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IN HER OPINION: Doctor Over-Sabi…Patient Under-Sabi

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a strong dislike for hospitals. Perhaps it stems from the time I had acute malaria and had to be admitted in a hospital. Student doctors used me to do yeye.

In the name of not finding a vein, they tapped the back of my hand until it was swollen. When the vein that was eventually found in that hand tissued, they switched to the other hand. Six bags of drips later, I was left with two swollen hands and a strong dislike for white coats and disinfectants and a phobia for needles.

I was so scared of needles that two years ago, it took four male nurses to hold me down for blood to be drawn for a HIV/Genotype/Blood group test. My screams and terrified pleas provided ample entertainment for the hospital staff and other patients alike.

And oh, they still weren’t able to draw the blood… As in, I bit, punched and scratched my way to freedom.

But that was two years ago. Today, I have friends and family who are doctors, but I trust only three – Dr. Udeme Ette, Dr. Maureen Onyenakasa and Dr. Ubong Ukut. These three have the best bedside manners ever! I mean, Maureen gave me an injection last year and I almost didn’t feel a thing. The pain came later sha.

These wonderful doctors don’t deceive you and cover their ignorance of a case with medical jargon. They encourage you to ask questions, educate yourself, do your own research and generally be informed.

Certainly not like some I know.

Like the one I met about a decade ago. I told him something was wrong with me. He checked me out, made his diagnosis and proffered a surgical procedure. I had the procedure done. A week later, the condition was back. And I said to him, “Doctor, I’m still having this pain. The surgery didn’t change anything.”

Know what he told me? “It’s because you’ve been on bed rest. It’s your back and the operation site that’s paining you and your mind is telling you it’s that problem that’s returned. Don’t worry, you’re fine.”


Three years later, I was tired of being in pain. So I went to another doctor. He ran a battery of tests and I spent good money that I’d have used in eating correct food. He also arrived at his own diagnosis.

Wanna hear it? “Your test results didn’t show anything. So there’s nothing wrong with you. The pain is in your mind. Go and be strong….you’re healed in Jesus name.”

Just negodu!

I became all the more disenchanted with doctors and resorted to prayers and fasting (me wey like food) and positive confessions and declarations etc. Then one day, I realised that Google answereth all things. So I Googled my symptoms.

Meeehhhn, I remember sitting there, staring at the computer screen, wishing the answer was wrong. But it wasn’t. Armed with this new info, and with a referral to a specialist, after ten years and a surgical procedure, I was finally able to get a proper diagnosis and know the options available for treatment.

Why am I saying all these?

Many Nigerians sometimes carelessly leave matters of their health solely in the hands of doctors. In many cases, they trust their lives to itinerant medicine sellers, a.k.a the chemist down the road, a.k.a untrained shop pharmacists and their assistants, a.k.a Mama Nurse.

Many of these people are popularly called “Doctor” in the areas where they run their businesses. They do consultations and see patients. People run to them, some of whom are quacks, and get medicated for something that’s non-existent.

A woman I know lost a child to one Mama Nurse, who gave the kid an illegal injection in her pharmacy. Another died from a botched abortion carried out in a “pharmacy”.

They believe these men and women hook, line and sinker, without taking the time to consult others or even do their own research. Thus it is, that in Nigeria, a man is suffering from constant migraines and blurry vision and the doctor prescribes that he should have a few inches of hair cut from his head every month. Yes, this is true.

That is how also, another man had medical issues and the doctor wrote in the medical report that he has spiritual problems and should be well-cared for, else it will result in full madness.

Yet another doctor refused to let a patient have a Caesarean Section when her baby was in breech, because “it is unnatural. A real woman must feel pain during childbirth, if she’s to be a good mother.”

Am I saying that there aren’t patients who present symptoms, but have no real illness? Am I saying that some patients aren’t hypochondriacs who just love injections and hospital attention? Am I even saying that there aren’t patients who truly have spiritual problems? No, that’s not what I’m saying.

I’m simply saying that some doctors are over-sabi and some are under-sabi, and if you have a serious health problem, be sure to consult more than one doctor and be informed as well. Some patients have brought about their own diagnosis, because they were able to turn the minds of the doctors in a hitherto unconsidered direction.

This doesn’t mean that you should go to the doctor with a file of the Googled info under your arm and say, “Ehen, Mister/Miss/Missis Doctor, Google Medic says I’ve got glaucoma and tonsillitis. Oya, start giving me treatment.”

That’s unacceptable and I’m not sure any doctor would appreciate that. Be open to listen. Present your own findings, if you wish. Listen again. If you aren’t comfortable, find another doctor. Just make sure that you cover all the bases. In this day and age, if you’ve got the means, please be informed and leave nothing to chance.

Finally, know that some doctors may have graduated last in their class.

Others may have missed their calling to be juju priests or pastors.

 By Eketi Ette @Ketimay

About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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  1. @Eketi, that’s a wonderful submission. I think part of the problem is that in our clime, patients don’t know their right. It is your right to be explained what’s happening to you, why d doctor is doing whatever he is doing to you and to refuse any treatment option…..even if it will cost you your life. The doctor should explain everything, especially at your request..Also it is high time some doctors worked on their bedside manners. But I have seen a lot of ’em with really good bed manners.
    That stated, I would want to correct an impression. Medicine is a competence based profession. It is not grade-based. In fact, sometimes, the best graduating students don’t make the best doctors. That’s why medicine can not be learned by correspondence.
    The student doctors, as you said, need to learn first hand with patients. That’s how it is everywhere in the world. At first, they learn with the dead(cadavers), and then switch over to the living, but where they are now guided by their superiors.
    Lastly, it would be a mistake to ‘leave your health to Google’. For 99.9% of complaints, there is at least 5 causes (I am being conservative). It is called differential diagnosis. The job of the doctor is to reach for the most likely and correct one, and this is based on both his ACADEMIC and CLINICAL knowledge, acquired over time. He gets better with practice. Doctors are not Gods. They also make mistakes.
    I rest my case. I hope a shed some light. (coming from one who would be becoming a doctor by July 30th)

    • Gbam!!!! I say this and I cannot over emphasiize it. Have a conversation with your doctor and when in doubt, seek a 2nd, 3rd even infinity opinion. It saves life.

  2. @Eketi, what happened with COMPOUND MATTERS? Since your last post on that series, I have virtually checked everyday for the next one. It is not fair oh. I am avid follower of that series and my appetite and interest …. only.you know how you have been toying with it.

  3. @phortunate….plz tel ha ooooo cz m no undastnd agn……Eketi Compound matters biko

  4. Eketi. I once had that experience in 2013. I had serious typhoid, tho’ didn’t know it at the time. As I collapsed from weakness, I was rushed down to the hospital. On getting there, this young female doctor just concluded I had appendices!
    In my state of weakness, I vehemently protest o! And I was referred to another hospital where they brought in another doctor who said ‘it may not be’ appendices but nonetheless will perform a minor operation.
    Then I started thinking. So this ppl want to open me up? I just pack my things and discharge myself albeit serious protest.
    Then I called my own personal doctor who later diagnosed typhoid fever!
    Mehn, was I grateful for my stubbornness!
    It’s good to be inquisitive, it pays to ask questions, or else, one will be turned to a lab rat!

    • Y they probably misdiagnosed you is that typhoid can also cause an ulcer at the ileocaecal valve, close to the appendix. So it is understandable.
      The thing is, doctors, too, get better with practice…. That’s how it is for every profession….

  5. Smh!.. Everything goes in Nigeria

  6. It really would help if many of us took responsibility for our own health…it’s all this ‘leave it in God’s hands’ that will make an ibiliachi full-grown adult to be letting doctor play suwe on top their bodies.
    Well done jare, Eketi…well written

  7. You see these our doctor’s undersabi almost murdered someone and another patient anti-biotics oversabi almost got her committing suicide…….Lord help us. Good read Eketi

  8. ..your last two lines.. #epic! Yea! Doctors get better with practice but biko we aren’t lab rats! Matters of life and death aint ‘jokes’.. That is why we see in most ‘foreign’ diagnosis/prognosis/drugs/symptoms or whatever medical term is applicable.. they test stuff on animals first (Biko! Sorry ‘animal conservation groups) because the human life shouldn’t be toyed with!
    In as much as I’m not science-inclined.. I search goggle for any slight pain I may feel and the last time I went to the hospital, doctor and goggle were functioning side by side.. I even goggle the drugs given to check for their contents and side effects! #goggle.is.ya.friend!
    And lastly as Eketi said.. please get 2nd, 3rd and even 4th opinions! Don’t gamble with ya life!!!

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