs. I was working with frustrated, tired, angry and tensed up people who for no fault of theirs have to deal with the failures of the system we work in.
And someone dares to ask me how far?
The average (Nigerian) doctor is an innovator. There are loopholes everywhere. Things that should abound like water are essentially not available, or at least, not to the common man.
Recently, I was discussing with a friend of mine about the tourniquet. I did not know or see the actual tourniquet till we were preparing for final exams in school. And since I started house job, I have only seen it been used in one department. It did not last a month because while it was the real deal, majority of the doctors are used to the other alternatives; certain lengths of feeding tubes cut or a glove tied round the patient’s arm.
Our phones carry more germs than our ward coats shield us from. This is because, we have to make use of its light source in many ‘unsafe’ situations.
It is 12am, I have just been summoned to the ward to attend to a patient who needs an intravenous access. I am tired. I slept hungry just thirty minutes ago. Rain is falling and I run under the rain to get to the ward. As I get the materials ready, power goes off. I already have my gloves on. I am the only house officer on call in that ward. I need to see before I can see a vein. The ward lamp is not available because somebody forgot to charge it when there was power. I have no other choice than to bring out my phone and put on the torchlight. It now remains how God would help me position the phone and the light it was giving just right so as to get the job done. I need both hands to work and I really can’t expect the phone to levitate.
Or take the other instances when we have to check the reaction of a patient’s pupils to light. Nobody has a pen torch. So, phone torchlight it is. And sometimes, the phone has to be held with gloved hands. Let’s not even talk about the times we have to hold the same phones in our mouths while transfusing neonates through their umbilical vein.
And someone dares to ask me how far?
The average (Nigerian) doctor is a victim. A victim of everything we try to save others from. How many times have I tweeted or posted on other social media about healthy living?
We encourage people to get enough sleep as at when due, as at your body demands, as at your God given hormones influence. But, the last time I considered my sleep pattern normal was in 100 level. Nowadays, even when I am meant to be asleep, my mind is rarely asleep. I am thinking;about the unstable patients, about the 19 year old boy that died, about the case summaries I have to type, about the surgeries scheduled for the next day and how I need to ensure that each person has blood in the blood bank in case of things going south. I have intermittent insomnia. I wake up feeling groggy, wondering if I actually slept or just zoned out for a bit.
We encourage people to get used to eating right. Haq haq haq many times. I have not bought foodstuff in months. I have been living on ordering food, not because I am extra rich but because I know by the time I am done with the cooking, I’d either be too tired to eat or I’d be back at work attending to some emergency. I also know that if I intend cooking in bulk, I need a refrigerator, microwave and power supply that does not Amaka’. Also, if out of 168 hours of a week, I spend 120 at work, why should I bother cooking? So, I am left at the mercy of ‘Iya Bash’, ‘Iya Amaka’ and ‘Chiklet’ or the Hausa guy in front of the gate selling suya which I know is not good for me.
And someone dares to ask me how far?
Look, a doctor just died days ago. It hit us all like a hurricane. But, more or less like a familiar one. Do we want to start mentioning all our colleagues lost to the unfavorable environment called Nigeria? Or have we quickly forgotten the LUTH house officer stabbed to death? Or the kidnapped ones we never heard of again?
I could not even cry. A man we interacted with that morning was gone by the evening. He had a family. He had a team he was working with. He had dreams and aspirations.
You see us in ward coats and you think, white coat privilege… You see us in theater scrubs and you think, padded pride… You see these face masks and you think, smug smiles.
You really do not know what is going on.
Behind that mask, many of us battle myriad of negative emotions. But, we put on brave faces every day, in the hopes that beyond our heavenly reward, the earth we serve will honor us before the ‘six foot’ location arrives.
Don’t you dare ask me how far.
#ImageMuse: Dr. Akanni.