It was definitely not funny.
Jomi stretched again trying to get rid of the pain in his lower back. This was only his fifth day at the factory and his body was complaining. He tried massaging his back with one hand while attempting to push the overloaded trolley with the other hand. Needless to say, it was impossible; he was no Superman. At least not yet.
Akede, an older worker in his late thirties, noticed his distress and went over to meet him. Akede occupied a ‘father’ position in the factory and had taken most of the workers under his wings, including Jomi who just joined. He slipped two tiny nylon bags into Jomi’s hands.
“What’s this?”Jomi asked, looking at the brightly coloured tablets in the nylon.
“You’re going to need it. It’s very effective at handling body pains, and trust me the pains are just begining.” Akede said patting his shoulder. “You’ll definitely thank me later.” he said with a smile as he walked away.
“Thanks.” Jomi replied, slipping the nylons into his pocket. During lunch, he took the tablets with a glass of water and took another one at night before collapsing into bed, exhausted.
The next morning, he felt so pumped. “Those tablets were great!” he said out loud and whistled all the way to work, ready to lift more sacks and push more trolleys. He got to work with a bounce in his step.
“Somebody is very happy today.” Tijani remarked.
“Yes! I feel alright.” Jomi replied, before sinking his teeth into a soft loaf of bread, and washing it down with a large bottle of Coca-cola.
By the third day however, the pains came back in a rage. He hurriedly went to Akede who connected him to the supplier. The tablets repeated their magic and before long he was using the drugs every day and lifting weights that Superman would be jealous of.
Several months down the line, he knew he needed to get to the hospital. He had developed heartburn and peppery abdominal pain and couldn’t continue his superman stunts at the factory. But the most troubling symptom for him was his stool. Irrespective of what he ate or didn’t eat, his stool was very dark. Black. Like Tar.
Question after question, the doctor tried to find out the cause of Jomi’s symptoms.
“Do you have any background medical condition that you are being managed for?”
“Do you regularly use analgesics, pain killers?”
“Yes. My work is very demanding so I use them daily.”
“Which one do you use?”
“I don’t know the names by heart but I’ll show you.” He said reaching into his back pocket and drawing out the pack of tiny nylons.
Dr Kalau examined the contents of the satchet: Ibucap, Esefen, Feldene, Genflam-P, and Ricam. That was already a red flag.
“How do you take these tablets?” he asked.
“With a glass of water, two or three times daily. But I use warm water to avoid any reactions.” Jomi replied smugly, as though he had achieved a great feat.
“You use all these at the same time? Together?” Dr. Kalau said trying to hide his bewilderment.
“Yes, and as a matter of fact, they work well since I started them six months ago.”
“That’s interesting, and as a matter of fact, you most likely have a stomach ulcer Mr Jomi.”
“Me? Stomach Ulcer? That’s impossible! I’m an eater. In fact, I overeat. If you see the mountain of pounded yam and egusi that I levelled before coming here, you wouldnt say that. Isn’t stomach ulcer for those that don’t eat well?”
“Oh no. Not necessarily. The stomach contains acid that helps to digest food but there is a mucous layer that normally protects the stomach from being digested by that acid. Anything that affects that protective layer can lead to an ulcer. NSAIDs, a group of painkillers are notorious for causing ulcers because they affect that mucous layer, and you sir, have been using extremely high doses of these pain killers every day for the past six months.”
“No doctor, it’s just one tablet each. One yellow, one white, one brown…”
“Mr Jomi, these three are exactly the same thing.” pointing them out. “Ibucap and Esefen, different company names for the same thing: Ibuprofen. Feldene and Ricam are the same thing as well, Piroxicam. And guess what? All these five are NSAIDs.
Dr. Kalau took off his glasses, clasped his hands on the table and leaned closer. “Mr. Jomi, do you now see that it’s a miracle that these are the only symptoms you have?”
“Wow.” Jomi said, connecting the dots.
“And the dark stool is a sign that the ulcer is bleeding; it’s the acid and other fluids in the intestines that make it dark. So first of all, you need to stop these drugs immediately so as not to worsen the stomach ulcer. There are better ways to manage your pain. For instance, regular workouts and specific exercises that would build strength and help you cope with the demands of your job.”
“Wow!” Jomi said again, digesting this new information. “I was totally clueless, overdosing on drugs.”
“And abusing them too.” Dr Kalau added. “You owe it to yourself to always know what drug you are taking into your body. Don’t stop at the brand names, know the active ingredients as well. It’s usually written in smaller letters on the packs under the brand names. For example, Ibucap and Buprofen are brand names, while Ibuprofen is the active ingredient. Knowing that can save your health, your time and your money. For now, we’ll need to carry out blood tests and endoscopy to know how severe the ulcer is. We’ll also start you on some medications immediately.”
“Thank you Dr. Kalau. This was an eye-opener.”
Pounded yam and egusi- A local African staple meal.
NSAIDs- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, a class of drugs that are used to control pain and inflammation.
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