By Chalya Johnson Dul
You will never understand Nigerian hospitals; you will never understand why they have to be so terrible- or why some doctors have to be negligent and others so passive about patients.
You’re in your mid 20’s, you realize that your eyes hurt badly, especially at night when you’re unwinding from a hectic day. Looking at your phone or computer screen is hard too. Light is unbearable.
You have always seen in twos- like the drawings and illustrations that portray drunkenness. The images have an extra transparent edge on each side; that’s how you have seen everything from age ten. Now that means for more than half of your life you’ve walked around thinking that it was normal. Your dad was going to the ophthalmologist and you wanted to come along, you’d explained to him why on the way- you can’t remember if he even remembers but you remember that you spoke to the doctor. You remember sitting in the patient’s chair and then going back home still seeing like you have four eyes. Your childish desires to wear glasses dashed by the seriousness of adult problems.
Your paranoia is what sends you off to Google- there are thousands of results; confusion nawa*1, there are hundreds you can relate to; yekpa*2. Which one of them is it? Self-diagnosis = paranoia.
You just desire a solution, you feel you deserve one even. The thought of going to the doctor who ignored you when you were ten is out of the question, it doesn’t matter if she’s garnered experience over the years and has a hospital where Jesus works. You start looking for a solution; you have toured four hospitals.
In one of them, the doctor tells you that you’re every ophthalmologist’s worst nightmare and every time he sees your file his heart rate increases. His boldness and the smile on his face amuse you.
In another hospital, you’re told there’s nothing God cannot do. But you went where Jesus, God’s own Son works and you’ve walked around for more than half of your life with double vision.
The third blow at the next eye clinic was that you were put under a TV to do your visual acuity test. Right under a television blaring Zee World, all eyes on the screen, male and female. It felt like they were all staring at you but they’re looking at the screen, screaming and exclaiming in their different languages. The optometrist asks you to read the chart, her eyes are on you, you feel them leave and stop reading, and then she goes
“Ehen, continue na” her head lowering to meet your gaze. She’s obviously looking at the screen too.
Disgust will not leave you when you get home. Apart from the fact that you became a lab rat, you were forced to endure Saloniiiii screaming above your head and rushing into your ears. You do it all because of your father, he didn’t force you to, but he is nice enough to want to see you find a solution.
You go back to base, back to where you started. You arrive every Thursday for five weeks as early as you can, sitting in the waiting room with your book to read and sometimes with work to do.
You start to understand why you’re all called patients – it dawns on you- that phrase is probably meant for Nigeria. Everyone here has to be patient. Patient patients are a hospitals delight. Who are you not to be patient, who is your father; can you fly out to London because of mere double vision?
You just go about your life not everything has an explanation. Maybe not everything has a solution. You don’t understand why, but you understand the whole gist about being a patient in Nigerian hospitals.
*Nawa – Nigerian expression of concern
*Yekpa – Expression of shock
Last modified: April 9, 2021