I YELLED AT MY GRANDSON AND HE LAPSED INTO A COMA

It was just a yell of disapproval to correct the child’s ‘bad’ behavior, but the result was a coma lasting 96 hours.

At the best of times, they were needy, though not hungry; but when the Coronavirus lockdown came, together with its economic and financial disempowerment, things began to look very bleak indeed. A charity, Sickle Cell Aid Foundation (SCAF), put a smile on their lips with its distribution of palliatives in Lagos and three other states in Nigeria.

It was just a woman and her only grandson, Chibuike, who had had a stroke since he was eight years old. The 12-year-old’s parents had remained together but stopped making babies after the implications of their sickle cell carrier status had been clarified. The child was placed in the care of his grandmother to allow the parents to hussle for the means to take care of the child. He was three then and had freshly been diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia.

The grandmother lived alone, a short distance from Ijede General Hospital, Ikorodu, where, it was thought, the child could receive care as required. At the age of six, he started dragging his left foot as he walked. Not long afterwards, he could not firmly grab anything with his left hand.

The stroke progressed, the child’s education was brought to a halt, which the pandemic helped to disguise, as no other child was in school.

Patient toilet training helped Chibuike claw back remnants of bowel and bladder control. He was able to talk, clearly but quietly, although with a slight drawl. Whenever the impulse came to ease himself, he would alert the grandmother who would fetch a potty, help him sit on it and help him up when he was done.

On the day of the 2020 festival of Id el Kabir (July 31), grandma was busy frying meat given as a gift from a mosque nearby when the urge came to urinate. She was just outside the door doing the cooking. Grandma’s Yoruba ring tone of apala music rent the air as the child called in his low tones. She was past hearing as she spoke with her caller. The dam burst and Chibuike wet himself.

‘When I returned to the room and found a puddle on the floor,’ she remembers, ‘I couldn’t hold myself.’

She yelled at the boy from pent-up frustration. Instantly, Chibuike reeled backwards and had another stroke. As there was no money, nearness to hospital proved useless on that day. It was one thing to live close to a health care setting, and yet another to have the means to access care. The parents rushed to the child’s bedside, but with no money, they dispensed with taking the child to emergency. They still owed the few private hospitals which showed mercy where government hospitals could not.

For the next four days, the child lay on bed, unresponsive to any stimuli.

‘I fed him tea throughout the period,’ says the grandmother. ‘I feared for the worst.’

On midnight the fifth day, Chibuike snapped back to consciousness. The first thing he said was, ‘I am thirsty, grandma. Please make me tea!’

‘Never again will I shout at my poor little boy- he has undergone so much already.’

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