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By Stella Damascus
Recently I got involved in the life of a little girl who was about
five years old. The experience I got was scary but also very informative
and educative. I thought I should share this information with parents,
guardians, heads of schools, neighbours, hospitals and pharmacies.
realised that Nigeria pays a lot of attention to specific vaccinations
when children are born and our hospitals do not have the culture of
going through files to know who and who is due for another vaccination.
They just leave it to the parents, who may not remember or are not
around, and in the process skip a very important vaccine for the child.
exposed as a lot of us think we are, there are a lot of things that we
do not know, or have heard of and are not sure exactly what they are.
Most of the time, the problem we have in Nigeria as parents is lack of
research. When it comes to making money, marketing and publicity
strategies, we are on top of our game as regards research. The story is,
however, not the same when it comes to health care. We usually leave
that to the doctors and nurses who might not even be as informed as you
Trust me, I know what I am saying because I have
encountered a lot of medical practitioners who are not able to answer
questions concerning different things like lupus and other forms of
diseases that are not popular in West Africa. The fact that they are not
popular does not mean that they do not exist among Africans. Well,
that is another story entirely.
Back to the child I was talking
about in the beginning, I saw this child in church on Sunday and she
danced and played, even ate cake as it was the birthday celebration of
one of the other kids in Sunday school. They all took pictures and
generally had great fun. According to the family, she got home after
church and was so tired that she fell asleep. Her mother left her to
rest for a while but after three hours they thought it was unusual for
her to sleep that much in the afternoon. So, the woman decided to wake
her up but when she touched the little girl her temperature was so high
that mother almost dropped her. There was fear all over the house
because no one had ever experienced the kind of temperature the little
As it is with most Nigerians, when something like this
happens, the first thing we think of is malaria which we always try to
treat by ourselves by taking or giving medication we believe our bodies
The mother gave her something to reduce her
temperature and some malaria medication, hoping that by the next
morning, the fever will have been reduced.
midnight the child woke up screaming and the whole house ran to her and
she was hallucinating. She said “the man is moving faster mummy please
tell him to stop moving faster”. At that point her mother started
crying. She got a towel, dipped it in cold water and put it on the
girl’s body to bring down the fever which was getting worse.
The whole house stayed awake till 4 am when they decided to take her to the hospital.
they got there, the receptionist took almost an hour trying to ask
questions, calculate money for consultation and so on. After that, it
was time to take vitals before going to see the doctor. The mother asked
for a pediatrician and that was when she discovered that most hospitals
don’t have resident paediatricians; they have consultants who come in
at specific times on specific days.
They saw a doctor who admitted
her and ran blood tests. Of course, you will find malaria parasite but
the saving grace was a particular doctor who was very patient and made
further investigations. He then asked for the child to be treated with
heavy doses of intravenous antibiotics. After a few hours, the
paediatrician finally came and asked some questions and noticed that the
little girl could not get her chin to touch her chest. At that point,
the girl’s mother was called aside and told that they will have to take a
sample from the child’s spine because of a suspicion the doctor had.
was the most painful extraction they had ever done, even for an adult,
but the results came two days later. That was when the mother was told
that her child had meningitis and it was close to the brain. The only
reason that child did not turn into a vegetable and eventually die was
because of the doctor who insisted the child be given antibiotics. But
for that early treatment, the little girl would have died. The girl’s
treatment was long and painful. It came with a lot of sleepless nights
at the hospital and so much discomfort for the little girl.
mother got the shocker of her life when the hospital started asking her
questions about her daughter’s vaccination. When they asked her if she
made sure her children took meningitis vaccinations, she said she didn’t
even know there was a vaccination for that. She also discovered that
there were some vaccinations her children should have taken at the age
Some are taken after the age of ten and I am also aware
that if any child seeks for admission in any school in the western
world, whether pre-school, kindergarten, grade school, middle school,
high school or even college, the parents must bring a form filled by a
hospital telling them the child had taken all the shots. The hospital
documents will also tell them about the child’s medical history and
everything that concens the family’s health history.
It is very
sad that ninety per cent of Nigerians pay attention to DTP, IPV, MMR,
HBV and chicken pox. There are actually five more from what I have
discovered, including the almighty HIB.
Please try to find out
how many vaccinations your children have taken and how many more they
have to take. Try and make sure your hospital keeps you up to date with
your children’s medical history. You must also know what they are
allergic to and what treatment they have had over time.
Anything that can get into your spine and then your brain can kill faster than even HIV.
let us all try to take our children’s health more seriously and I
encourage you to find out about most of these immunizations, different
illnesses that you can avoid, things your children should not eat or
drink. Find out things you should look out for when you meet a
pediatrician or go to a hospital that was recommended to you.