Lessons from the Death of My Father

Lessons from my father…

Often times, because the death does not affect us, we are denied experiences that could make our lives and that of those around us beautiful. We have watched the death of Syrians choked by Sarin Gas and even though such graphics mess us up, the majority of us often seem to put bad news and horrific images in the category of Action Movies. The scene is thrilling and gripping, the bad guy deserves to die but above all, these directors have to give it a classy ending.

About two months ago, when I mourned the sudden death of my father I was cursed with that experience. Some of these experiences were new and the old ones were further reinforced. Lessons were learned, ties were cut and some blurry visions I had about human nature were macroscoped. His death wasn’t the result of a long term sickness and as common with short term demise, the mind is often not prepared. It was a horrific tale of three days.

He complained of severe headache and my siblings rushed him to the country’s number one hospital, National. Unfortunately, there was no available bed. Are you shocked? Why? Lack of bed space is one of the most sensible reasons for denying a patient ‘quality’ treatment here. This was the beginning of the end. Upon recommendation by a good doctor, they moved to one of the private hospitals in Garki, where, if we want to be honest, money was the primary motivation for service.

First, blood pressure, BP, was checked, followed by CT Scan to confirm brain damage. There was no brain damage and even though the young doctors blamed caffeine diet for the ‘confirmed’ high BP (which they claimed was to blame), in the results handed to us, my basic knowledge of systole and diastole will not describe 130/80mmHg as high blood pressure. Next was the injection of drips his systems, from his reactions, evidently rejected.

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In health care delivery, when the goal is to reduce pain but the substance applied or injected increases it instead, it is often wise to temporarily cease usage. If applying iodine and peroxides damage tissues than it repairs them, then we need alternatives. That is the thinking of the reasonable in the health world but unfortunately these young doctors are anything but reasonable. Then the calm before the storm and then sleep that brought out the Oxygen Masks and then…that was the end.

You see, in Nigeria poverty is not just the only problem with assessing health care delivery. There is quackery, quackery, quackery and then poverty and others. It’s evident that these doctors, despite the huge stature of the hospital and the cost of running it, didn’t know what they were doing and this is often synonymous with private hospitals in the country. The hospital make a lot of money, there is the CT Scan, possibly the MRI and other equipment you’d find redundant in government-owned hospitals but the most important aspect of the health care system, the true professional, is absent.

This is what happens: the government-owned hospitals often have the best of professionals. You will find the best doctors, nurses, physiotherapist, etc., in the government hospitals but unfortunately with their skills, they are not well paid. To survive and do better, they engage in sharp practice. They either work in more hospitals or they, by taking loans or saving illegal money, build one.

Many of these (private) hospitals are below par both in manpower (always in manpower) and equipment. Then there are others with great equipment and poor manpower. Then there are very few with manpower and great equipment. This last category is for the super rich like what Covenant University is to Nigerian private universities. These health care professionals set up a hospital or clinic but at the same time they want to keep working at the Government hospitals (for mischievous referrals) and because they are scared of losing their customers (Take note: not patients) to other competent hands who may decide to follow their example, they, on purpose, employ quacks to run their clinics and hospitals.

Because they are quacks and they know it, they can be easily controlled. Because they know that they know nothing, the idea of leaving to establish their own clinic wouldn’t cross their blank minds (though some bold ones do). The well trained professional consultant who established this new hospital is hardly around because of his engagements in other hospitals and customers will have to pass through these quacks.

This quackery is always perpetrated by quack House Officers but when the devil who runs the place wants to be more human he uses quack Resident Doctors instead. Typically in Nigeria, first, the education is not good enough, most graduates are not good enough, the House Officers are not good enough, even the good ones, because medicine like Engineering, often requires practice and experience to master. Then imagine when they are quacks.

Usually, a child good in elementary Mathematics cannot handle differential calculus but now imagine what will happen if another child with almost zero knowledge of elementary mathematics tries to solve a calculus problem. When I got the details, the results of the tests conducted, the hospital’s ‘no referral’ policy and stories of Oxygen Masks, I knew exactly that quacks killed my father. Not only are you alive in Nigeria because no one wants you dead yet, when you are ill and need proper medical attention, often times, even your money cannot save you.

The lessons are many but let me just go through a few. One: every family or person needs a Family or Personal Doctor. It is wise that every person and family have one good doctor they trust. One who will keep up with the medical history of family members and can always be called upon or seen in cases of emergency. If we had one, rather than moving around testing the incompetency of Nigerians and their hospitals, we would simply had contacted him and because we have established a bond, the likelihood of receiving a honest and better treatment would be higher.

Even in organised countries where things like health care are not taken for granted people still have personal health care providers talk more in a country as rudderless as ours. You want to see doctors and nurses quarrelling with patients? Come around and take a look. You want to see a woman in labour reminded by a midwife, the consequences of her canal desires? Come and see. Too much death can make you lose interest in the living. Too many people dying at your hands have the capacity to cement the human part of you and because psychometric tests and other tests, laws and enforcement are not effective here, it is easier for those who have seen enough death at the hospital to treat the living as the dead.

This is why you need a Personal or Family Doctor. Often times, in this part of the world, we see the precautions against evil as expectation of doom but this is really not the case. To be real, lack of precautions against doom is the invitation of doom. You need a person doctor to minimise the chances of meeting the quacks littering the medical space. They are greedy, dumb, heartless and are many.

Two: This second one is harsh and if I’m lucky, only the social media arm of the Nigerian Medical Association will come for my head. I am in the health sector and in the course of my training, to be honest; I’ve seen a House Officer interpret Subluxation as Dislocation. The two are similar and in the Nigerian Layman’s Dictionary, Dislocation is often used erroneously but this is a Medical Doctor na! Whereby in Subluxation, there is a partial movement away from the joints (the bone, let’s say for example, the distal femur or ‘lap’ bone, is still attached to the knee joint with a slight movement away from it) but in Dislocation there is a total removal of the bone on the joint (there is no connection at all). This simple term was messed up by a so called professional young physician. That brings me to my Second Advice.

If you are very ill and have the opportunity to decide who treat you and you are in Nigeria, never you allow a House Officer to treat you. How to know them? They are usually young and it is your right to demand for identity, quality and experience. In emergency cases these guys mess up everything. Demand that the hospital provide you a consultant if it is an emergency except you want to die in the hands of our silent killers. A simple visit to the medical meetings in any hospital will show you how these incompetent ones kill people and get only insults and caution from their superiors.

We are all ‘trying’ to protect one another but we end killing one another. The Surgeon protects the killer House Officer and ‘minds his business’, the Civil Servant also ‘minds his business’ because he doesn’t want to spoil another man’s means of livelihood, the Police Man ‘minds his business’ because he alone can’t change Nigeria and at the end we all suffer from our stupidity. Nigeria is the way it is today because we are all minding our business.

Advice Three: the last hospital you want to be in, in Nigeria, is a hospital with a ‘NO REFERRAL’ policy. In the Hospital where my father died, that was policy. What no referral means is that they are jack of all trade in the field and master of all. To not refer is to know all and to know all is to have the best equipment and manpower. But is there really any hospital in Nigeria with such capacity? Even the big ones for the super rich do not know all and refer at a certain stage.

What this policy suggests is that even when the hospital cannot treat you, they will pretend they can, keep you and wouldn’t recommend you visit a more capable hospital. Even when they know that they can’t treat you, the ego laced in their policy and the love of money that was behind it, blinds them and because they have been dulled by many deaths, your life is worthless. How can a hospital with quack doctors and quack health care providers have a ‘no referral’ policy?

I once met a bush man and this is not an exaggeration. You know those persons who come from the remote areas, who not only cannot speak pidgin very well but they also, I’m not trying to be rude here (or ascribe intelligence to any English. Just making a description), do not seem to have any atom of sense. This dude was in a barbershop learning how to cut hair and after about two months of absence and lack of dedication, the next time I saw the dude he was on Nurse Clothes. Ladies and Gentlemen, the bushman has become a nurse and he worked in a private hospital. He was on evening shift too. I was very angry and in the heated argument that ensued, I rhetorically asked if he’s heard of words like lateral, medial, anatomy, physiology, atrophy, etc., and dude was confident I know nothing. These are types they want us believe to have enough knowledge and expertise that no referral is needed. Run once you hear that a hospital does not refer patients. No Nigerian Hospital is that good.

Fourth and Final Advice: Death, Pain and Fear. You see, humans love to pretend they are immortal and will never die but each time we do this; we are letting fear take control of our lives when we ought to be in control. You see, every day we live draw us closer to our death and to maximize production we have to learn to accept the mortality of our existence. Assuming you will die by 70, every year you celebrate your birthday is just a minus one. When I lost my father, I mourned, I was stressed, I lost weight and for two weeks I didn’t understand my sickness.

I was on tests and drugs while at the same having tests and exams in my Masters program. We looked alike. Like me, he was a bundle of philosophy. Like me, he was an apostle of truth. His yes cannot be denatured and he had a way of hitting the core of your soul with words. He spoke poetry, I wrote poetry. One of his goals was to make a version 2.0 of himself and I think he did. Like my mom’s, I wrote a paper on the burial day. It was hard but if I wasn’t a good student of Xeno, if Stoicism was never a subject in the learning my father funded, I could have fallen again to depression.

You see, we will all die whether we like it or not. We will all experience pain whether we want it or not. We will all suffer the loss of people whether we like it or not. What pretence does to us is to weaken our mental bodies and this weakness translates to the weakening of our human bodies and we act in ways that destroy our lives. When I lost my dad, my calmness baffled people around. Some made jokes that shouldn’t be made while others said and did things that shouldn’t be said or done. Because we are used to the gnashing of teeth, the depressing mood, the mental weakness, the dearth of the man, our new nature had programmed suffering and negativity as natural response to the death of a loved one.

When we understand that we are not as significant as we think we are to the planet, this ego laced in fear and ignorance and this mismanagement of pain would be weaned down and we live happily. We need the planet, the planet will be better without us. We have laws but natural laws do not bend for our laws. As depressing as the loss of our loved ones seem to be, our loved ones, if they can see us, wouldn’t be happy to find us in a state of gloom. The sole purpose of any life is to live. Without innervation life ceases to have meaning.

The pumpkin plant is meaningful until it is withered down. The mango tree is relevant because it is still producing mango. As photosynthesis happen, innervation lead to growth which leads to living which gives existence meaning. This is the same for the domestic animals we love and keep as pets. The moment our favourite dog, cat or horse dies, it ceases to be meaningful in life but the energy their life left in us is their immortality. The same thing applies to human beings.

Unfortunately, conventional wisdom has made our case pathetic. The animals, plants, etc., accept the mortality of their existence but not man and for this he had to create and live on stories of the afterlife. Life, which seemed enough, was not enough and continues even though he can’t present any real evidence for it. The problem is not even the existence of an afterlife. First, he agrees that all is energy and that energy transmutes and he is energy but he pretends he wouldn’t transmute. How do you do that? Second. He accepts that he has two lives to live, one here and two in Heaven (or hell), but he denies himself the opportunities this place has to offer by placing his mind in perpetual sorrow and living in fear.

To destroy this fear of death you should know: you are mortal. You will die. Think of the thousands of years that have passed and the men that lived through it. They are all dead. Think of the last one hundred years or make it two hundred (if you like) and the men that existed at the time, they are all dead. You will die too. To handle pain you must build mental energy. First, know that, like death, pain is inevitable. Once you come to accept that it is inevitable, like the Stoics, you begin to heal faster. Suffering is not in death but in the dying while you alive. Dying is painful, death is painless. The dead feels nothing, the dying feels loss. The pain is not in death but in dying.

Imagine this: if you are suffering and can deal with it, if you are bereaved and can deal with, if you just suffered financial loss and move onto the next project without batting an eyelid, if you just lost a contract and as much you don’t like it, you know that crying or lamenting wouldn’t do much, wouldn’t your life be better off? Can pain, fear or death scare you?  Wouldn’t you be happier? Wouldn’t you be said to have conquered pain and suffering? You will be alive. Also know that everything you are feeling right now will pass. Everything, Happiness, Joy, Envy, Pain, will pass. Thanks to my father, I am alive.

About Poet 156 Articles
I am Rey Alaetuo, a conscious Poet and health care professional living in Owerri, Nigeria. I am an exponent of humanism and a vigilant Poet. I am deeply interested in the propagation of positive human values and behaviour.