Sometime ago, I read an article from the BBC captioned: “A country in love with injections and drips”. The article was about Cambodia. It discussed how the seeming proclivity, by Cambodians for injections, from both qualified and unqualified medical people, has exacerbated the HIV epidemic. It concludes, to my surprise, that some people seem to have fallen in love with intravenous drips so much so that when they visit hospitals, they simply request IV drips and if the doctor refused, they would go to local unqualified people who give them the intravenous drip. This last part reminds me of Nigeria.
I had my first and only run in with drip in 1982, in Nigeria. I had just finished my 5th year exam at the university of Nigeria and was getting ready to travel when I started feeling queasy. It was a familiar feeling. My staple ailment, when I was in Nigeria, was malaria. It always came during the rainy season when the mosquitoes breed. The ailment would usually start with a feeling of unusual tiredness, followed by loss of appetite and finally fever. Sometimes taking malaria tablets preemptively helped tamp down the ferocity of the ailment for me.
Anyway, back to the queasy feeling I was getting right after my exam. That discomfort had transcended my usual malaria feeling. A new wrinkle had been added. I was periodically breaking out in cold sweat so I decided to see a doctor. When I got there, after physical exam, he ordered a lab test for me.
When I returned to the doctor, he said all test results came back normal but one test was borderline and to be on the safe side, I would get a bag of “drip”. It was to be administered intravenously. I must confess that I hate needles of any kind being stuck into my body but because I was about to depart Nigeria for Chicago, Illinois, where I would be for 3 months, I had no choice. I did not want to be feeling sick while I travelled.
The next day, I went and submitted myself for the “drip”. Stretched out on the bed, the nurse tapped on my inner arm and as soon as she found a vein, stuck in the needle and secured it with a plaster. I must confess that the day or so after the drip, I felt good enough and eventually departed for the United States.
That was my first and only encounter with drips in Nigeria, but I wish I could say the same for many other Nigerians. Before I make my point, I must note that I am sure that intravenous drip is warranted in many cases and does its job like it did for me. But from what I have come to hear and read about, it seems that drips have become a “cure all”(ogbu nnu oya) in Nigeria. If you have stomachache, they will “put a couple of bags of drip for you”. If your head hurts, they will put drip for you. If you have malaria, they will empty a couple of bags of drip inside you. If your eye hurts, yes, you guessed it, drip. If they diagnose tape worm, na drip be that oo . If they say you have typhoid, hepatitis, diarrhea, leg pain, na only drip go cure you, haba!
Someone once told me that if some patients went to see the doctor for an ailment and the doctor failed to administer drip, they would not feel properly taken care of. If they succeed in getting the drip, you will hear quips, in my dialect, like: “ejelum fu doctor, otinyelum akpa dripu ito. Ka m nuchalu dripu ahu, aru dim mma”. Meaning, “I went to see the doctor and three bags of drip were administered and after ingesting them, I felt better”
About a year or more ago, a distant inlaw, who developed a sudden stomach ailment, was taken to the clinic in Abia State. There, a couple of drips were administered but she never returned home alive! Years ago, a relative, whose octogenarian mother was taken to the hospital for an ailment, ended up getting several bags of drip. She never returned home alive. On a visit to Nigeria, I went to commiserate with him. He complained that they gave his mother so many bags of drip and he, also in the medical field, felt that the drip must have overloaded his mother’s heart! We then talked about so many instances where he felt that drip was not necessary but was administered anyway, with negative results.
The goal of this article is not to question doctors in Nigeria because many are great and work and excel under challenging conditions. But it troubles me when I hear that a patient requested and got drip. The frequency with which the drips are administered also trouble me.
The drip epidemic in Nigeria today reminds me of a local medication that hawkers used to sell in buses or motor parks in Nigeria in the early 70s. It was called “Ikampower”. The advertisement jingle went thus in Igbo language: Gotara papa gi Ikampa, gotara mama gi Ikampa, isi nawa gi Ikampa, afo n’alu gi, Ikampa, eze n’egbu gi Ikampa, iba n’eme gi Ikampa”, meaning, “buy your father Ikampa, buy your mother Ikampa, if you have headache, take Ikampa, if you have stomach ache, drink Ikampa, if you have tooth ache, take Ikampa, if you have malaria, take ikampa”. For some reason, that local concoction was popular then. But I remember always wondering how one concoction would be able to cure any and all ailments. Like drip, it was “ogbu nnu oya”, meaning, the “curer of myriad of ailments”.
By the way, about me and malaria? Since I left the shores of Nigeria in September of 1987, I have not had a single bout of malaria! So, somehow, every human, is a product of their environment.
Here I Stand!
By Alfred Obiora Uzokwe, author of the books – 1). Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays 2). Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War.
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