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Life, death, good health and bad

Of late, I have been thinking about life and about death. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not planning to die-as some conspiracy theorists (funny people!) may be driven to think. However, I grew up knowing full well that death is one of the characteristics of living things. My father told me so, very early in my life, when he used to spend significant time trying to calm me down, get me focused and thinking and tuned to quality life and safety-consciousness. Ever since then, I never forget to spare some of my time to reflect on the subject of life and of death. And this is nothing spiritual or faith-inclined, but completely practical.

I have been wondering whether many more people are dying nowadays or there’s more news of deaths or both. The juror, I think, is still out, but it seems many more people we know, people we grew up with, people of our age, people we worked with and even people much younger than us are dying. That, my friend, in itself, is a wake up call that rings louder than the causes, numbers or frequency of deaths. So, I’m wondering what’s going down. Life expectancy standards seem to have fallen to very deplorable levels and it doesn’t seem anybody is doing anything about it-particularly in Nigeria. Now, there’s natural death. Unavoidable. There’s accidental death. Sometimes avoidable. But there’s careless death. These are caused by carelessness and living in denial. There is a whole litany of instances of avoidable and unavoidable deaths. 

Six years ago, I lost a boss to cancer. We had gone on a punishing road show around Northern Nigeria and this otherwise healthy and physically fit, very fit, man in his early 50s suffered food poisoning. We aborted the trip in Kaduna and headed back to Lagos. He went to one of the best hospitals in Lagos, where he was treated of that, and also treated of hepatitis because his eyes turned criminally yellow! When the yellowness, fatigue and general ill-health refused to go away, we sensed it was more than hepatitis. Here was a man who had boasted to me, and quite rightly so perhaps, that he hadn't been in a hospital in 25 years before then-now going in and out of hospital. Some and my colleagues and I literally ran him out of the office to go abroad for further treatment. I mean he carried a platinum global health insurance card; so why wait any longer. A stubborn man to the core, he succumbed after so much pressure and went to the UK. He had lost his wife a couple of years earlier, sadly.  He go to the UK on a Sunday, went for his medicals on Monday and on Tuesday he got a Death Sentence! He had three months to live. Cancer!!!

Recently, I lost a lady friend yet again to the big C. Breast Cancer. When she first felt a lump on her breast, she “rejected it in Jesus’ name” and prayed over it with anointing oil and all. She didn't even mention it to her husband much less see her doctor. Six months later, when she felt it again, it was a harder lump-and painful. And that was the beginning of her journey through cancer treatment. At a point, with so much money spent at home and abroad, she got a clean bill of health. She was declared cancer-free. I recall advising her to take up motivational speaking to encourage those who are already down but not out and also inspire others who are ok to go check and check regularly too. She actually dithered about it but later agreed. We were putting together her presentation when she suddenly took ill. Nobody even thought of cancer again, but cancer it was. It made a wicked come-back with a vengeance-as they say it does-and in three months, she was dead. All the cash, all the pains of treatment (which, I’m gather, is more than the pains of the cancer itself) and her beautiful life was gone!

I once lost a friend in a car crash. This week’s unfortunate accident, which claimed the life of Chris Boyejo, the fantastic Koga  Entertainment boss, reminds me of my friend’s accident 10 years ago on the Benin-Onitsha Road. Obviously inebriated and speeding like hell to get to the village that fateful Christmas day, Charles ran into a stationary truck on one of those remarkably bad patches and was brought out in little pieces. Clearly, his was a most avoidable death, but he didn't or couldn't avoid it or so it seemed, but the fact is that he's been gone 10 years now. All his plans and effort in life gone with his death. His young childless widow mourned and mourned and later moved on.

Now, me. Last week, I experienced a strange headache. It was strange because it lasted two days-Tuesday to Thursday-which hasn’t happened since my father took me to one man in my village in 1988 to herbally cure me of what I now know was migraine. I always wish I went back to Mr. Nicholas Nwagwu to learn the cure; I would be rich today treating migraines around the world. Since 1988 he treated me, a treatment that took less than one hour, I have not felt my head ache more than 5 times. So, this one that lasted more than 48 hours scared me. I didn’t take any drugs though, but I rested more, drank more water and avoided alcohol. I checked my blood pressure with the Blood Pressure Monitor in the house and it was good. However, I went to St. Nicholas that Thursday evening and told the doctor my story. He looked at my vitals, which were taken as part of the check-in procedure, and they were all cool. After the usual interrogation, he ordered full blood work. I then remembered my birthday was barely two months away, and in my 10-year tradition, I  asked for a comprehensive check up-as my own birthday gift to myself. Life is too precious, my dear.

Just this last week, I read a Facebook post by Dayo Adeneye, D-One, who is currently the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Ogun State, where he announced that they carried out free breast examinations, as part of the October Purple Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign in his state and discovered that 40 women and a man had lumps in their breasts! Now, that's what I am talking about! I am talking about using knowledge to prolong our lives, after all, knowledge, they say, is power. Early detection, it is said, is the most efficacious cure for all diseases. Knowing and being conscious of your predispositions due to family history or previous illness is also another one of the best ways to avoid needless death (not to say any death is needful, really). For example, my father died of complications from Diabetes and Hypertension, like some of his cousins; so I am acutely aware of my predisposition to such and I am ever conscious of that reality. In this case, prevention is better than cure.

But when you do not know and do not want to know, then you are sitting on a keg of gunpowder so to say. Most of the time, these checks and examinations are pretty cheap. How much does it cost to check the blood pressure or blood sugar compared to how much it costs to treat or manage them? You can do the math yourself. Prevention is better and cheaper than cure, most definitely. So, we save nine stitches if we stitch one in time. And the best way to do this is to just walk into a hospital and check these basic things. Perhaps, it’s important for me to add here that the rising spate of kidney and liver-related diseases are caused mainly by Diabetes and Hypertension and in some cases drug and alcohol abuse. The abuse of painkillers is unfortunately rampant in Nigeria and ironically they are killing people rather than the pains they are meant for.

So, the message here is that people should develop the attitude of checking themselves regularly even if it’s once a year-as a birthday gift. If we can send in our cars for regular evaluation and service, and in many cases once we observe the check engine light, I wonder why we cannot give ourselves a comprehensive medical check up once a year. The curious thing is that most of the middle class, who are on health insurance schemes provided by their employers still shy away from these life-saving checks. Even the fat cats avoid it too, until it is too late. A friend told me yesterday she’s not been sick and not been in hospital since she had her last child 18 years ago. Wonderful. When I told her the story of my boss, who got a death sentence after having not been sick and in hospital for 25 years, she panicked. You might think my prescription is elitist but I tell you it is not. In Lagos State, you can actually register in a hospital with less than N3,000, and get access to a doctor. I know that is not all there is to it, but people, even the poor, have a way of finding the money when they are down with a sickness.

Do not ignore that strange pain, that strange ache, that funny feeling. Prayers work but they work best when mixed with medicine-which God himself approves as the Bible says “those who are sick have need for a physician”. I believe we can help ourselves by taking some precautions especially considering the fact that we haven't got the government that will build an efficient, sustainable healthcare system. Until then, let's help ourselves. 

Life, death, good health and bad Life, death, good health and bad Reviewed by Emeka Oparah on Saturday, October 08, 2016 Rating: 5

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