I am not going to tell you about how many times I tried to kill myself because of the different diseases I’m afraid of. I work in a hospital where an average of 50 patients come in every day with different symptoms and things disturbing them. Of these 50, probably 30 of them have just minor issues that need medication and they are fine. Of the 20, let’s say like 10 of them will need to be admitted for a maximum of two to three weeks. The remaining 10 are the ones that scare me. They have conditions that need major operations or have conditions that with or without surgery or medications would still kill them. Mr. Badmus was one of those people that fell into the category of the 10 that would eventually die.
He was rushed in by his daughter who said he had been coughing and throwing up blood for two weeks non-stop. We asked if he had any prior symptoms, probably he had been coughing for a long time with night sweats, maybe he had become wasted. We wanted to rule in or rule out the possible differentials for coughing and throwing up blood.
As a doctor, it is quite annoying when the answer to all your questions is no and this is what his daughter was doing. At first, we assumed she did not understand the importance of the questions we were asking. When she mentioned that she is a medical student who understands the significance of these questions, we had to rethink our assumption. We admitted Mr. Badmus and carried out lots of investigations. Thankfully, there was money with a lot of family support, friends and people who were just not ready for him to die yet.
I mean, he was just 57years old. Nobody will wants their people dead at 57. They still have a long life ahead of them even though the expected age for a Nigerian male is less than that. So, all the investigations; oesophagoscopy, laryngoscopy, abdominal ultrasound test, chest x-ray, computed tomography scan, full blood count, urinalysis, electrolytes urea and creatinine. Nothing came up positive. We were confused and it was difficult trying to explain to his family that we could not find anything wrong with this man. How were they to understand?
Yes, the hospital I work for is one of the most respected hospitals in the country. We have had high placed politicians, wealthy business tycoons, come to the hospital for treatment. Thankfully, the mortality rate in the hospital is quite low compared to some other hospitals around us, so, coming to the hospital was like the last chance for the family. We decided we were going to operate on him. Whatever it was that was wrong with him, we might be able to pick during the surgery. His wife who was so concerned about what was going on with her husband was in no state of mind to understand what we were trying to explain to her. Most of the decisions concerning Mr. Badmus’ health were being handled by his first son.
“We are going to operate on your father. Hopefully what is wrong with his system will be obvious in theatre. We would take care of it, come out and your father will be fine. But we can not be certain it would go this way. Do you understand?”
He signed the consent form and bought other necessary things for the surgery and we doctors went to prepare ourselves for it. On the day of surgery he was taken to the theatre, the anaesthetists, nurses and the doctors were all there. Before long, he was under anaesthesia, intubation was fine, he was connected to the multi parameter monitor. The nurse had just asked for “time knife on skin” when the light went off. It is not unusual for light to go during theatre sessions, perfectly normal.
I mean, this is Nigeria, so we did not panic, nobody screamed as their were no medical students in the theatre. So we were not scared of anybody seeing ghosts or calling for their mother. We just went to the standby power source to put it on while we awaited the restoration of the light. Surprisingly, it was not working. It just would not come on. Normally, if the light is not restored within 10 to 15 minutes, the generator should come on. We had been waiting for 20 minutes going to 25 yet the generator was not on. At that point we needed to do something. At that point, I actually started to panic. This was a 57 year old man who we had brought in for a surgery. We really had no clue what we were looking for or what we would find. Yet, of all the times for the light to go off, why now? Like other suites in the theatre were doing, we brought our patient out. He was dead. Just dead.
It was very difficult explaining to the family what had just happened to their father. Till he died, we had no idea what was wrong with him. Somewhere deep within me, i knew without the surgery he would have died. With the surgery, he would still have died. Sadly, we just could not send him home to die. He just had to die in the hospital.
This man and countless others who come to the hospital with diseases unexplainable to medicine are the ones that make me scared of life. Everything is perfectly normal in their lives until something goes wrong and when that one thing goes wrong, there is no going back. They would just go on to die.
So, I wonder, why not just beat the disease by killing myself first. Yeah, I’m a Christian. I am 34years, a senior doctor in a private hospital, my time table is flexible, I get paid well enough to take care of myself, my family and my family; I mean my extended family. I wasn’t looking for anything special to make my life a legend or something.
I was just scared. I was scared of not being there for my family, I was scared of becoming a victim of the diseases I treated myself. I was scared that I’d get to the point where I’d be begging my colleagues to let me die rather than be killed by whatever it was was going on in my system.
This is how my story begins…