My daughter, Somto, was on the hospital couch, convulsing as the emergency staff tried to resuscitate her.
“What exactly happened madam?” the attending doctor asked me.
“I… I don’t know.” I felt silly that I couldn’t explain what was going on but I truly didn’t know.
“She left home very fine this morning. When she got back home, we went to buy groceries. It was after that that the strange behaviour started.”
“Did she eat anything while you were out?” the doctor asked.
“Hmmmm… So you can’t say if she drank Sniper or anything like that.”
“No, she couldn’t have… She left the house this morning and didn’t return till evening. There was Sniper at home but she didn’t have access to it. I sprayed it before she got back.” I replied, replaying the events of the day for clues.
Earlier that morning…
As soon as everyone walked out the door, I plugged in my laptop, crossed my legs on our couch and set to work. I had a lot of work to devour and I was grateful to have the whole of Saturday to myself. My husband had to travel for a meeting and my daughter was off for piano lessons and swimming. None of them would be back until evening. Perfect!
After typing furiously for over an hour, a dark image scurried across the room.
Ewwww! A cockroach.
I was determined not to be distracted, so I kept working. However, over the next two minutes, I saw three other cockroaches coming to play.
Armed with my slippers and my best scream (in case any of them flew at me), I went after the pesky things.
My heart was racing as though I was running a marathon but I went after them. One got away but I consoled myself with the three roach corpses lying on my floor.
I resumed working and yet another cockroach flew across the room.
“Whaaat?!” I yelled in frustration. “So this is how you guys party when no one is home, right?”
Hurriedly, I went to the aboki who sells things near the house.
“Abeg gimme Sniper.” I said.
“Wetin you wan use am do?” he asked, looking at me suspiciously as if I had asked him for a gun.
I took a look at myself and burst out laughing. The oversized T-shirt I wore had palm oil stains from the yam and oil I ate that morning. I was wearing bathroom slippers, and my hair was a hot mess. In my haste, I didn’t even remember to put on a wig or scarf. He must have thought I wanted to commit suicide.
“Oga aboki, I wan use am kill cockroach. I no fit kill myself o. Who I wan leave my husband and pikin for?”
He relaxed the frown on his face and handed me the bottle of Sniper after I paid.
I went home to carry out my mission: Operation no cockroach alive! I sprayed everywhere spray-able: rooms and beds, wardrobes and cabinets. No stone was left unturned. So much for working today!
I went out and returned home in the evening to open the windows. Somto got home shortly after, so I told her to change her clothes. Then we went for a stroll.
Everything changed when we got back and Somto started acting strangely. She began spitting excessively and after a while, her arms began to twitch. Her speech also became unclear, like someone that was going unconscious.
I rushed her to the hospital.
“You said you sprayed Sniper in the house today right?” the doctor asked, bringing me back to the present.
“Did you spray her clothes, the wardrobes?”
“Yes. But what has that got to do….”
“Madam, we’ll need to take off all her clothes NOW!”
“Draw the curtains! Take off those clothes. Cut them off if you must. I need a disposable drape or something else to cover her.” the doctor said to the nurses. Then she turned to the other doctor with her, “Start her on Atropine immediately. Assessment: Organophosphate poisoning. We need to move fast!”
I was still standing there, dazed, when she turned back to me and said, “Your daughter is manifesting signs of organophosphate poisoning ma’am. Sniper is an organophosphate chemical that can be poisonous when it gets into the body.”
“But… she couldn’t have drank it.” I said.
“That may be true, but not all cases of Sniper poisoning happen by drinking. The chemical can get into the body when you breathe it in or when it comes in contact with the skin, eyes, or mouth. For your daughter, I suspect that she most likely… Aha!” she shouted as the nurses removed my daughter’s skirt and got to her underwear. It was wet with Sniper.
“This is the source! The Sniper obviously got absorbed from the clothes, through her skin.”
“Oh dear! Would she be alright? Hope she won’t die?” I said, trying not to panic.
“Well, thank God we quickly identified the source. If she continued to wear those clothes, it would sabotage the treatment. Thank God she came in fairly early also. Most people don’t detect it early and that worsens the outcome. In other words, we can hope for the best.”
“Who would have thought that Sniper could be this dangerous?” I said in my shock.
“Sniper is much more dangerous than people realize. It was made as pest control for farms and outdoor spaces, but many people have turned it into an everyday insecticide, which shouldn’t be. High levels of this chemical in the body can cause low blood pressure, low heart rate, breathing difficulties, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, restlessness, confusion, seizures, coma… the list goes on. People need to be extremely careful with it and avoid misusing it.”
Aboki– Loosely, Hausa man.
Abeg– Pidgin word meaning please
Sniper– an organophosphate Agro-chemical that is commonly abused and misused.
Wetin you wan use am do? -Pidgin phrase meaning ‘What do you want to use it for?’
I wan use am kill cockroach. I no fit kill myself o. Who I wan leave my husband and pikin for?” – ‘I want to use it to kill cockroaches. I can’t kill myself. What would become of my husband and child?
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