25 Minutes In Enugu, Nigeria

Too good to be true, you’d say, but this is what a parent related to me after a short trip to consult a Traditional Medical Practitioner (TMP) in Southeast Nigeria

By Ayoola Olajide

Joke Kukui

Ikorodu, Nigeria. Saturday 9 February 2019. Mrs. Joke Kukui met me at the cybercafé where I was doing a crash course related to the internet. An astute executive committee member of Ikorodu Sickle Cell Club, Mrs. Kukui chaperoned the activities of the club’s youths, kept track of absent members and ensured decorum on the Club’s whatsapp group.

As we stood on the verandah of the café, she pointed to the busy okada-jammed bus stop close by, where okrika tradesmen and women competed for space with bike riders. Among the tradesmen was a member of the club who had not been attending meetings for some time, Mrs. Kukui informed me.

Mr. Abobo Dilibe’s son had apparently been freed from the uncertainties of life with SCD (Mr. Dilibe*** actually uses the word CURE, but I wouldn’t go that far in the absence of verifiable proof). Mrs. Kukui had personally met Ekene, a handsome rambunctious 7-year-old.

I needed no persuasion to go meet Mr. Dilibe.

All-Too-Familiar Story

Abobo Dilibe’s story is all too familiar. Being a carrier of the sickle cell gene, he recognized the wisdom of avoiding the disease by marrying a woman whose genotype was AA. At the age of 2, Ekene manifested symptoms suggestive of sickle cell anaemia.

‘I nearly ran mad when they told me at King ‘O’ David Clinic that my son had sickle cell!’

It wasn’t possible – his wife was AA! Unfortunately, she wasn’t. The family had fallen casualty to the criminally inaccurate results common with many private laboratories in Nigeria.

‘I regarded the child and wrote him off in my mind.’

Turbulent times were ahead for the family. The couple would never be able to tell their relatives that they had produced a child with sickle cell. Ekene’s mum was pregnant with her second child when the diagnosis was made – would that one turn out a ‘sickler’ too? (Fortunately, as many would say, the child was not with sickle cell).

Educated Couple In Lowly Job

A well educated couple – Dilibe had a masters in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) from the University of Ibadan and his wife a Bachelors in International Relations & Diplomacy from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma – Nigeria’s cluelessness as to the future of the legion of graduates churned out by the higher institutions every year guaranteed their joblessness after completing National Service.

The couple gathered some money together and made a foray into the lowly okrika (second-hand clothes) trade. It might seem lowly on the surface, yet okrika can be very lucrative. The couple made it big in the crowded and competitive terrain.

Crises At The Drop Of A Pin

The child written off in his father’s mind aptly demonstrated the stuff he was made of, draining time, money and – as the couple confessed, his parents’ sanity. It was one problem after another, admission after admission at different hospitals in town. Once he started going to school, prolonged absence became the character of his attendance.

Despite the bottomless pit of medical bills swallowing up his savings, Dilibe had been scrimping on the side for a musical album to catapult him into fame. On the edge of going in for auditioning, a robust sickle cell crises came and swept away every kobo saved!

Then, one day, the friend of a friend introduced the family to a traditional medical practitioner (TMP) in Enugu.

Liberated in Enugu

If the means were there, the Dilibes would go to the bottom of the ocean to reprieve its first child from the jaws of SCD. The couple was heavily in debt but there was no time to waste saving up while a child continued to be soft prey to the whims of a deadly health condition. An emotional appeal to their okrika trade union coughed up the funds the family needed to seek immediate treatment in Enugu.

‘Treatment in Enugu took no more than 25 minutes,’ Dilibe said, recalling the day trip to south east Nigeria in 2017.

The TMP issued a number of injunctions: the child must take liberal amounts of water on a regular basis and avoid cold drinks of any type. It practically the same injunctions as orthodox medicine gave the child to live by, which did nothing to mitigate his suffering.

‘My son has experienced better health in the past 18 months than in the entire 5 years before that!’ interposed his mom.

More than one year post-treatment, Ekene has not been to see a doctor once, a far cry from those days when he was regularly in pain and in hospital. He has not missed a single day at school either.

The Dilibes seem finally relieved of the hydra-headed pressures of a monster blood condition which bears similarities with many of the health problems known to mankind.

It took only 25 minutes of consultation with a mere tradomedical practitioner

***not his real name

Disclaimer: This write-up is for information purposes alone.

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