Spirituality and Medicine; Is there a Distinguishing Line?


A Very Lit Weekend! Shout Out to the Peaches.

This past weekend, I went on a trip to spend with the Girls, something I termed the Peaches Conference ’20. It was an amazing and fun weekend!!! I am super grateful for these ones I get to call friends. It is not everyone that gets to have a close circle that promises to be there for you as often as they can be and when they can’t, they still don’t leave you hanging. Thank you guys, I love you plenty. Thanks to the Men too… Ifelade, Ojima and the Knight (in absentia.)


The Threat.

I got to Ibadan on Saturday and the sun was already way past warming up for the day. I remembered Ibilola promising to yank my crotchet hair off my head if I didn’t loosen it soon. That was not what scared me into going straight to my aunty JumyAfosco’s hair salon from the car park. Rather, it was the way she said she didn’t have to be physically present to do the yanking off and… she is from Osun state. I won’t say more than that.


It Begins…

Sitting down in front of the salon mirror, I and the young male hair stylist started the job of getting the crotchet off my head. While we were there, Dami joined us and amidst the jovial banter and talks about our profession, this hair stylist started educating us about our jobs as doctors.

(If you can, read most of the conversation in Yoruba.)

“Aunty, your job as doctors is not a joke at all. It is not for the light-hearted. One either has to know Jesus or be an Osun child…”

(You see why I did not want to say more than that?)

Amidst, rib-cracking laughter, we confirm to him that we both know Jesus… And are both from Osun state.

“You see, there are forces beyond what the ordinary eyes can see. Only God can save us. If your inner eyes are open, you would see that in an operating room, you are not alone o. There should be like eight other unseen people in the room.”

(It has finished. You mean, minus those constituting the operating team, we have more? Oluwa!)

“For this reason, before any surgery, you really should fast for forty days…”

(Heheheheh. What did you say sir? I’m not sure I am following or understanding. So, if I am in surgery department where we have operations every week, how do I do it please? Or maybe what I can do is fast forty days, operate as many as I can that week, then, reschedule the other surgeries till I am done with the next round of forty days fasting. Abi, wetin dey fastinor?)

After, we ‘pleaded’ with him that 40 days is a lot, besides, Jesus already did that for us, he graciously reduced it to 21 days. Nothing less.

“You see that University College Hospital (UCH), that place is the hubbub of spiritual activity. All those abortions they carry out there (and I’m really wondering how he came about this false information), those babies’ spirits never leave UCH.”

(You say? Hold up, hold up, hold up o. Are my ears really hearing what your mouth is saying? The spirits never leave? So, all those years in UCH, we were surrounded by a great cloud of… Spirits?)

Well, this guy was not done.

“Those spirits hover around for as many years as they should have lived if they were born alive. So, if an abortus was supposed to live for 90 years, it would stay there and keep roaming around. Then, when another pregnant woman comes, it would enter the pregnancy…”

(Haaaaa. Uncle!!! Slow down. Slow down. What will now happen to the baby/spirit that is the original occupant of the pregnancy?)

“… and chase out the one in there. That one too would then start hovering, join the queue of spirits and claim a new place when the opportunity presents itself.”

(See, the way I and Dami were laughing at this point, our lips and mouths were dry and our eyes were wet with tears. You said, what?!?!?)

I think I should just stop there. While we were all laughing, the hair stylist inclusive, it was obvious this guy was not joking about the things he was saying.

Oh, let me quickly mention one more. Have you ever seen a pregnant woman attach a pin (office pin, safety pin) to her dress? Listen up…

“Aunty, those pins are not for play o. They are to protect the baby from the evil eyes around. In fact, if they do it well, if the pin is still there when the woman goes for an ultrasound scan, the scan won’t pick the baby.”

And we all say? “MAD OH!”


Let’s Get Serious. Really.

The whole talk got me thinking about our profession truly and how, while most of what our hairstylist was

saying were from African Magic Yoruba/Nollywood, there is a reason why those things are recurring themes in our movies. It was not the first time I was hearing such stories/theories…

A consultant once told me of a labor ward experience. This patient had been in labor for hours and was not progressing as expected. The managing team was already bringing up Caesarian Section (CS) talks with the husband and relatives and as usual, they were met with protests and uncooperative people. Then, the mother-in-law came in and asked for a favor.

She wanted to bring a small goat into the labor ward.

“Doctor, trust me, once I use the goat’s head to touch her tummy, the baby would come out.”

Against all medical laws and principles, the consultant in charge agreed.

The woman delivered a healthy baby and both mother and child were discharged alive and healthy. There was no CS.

There is a deep seated belief in the mind of the average Nigerian about health, life, spirituality and the links between them. As our hairstylist said, “Where blood is involved, you cannot rule out the activities of the world that lies beyond our physical eyes.”

Should such talks be completely tossed aside or should they be taken serious or should they be treated the same way we treated the recent events between the United States and Iran?

Reading it up to this point, I am certain some people have concluded in their minds that this whole thing is rubbish and meant to be trashed. It has to be only the uneducated man that would think up such connections and medicine is too straightforward for that.

Alright. Fine. Cool.

But, are you a Christian or Muslim? Do you pray for/about your patients? Do you murmur/mumble Bible/Quran verses while dealing with seemingly difficult cases? Do you pray before starting a surgery? Do you ‘commit’ the ward or patients to God when you’re leaving to go catch some sleep?

Calm down… you may be doing all those things from the same ‘belief’.

A colleague once told me, recently, of an elderly man that kept having his surgery rescheduled. If it was not funds, it was blood or theatre staff or strike or non-availability of a part of the managing team. Those are things that can easily be pinned on the stark poverty levels in Nigeria and the ever failing system of the country. Or it could just be the non-chalance of the patient/patient relatives.

Or more than meets the eye, maybe?


My Perspective On This Matter.

On my part, I believe nothing happens in the physical without the effect of the spiritual.

I don’t because of this ask to hold hands with my patients to pray unless they directly and specifically ask me. I don’t because of this embark on prolonged fasting and prayers before surgeries. I think if the lead surgeon collapses from hypoglycemia mid surgery, whatever forces the 40 days fast was for have won that round. I don’t because of that go around looking for how my inner eye can be seeing the extra presences in our wards or emergency rooms cos, trust me, if that happens… many more shall be patients than doctors. And i do not because of that withhold proper care from my patients.

However, it does not mean I do not pray for them… Or myself and work… during my quiet time or silently while I work. It does not mean I do not keep up my spiritual alert system. It does not mean I don’t quickly bless each and every of my calls just as it starts. And when i finally try to sleep, I ask God to keep the wards calm so that his dear daughter can refuel.


One More Example…

There was an instance I had during my rotation through Obstetrics and Gynecology.

It was night. We were tired. A pregnant woman was brought in… IUFD… Intrauterine Fetal Death. That is, the baby had died in the womb. She was induced to hasten labor and aid delivery of the baby. Meanwhile, there was another woman in labor with a live baby.

Well, almost immediately the dead baby was born, the other woman also gave a big push and her live baby came out. Both male. Their birth weights very close to the same. And same complexion. (Not all babies are fair skinned at birth).

As I looked at both mothers, a weird feeling passed through me and before I could dwell on it, work came calling; things to write, injections to give, vital signs to note.

If I were like my hairstylist, I would have concluded that there had been an exchange of spirits or something of that sort in that labor ward that night.

But, I just left it as, “The world is in between two portals… One to life and the other to death… sometimes, both portals are left open at the same time… And, both women followed the normal Gaussian curve for the average time from onset of labor to delivery in a multiparous woman.”


Tell me what you think. Share your experiences.

About the Author

6 thoughts on “Spirituality and Medicine; Is there a Distinguishing Line?

    1. hehehe. congrats dear, you got the extra juice of the write-up. These stories may just never end and they keep getting scarier.

  1. First of all…..HMMMMMMMM!!!

    Second of all, I now have personal relations with the top in your picture ? (about me)

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