I often find myself lost in dreams, in a Fantasy land, as it were. I go there now, and I wonder if you would care to join me.
I woke up yesterday with a terrible tummy ache. Still writhing in the blinding pain, I reached out to my phone, logged on to the Nigerian Health Services app and fed my symptoms into the system. Right away, I was directed to a doctor who walked me through practical steps on how I could take care of myself. He prescribed some drugs which I paid for online and had it delivered to my doorstep. In an hour, I was fine enough to prepare for and make it to work. In good time, no less.
Monday mornings usually began with a meeting—presentations, weekly analyses, the whole works—and yesterday morning was no different. Midway into a presentation, my boss, a middle-aged man, suddenly collapsed. He is both hypertensive and diabetic; and that was common knowledge because here in Nigeria, everybody with a special condition wears a tag, so that in case of emergencies the paramedics know what to do. In fact, everyone is trained on how to administer FirstAid; and with First Aid boxes found on every street corner, it’s rare for anyone to die so suddenly. A call was immediately placed to 211, the emergency call line, and we were told a few things we could do before the ambulance arrived. The paramedics arrived in a few minutes and took over his care. I joined them in the ambulance as he was rushed to the ER of a nearby hospital. They looked up his name on the national database and pulled up his medical records. I had to remain in the waiting room but a medical officer soon came to speak with me. He’d had low blood sugar but it was nothing they couldn’t handle, she said. The cost and other fine details would preferably be discussed with family, she continued. I had already placed a call to his wife, but I knew it was nothing to worry about. We had a really awesome health insurance that covered the cost of most of the investigations and treatment he needed. Within a week, he was fit to resume work again; although on doctor’s advice, he decided to take things more gently. It was the perfect excuse to dump more work on my desk.
It was time for my dental appointment—I got a reminder yesterday from the hospital. I see my dentist at least four times a year. In this part of the world, health insurance pretty much takes care of everything, so poor oral health is totally on me. I logged onto my account with the Nigerian Health Services and got to see what time my appointment with the doctor was scheduled, the doctor I would be seeing and the necessary investigations and procedures. I carried on with my other activities for the day assured I would have my dental appointment at the scheduled time. You see, my sister doesn’t live in Nigeria and often, while speaking on the phone, she goes on and on about having to make a whole day out of a hospital appointment, what with the long queues. I wonder how people survive those, how they can afford to waste so much time. Here in Nigeria, we understand that long queues grossly diminish productivity. ‘Swift’ and ‘prompt’ are our watchwords, so you simply get an appointment time and all you have to do is be there. No red tape. I was able to see the doctor at the said time, I had to do a routine scaling and polishing to get rid of all the plaques found. “Why not them all out now and reduce the chances of a periodontal disease? Prevention is better than cure afterall”, the doctor had said to me. His words bespoke a firm belief that has driven and continues to drive the massive funding that goes into preventive medicine, into stopping the bullet before it even leaves the gun.
I know it falls just a little short of a utopia, this fantasy of mine, considering the prevailing circumstances in our country. But when I think of health in Nigeria, this what I dream of. In just a few years into my medical education, I have seen numerous people die from very ordinary, preventable things. So I will keep dreaming; I will continue to have my head in the clouds with my feet firmly planted on the ground, working and walking towards a better reality. And it will come; I know it will, someday.
This article was written by Judith Ebengho, a 500-level medical student at the University of Ibadan.
Here’s the link to our first video on YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PA1i-Db0y8U