My trip to Nigeria late January/February 2009 was yet another of multiple trips that I had been making in the hope of being one of the exiled Nigerians returning to make a difference. Unfortunately my “what I hope will be my last time ever” was the worst nightmare of my life. I graduated from a medical school in Nigeria, did my initial postgraduate training in England and now practice as a family physician in the United States. I had nursed the idea of opening a state of the art medical center in my city, in Nigeria but those hopes died with my sister Itunu Olubunmi.
I arrived in Nigeria on the 30th of January to be greeted by a deteriorating airport with no usable lavatory facility. I proceeded do my usual running around, transact some business, visit family and friends but unfortunately decided I was going to see my baby sister at her doctors office at Onikan, Lagos. Little did I know I was never going to get a chance to see her ever again.
She had decided to have her surgery done by “a renowned Obstetrician/Gynecologist”, who is supposed to be “top of the Line” for the surgery. She had taken her official “leave” from work hoping to return in a few weeks; hardly did we know that she was not going to be with us in less than a week. The facility she chose we assumed was going to be fully equipped as they had charged her an exorbitant sum for the surgery equivalent to what is being charged in the United States of America (excluding hospital stay). Like the proverb goes “all that glitters is not gold”.
I was planning on visiting Itunu post-operatively, but got a phone call from one of my auntie’s asking me to hurry up, as there was a complication post operatively. I arrived at the hospital and was ushered into the operating room by the surgeon. Nothing could have prepared me for how primitive the operating room (OR) set up was. I could not believe that a renowned surgeon could operate on human beings in such an environment. The space in the operating room was not only cramped, it was the obsoleteness of the equipments that hit me like a missile. The OR had little or no monitoring device, they had no automated monitor for the blood pressure, and no oxygen monitoring device. There was no monitor on till I asked for a pulse oximeter which the anesthesiology then produced and turned on.
I was unfortunate or fortunate enough to know too much, the anesthetic machine was so obsolete I doubt it can deliver any of the anesthetic gases adequately and yet there was no machine to check the mixture of the gases that were being delivered to the patient. They had no capnograph (to monitor the level of carbon dioxide) or an apnea alarm (a device that tells you if the patient is accidentally disconnected from the machine). Not only did they not have the basic monitoring equipments this hospital used the cheapest medication that was available but charged the most money that they could. They also did not have reversal medications. I requested for naloxone one of the necessary medications for reversal of medications and was told the hospital does not have this medication. The physicians in Nigeria obviously do not think much of the Hippocratic Oath.
I knew at this point I was in trouble, the hospital only had 3 cylinders of oxygen, which were running out as we continued to try and resuscitate my sister, there was no machine to ventilate her, she was being ventilated manually with a bag. I requested for her to be transferred to another hospital and was told there was no driver for the ambulance parked I front of the hospital. It took another hour before the driver showed up, “he had gone to drop someone”. We finally got a driver and needed to transfer her but the so-called hospital had no equipment to oxygenate her during the transfer. We had to improvise and made it through the traffic to another Hospital where they initially refused to accept her except we “deposit 1million Naira”. They accepted the transfer only because they were told she has a sister in USA.
The second day she was on the ICU, when the hospital generator broke down for almost 15 minutes. Whatever hope we had of her recovering was dashed at this point by the power outage. The physician had earlier informed of minimal progress the day before the power outage, but after that the news was bad.
Unfortunately my sister did no survive the broken medical system and physicians who put profit above life. She is obviously not the only person that has fallen victim to the hell we call “our beloved country”, where all that really matters is how much you have. She almost certainly will not be the last victim of this broken and fallen state. Nigeria continues on it’s slowly but sure path to destruction. The country has abandoned the path of sanity and reason and is going to hell on “A CONCORD” Christians and Muslims alike.
Everybody has decided it is not possible to live without being corrupt or cheating your neighbor even if it means taking his or her life. The other thing that shocked me was how uncaring the so-called Nigerian Christians are. I was shocked when my brother-in-law tried to put a call to his pastor (A Redeemed Church parish). I heard him inform the pastor that his wife was on life support, the pastor told him to come to the camp meeting the next night, another 24hrs. I was so disgusted, I told him to please inform the pastor that if it were his wife, would he wait another 24hrs to meet someone for prayers? Not only did this pastor say that, I was told there was a protocol in the Redeemed Church before anyone can see the G.O, which I quite understand but should this also be the case in a matter of life and death. Thank God the doors of heaven are always open to people that knock with no protocol involved and when Christ died the veil in the temple tore, so that all might approach the throne room of God.
My darling Itunu Olubunmi, we will always miss you and you will always be in our hearts, those doctors, a broken system and an uncaring country cannot take that away. I have resigned myself to the fact that I can’t save the world and God knows why you had to leave so soon. I love you dearly baby girl. I leave the perpetrators to God who is the righteous judge.
It is obvious that there are no guidelines in place for clinics and hospitals that treat and operate on people in Nigeria. Even in the major hospitals, they are under funded and a lot of the private clinics/hospitals anaesthetizing people are gas chambers. It is doubtful that the government is even interested in doing anything to address the issue when they lack the resolve to give their citizens basic amenities of life, such as running potable water, constant electricity and good roads. Hundreds of Nigerians die daily on the roads of accident, many because of typhoid and others through gas/ generator fumes.
This is a country that eats its young and brilliant ones. It is not surprising the country is experiencing a “brain drain”. Who will want to stay in a place that has become a “hell hole” for young and old alike, where the only happy group are the looters, rapists, murderers and the brazen thieves who care less what happens to their fellow citizens?
I thank God for bringing me out and I have now resolved to stay out, but hope that someday Nigeria and Africa will cease to be the land of the people who not only are black outside but whose actions are inherently evil and “black”. I rest my case.