“Uche, Face your work oh” by Dr Uche Anyanwagu

I returned from Abuja that evening and was told by my enthusiastic cousin that we now have another doctor in the compound. He was obviously elated to have a resident doctor since myself and my uncle were far away…

We have several roles played by different professions in medical practice. Just like the human body it serves, the diverse professionals in this field need to work together to achieve a common goal – good health.

Though this unity is very important, some degrees of independence is needed and each profession is expected to work within its boundary, and escalate once the need arises.

In Nigeria, a lot of people pretend what they are not in the medical field. Once someone visits the hospital twice, they begin to assume some roles and arrogate to themselves some relevance.

During my national service in the creeks of Bayelsa, I had this particular elderly man who would boast to me that he worked for 35 or 40 years (can’t recall which) in their general hospital.

He kept on boasting of his knowledge of the workings of a hospital that I began to feel that my little work in their community health centre was a waste. At a stage, I felt he might have retired as a Consultant. One day, I braved it to ask him what he was actually and was astounded to hear, in his own words, “…a deputy chief security officer”.

Oh my gooosh! According to Oyibo.

I don’t know if this also happens in other professions, I have yet to fathom the reasons why people don’t stick to what they are.

So, as that jealous wife advised a dutiful customer service officer, there is a need for Uche to face her work.

Ehe, about the Doc in my compound, my cousin’s enthusiasm was infectious. Like a wild flu, I caught it and earnestly looked forward to seeing my junior colleague.

He was working at the FMC which was just a few minutes away. Whether the gods whispered something to him, I had no idea because I waited in vain that day to see him. This was to be for another two days. He kept coming in late and leaving early.

I made futile attempts to see him. I sent messages across but the young man went on an unscheduled weekend trip. Finally, I caught up with him one midnight as I crept into his crib.

My beloved friend was apprehensive seeing me. He’s aware I’ve been around but apologised that he’s been busy. That didn’t bother me a bit. I was there to see my brother with the intent of sharing some old medical school gists and the politics of the practice.

My suspicions became emboldened when our vibes never “gelled”. He kept stammering all his responses. He couldn’t tell me his medical school nor the posting he was doing then at the hospital.

Maniacally bewildered (apologies to Hon Patrick Obahagbon), I asked him if he was a doctor. He confessed to be a laboratory technician (not even a medical lab scientist) who was working at the front desk of the lab – where his job was checking receipts and giving sample bottles to patients before phlebotomy.

Unsurprisingly, he had a stethoscope dangling in front of his Mercedes Benz. His blazing white ward coat too hung with pride behind. He has bled most of my cousins, aunts and uncles and would come home with damning reports of “staph”, “gono-staph” and their siblings.

To cap his being a medical doctor , he had prescribed (and occasionally sourced) medications too for my people; and parted with some handsome amount of money. They all hail him “Doc” and even occasionally didn’t collect his rent so as to hype the brewing goodwill.

I almost convoked a family meeting. I informed my people of my findings and some who had their suspicions shared how they never saw him inside any ward or clinic whenever they were at the hospital, and how crude they felt his approach was.

It wasn’t long, he left the compound. What do you expect a young man whose bubble has been burst to do? I wondered till date if he continued in that enterprise or whether he changed as he promised when I advised him.

I just hope that this Uche later faced his work.

His story reminds me too of two other Uche’s.

The first is an Uche who couldn’t face his work in a busy teaching hospital, East of the Niger. He was (and may be, still is) an ambulance driver.

It is already sad but well known that ambulances in Nigeria are for conveying corpses, unlike a mobile life-saving facility as seen in saner climes.

This Uche, like the first, had stethoscopes dangling on top of the front mirror of both his ambulance and personal car. Tall and well built like a sumo wrestler, he had an air of arrogance around him and an intimidating gait.

It was also well known that he answered “Doc” within his locality. Perhaps too, he might have offered them some medical treatments as proof of the same because it was not out of place to find his kinsmen coming to the hospital to ask of Dr Xyz.

I can’t recall any story of his medical escapades but it was clear that the dots were reluctant to connect. Imagine an ambulance driver (not even the paramedics real life-saving ambulances) posing as a doctor! Ihukwa m! Mbok!

Uche, face your work oh.

The third Uche is called Onye Chemist!

It is understandable that they are the mini doctor in most localities where they serve and enjoy patronage. They have been at liberty to mix all manner of drugs for their clients.

I am so bothered that their clients’ pocket sizes determine the drugs you will dispense (sorry mix). – the quantity, quality and duration of use.

It doesn’t prick their skin about the type of illness which their clients have, or its cause. I understand they may not know, and rightly too. But it’s a wonder that most do not know when the handshake has gotten to the elbow.

The pathetic story of a little girl whose little wound was converted to a large oasis quickly comes to mind. This 9-year old sustained some injuries while fetching firewood. She was taken by her parents to the Chemist man who mixed all sorts of drugs in powdered form and applied to the wound. He bandaged it severely.

Within weeks, they kept visiting. The wound became gangrenous (the leg started to rot away) yet Onye Chemist wouldn’t bulge. When the two bones of the left leg became visible, he finally gave up and the little girl made it late to hospital where she would have an amputation but later died of sepsis.

If Onye Chemist realised that he was only meant to sell over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and treat minor injuries. The little girl, perhaps, might have been 31 today.

If Onye Chemist knew that his job ends immediately at “…if symptoms persist after 3 days…”

If people will stop self medication, arbitrary use, and abuse, of drugs…

Then Uche will face his/her work!

The very gentle, non-confrontational but assertive voice of that lady now echoes even more …

To that lab attendant who claims to be what he is yet to be…

Uche, face your work oh.

To that ambulance driver that crowned himself the Hippocrates of his own enclave…

Uche, face your work oh.

To Onye Chemist who treats all sicknesses and the cause of the same…

Uche, face your work oh.

The truth remains that much work even awaits all if they just stick to their wings in this field of play.

Yes you! Uche, face your work oh!

I am Uche Anyanwagu. I am Uche. I will face my work…

This is the 17th in a series of short stories on “Medical Myths – Tales by Doctors”

Watch out next Monday for another. Feel free to share.

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