The “slumping” phenomenon

27 Aug

The “slumping” phenomenon………..

There is an epidemic of both men and women “slumping” and dying. On a recent trip home, it was disconcerting to be informed that my old friends are “slumping” and dying frequently. Underlying news of their death would be elaborate stories of how some spirit had “struck” them to death—almost always confirmed by a church pastor/prophet. It is bad enough that my beloved friends are dying off but the reasons behind their demise have added to my pain and worry about not only the physical but mental health of my people. It is bad enough that someone left home in the morning seemingly healthy and did not make it back home—the suggested reason for their death adding insult to injury. I asked a friend once about the cause of another friend’s death and his responded sarcastically—death. A humorous attempt at lightening-up what was serious and unpalatable news. I am reminded of a time not so long ago that I asked my parents, of blessed memory, why their weekend activities consisted mostly of attending funerals—they simply smiled and suggested that I would understand much later why. Unfortunately for me I find myself in the same shoes now much earlier in life than they did. In my mind things should be much better now than in their time. You see, my parents and their cronies lived full lives and died expectedly at ripe old ages. I have no other frame of reference. On reflection, I wonder why our health situation appears to be worse now than in the past. Did our parents do a much better job of taking care of themselves than we do? Was the health care system much better in their days than it is now? What did they know then that we do not?

In many instances, our parents were lucky to live through birth and survive early childhood to adulthood with all the perils of growing up without adequate healthcare or pre-natal care for their mothers. The age of many adults were marked by cataclysmic health events. My father for instance suggested that he was born in the year “influenza” came to Nigeria. It was based on this that he was able to retrospectively estimate his age. The month and date, you can imagine was mostly guess work based on the agricultural and market calendar, although he seemed quite certain of it. Birth was by attendant birth, I suppose, although I am not an expert in this area. All the same you can imagine that they went through all kinds of illnesses that we now experience and more without—the benefit of modern medicine and coordinated health information systems. I was much luckier; my father had struggled to get us out of poverty and made it to being a university lecturer. I had the benefit of the university health center which was well organized and excellent. Treatment was timely and I can still remember bouts with malaria, jaundice and assorted illnesses that no matter how difficult were resolved. I also remember a time prior to this that an ear infection was treated with the juice squeezed from fresh onions neatly placed on orange leaves—no antibiotics. Amazingly many survived this and many more unusual treatments and local techniques. Perhaps we were all “lucky” or strictly survived by the grace of God.

The living conditions of our parent’s time when compared to now would be like comparing apples to oranges. Their life-styles perhaps due to conditions of their time, was simpler and much harder than it is now. For instance; the farm work, distance traveled to get an education and the general struggle was tough. Some of us had a little taste of this struggle and some were lucky enough to have the luxury of traveling to school in a car and never really knowing what suffering is—especially if born after the civil war. We are more prosperous now, better educated (some may disagree), live in better houses and environment and eat a “healthier” diet. So we can say that the quality of life is much improved. What would account for what seems to be a decline in life expectancy in our country Nigeria? It is reported that the average life expectancy in Nigeria in 2000 was 51.56 years and by 2011 had declined to 47.56 (World Bank figures). All indications are that this decline occurred even as we have become a more affluent country. Without boring you with statistic the average worldwide life expectancy presently is approximately 65.5 years, while that of countries like the USA is in the 70’s. A more realistic comparison would be that of a country like Rwanda, where the life expectancy is estimated to be approximately 55 years in 2011. Incidentally, the age of most of my friends who are slumping would fall right within the accepted margins of error for this estimated life expectancy for Nigeria. Why the anomaly?

What is most alarming to me is that my friends are “slumping” from, in my untrained point of view, treatable and manageable medical conditions such as Malaria, Diabetes, Heart Attacks and Strokes. All have local definitions and ascribable spiritual connections. What I am fully aware of is that such illnesses are preventable and treatable through appropriate health education, change in life style and adequate treatment, despite what in my books is misguided “spiritual’ diagnosis. I recollect a conversation I had with one of my friends about his health condition. He had disclosed to me that he felt dizzy and had gone to see the doctor who then “tied his hands” (local reference for checking his Blood pressure-BP) and was told that his BP was very high. Asked the numbers he shared that it was 200/110. To explain, the high number is what is referred to as the Systolic blood pressure and the lower number the Diastolic blood pressure. The recent goal is that BP should be below 120/80. These numbers were extremely high; and based on personal experience very dangerous. I was alarmed and let him know my feelings. He abruptly interrupted me, suggesting that he had been delivered through prayers and miracles in his church. He argued that “unbelievers” would not understand this. I immediately implored with him to seek medical attention and that he needed to be on medication, suggesting to him that God is the author of knowledge that heals this diseases through medicine. I went on and on—to the extent of disclosing to him that I am a survivor of this disease and have been on medication for well over 15 years, imploring that he seek appropriate help. After much botherance on my part, as if to soothe my concern, he shared that he had begun native treatment, further alarming me. A long story short—my friend had a major stroke a month later and is now deceased after a “slumping” incident. You can imagine my annoyance and frustration when his family members suggested that a church “prophet” had posthumously gotten insight that he was somehow struck by a “spirit” sent by a relative. Insult to injury!

It seems to me that there is a disconnection here—when people are dying of treatable diseases due to what I would term ignorance, unholy deception and misinformation. We are failing each other either by not educating ourselves properly, passing on information or ignoring obvious signs of trouble. Apart from the larger question of our dilapidated healthcare system (a topic for another day) there is a more fundamental issue of our deteriorating logical thinking and lack of adequate mental health services. The world it seems is moving past us at a rate which will doom us if we do not have a collective effort to combat issues of this nature. These are preventable health issues. As one ages the body stops functioning as it should or is not as resilient and naturally needs assistance. A body that was able to tolerate a high fever may be unable to do so anymore as one ages. An unintended result of “healthy” eating is obesity which by the way leads to adult onset diabetes. It is the nature of life. What was treatable with “onions” is now treatable with antibiotics—proper information. It is bad enough that we have incurable diseases, let us at the very least deal properly with the ones that are curable and can be managed. Why are we so reliant on crude methods and posthumous predictions by people of dubious intent that are preying on our individual and collective ignorance? We have to find a way to reverse the trend and help save the lives of our loved ones.

Please take the time to care for yourself. Seek medical attention at the first sign of illness and routinely at least once a year. Try to understand your family medical history and respond accordingly and proactively. Avoid self diagnosis or basing your decisions on unprofessional help. Utilize whatever is left of your primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare institutions—just maybe we can prevent some slumping.

Paul Inyang – 8/25/12

Paul Inyang

Maryland, USA

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