IN THE MIDDLE OF THINGS…
She looked at me, and I looked at her, genuinely confused.
“I beg your pardon ma’am?” I said.
“I’m saying I don’t want to understand. I just want the treatment. All I want is to be well,” she said smugly.
Frustration poured over me in torrents. Ahn, ahn! What kind of human being behaves like this? I wondered. This was one of the days when being a doctor was frustrating!
Let me tell you how we got here.
IN THE BEGINNING…
It was a beautifully regular day at my office. The weather had been cool till just a few moments ago when the sun decided to turn up the heat. I could hear the lizards on the fence scurrying to safety. even though the air conditioning was broken, I was doing okay with my ceiling fan on overdrive. All was fine and dandy.
Then Madam Kiki Bello walked in. Her artistic head wrap and the many colours of her outfit immediately caught my eye. This was going to be an exciting patient, I thought. She pursed her lips as she sat down, wrapped her hands across her chest, and tilted her head slightly to the left with an I’m-not-exactly-happy-to-be-here-but-I-don’t-have-a-choice look.
Uh oh. Did she think she was here for an interrogation? I certainly hoped not ‘cause the last time I checked, ‘Consulting Room 4’ was still on the sign outside my door.
I cracked some dry jokes to put her at ease. Then I whipped out my papers and began explaining her health condition to her, as well as the possible outcomes and treatment options. I couldn’t wait for the thrill that I usually felt when a patient’s eyes would light up as they understood their health issues, had their fears allayed, and got armed with the information they needed to lead healthier lives. C’mon now!
“Are you with me madam?” I would ask from time to time as I sketched and drew. She would reply with “Ummh” and nod her head slowly, very much like the lizards on the fence.
Once I was satisfied that I had done justice to the subject, I asked if she had any questions.
“No,” was her sharp reply.
“No? Okay then, please tell me what you understood.”
She looked at me blankly and said, “Ummmh… You mean I should explain?”
“Uh… Yes. What do you understand from all I’ve said?”
“Ahhh…. Hmmm,” she sighed. “Doctor, see ehn, I don’t need all these details and explanations you’ve been giving me. It’s not my thing. All I want is to be well and anything you say is fine by me. Just give me the treatment and let me go.”
She looked at me, and I looked at her.
“I beg your pardon madam?”
“I’m saying I don’t want to understand. I just want the treatment. All I want is to be well,” she said smugly and sank lower in her chair.
How nice! Except that it was not.
I looked at my table filled with several papers of colourful sketches with pen strokes of red and blue. then it hit me: I had just spent the last thirty minutes of my precious, priceless time explaining her medical condition and test results to her. All for nothing. Imagine that I bought a pack of A4 paper with my hard-earned money just for this! A tear formed at the corner of my eye.
I placed my hands on my forehead as I felt the frustration in torrents.
‘What kind of person does this?’ I wondered. ‘Why didn’t she tell me I was wasting my time and that she wasn’t interested? I mean, I could have used that time to attend to other patients. I could have replied to messages or even just goofed away the time… On and on, my mind went.
Then, the good voice of reason said, “Why not find out why she isn’t interested?”
Huh? Dear good voice of reason, could you please keep quiet right now? Like now! I just want to para scatter.
“Just find out.”
So I swallowed my pain and my pride, smiled, and out of the three hundred and sixty two questions on my mind, I asked this one: “Why are you not interested in knowing about your health? Your. Own. Health?”
“Because I believe you as the doctor would know better and can advise me on the best way.”
“That’s interesting, but let me paint you a scenario. If your dad or let’s say your grandfather dies, and the lawyer comes to read his will. You are told that he left you the sum of a hundred million naira but you could only get it on the condition that you would use it to start a school. But you aren’t into the education sector at all. In fact, you only have a secondary school degree. So would your response be “Dear Mr. Lawyer, I’m not into education. Since you are more educated than I am please take whatever decision is best about how to use the money, then tell me then and I’ll do it?”
“Noooo. How na? It is money we are talking about here. I will collect it and get people that know about it to teach me.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m very sure.”
“Remember, education is not your thing o. The lawyer would be in a better position to handle the money and the school since he is more educated right?”
“No. I will start learning immediately.”
“Okay then. Have you ever heard the saying that health is wealth? Your health is worth over a hundred million naira, dollars, or pounds. And here you are, with an opportunity to learn and understand things that will be beneficial to your health and you are saying “I don’t want, I don’t need it, it’s not my thing.” Bikonu, tell me what could be more relevant than your health?”
AND AT THE END…
“But is all the information and understanding thing really necessary? Does it change anything?” Madam Bello queried, blissfully unaware of the turmoil in my head.
“Yes, it does! It changes everything.” I said as leaned I forward, gripping the edge of my table. “You see, when people are actively involved in understanding and making decisions about their health, it is very beneficial. Such people tend to know what is an emergency from what isn’t, and can pick danger signs early. Therefore, they have fewer hospital admissions and surgeries, and they spend less on their health. Aren’t you interested in saving some money?
Did you also know that when you work with your health care provider to determine the best steps for you, it gives you a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction? At the end of the day, you can’t afford to just let life just happen to you. It’s time to be in charge!”
“Kai, you are absolutely correct doctor. The truth is, I just get scared with all those big, big names in the medical field… and I felt that since you guys know better why should I bother with the process? But I now know better. I will ensure I get all I need to make better health decisions. I’m sorry for my ignorant attitude earlier. Thanks for taking the time to educate me.”
Ahhhhh! Sweet soothing salve and music to my ears. I smiled. “Don’t bother, it was nothing, really,” I said to her.
Oh! Dear good voice of reason, I almost forgot to thank you for not keeping quiet the other time. My bad, but technically, I didn’t lie. It was really nothing.
Interesting! Coming from someone who was going to para scatter… how about we repeat it again?
No, thank you! Once is enough.
“Please, if you don’t mind, can you explain that part again?” Madam Bello said interrupting my internal dialogue.
So I began explaining again and this time, Madam Bello’s nods were genuine.
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