I GET ANGRY WHEN I HEAR, MALARIA

Sunday 25/11/2018, I led the HVNaija team of young medical professionals on a 1-day medical outreach aimed at dealing a blow on Malaria, and helping the Isale-Eko community improve their health consciousness. Well, that’s not a big deal na! Why should I even mention it?

Sincerely, this is my 5th year of Organizing /Coordinating similar community outreaches. This one just finds it’s way into that pain which i have long hidden from childhood as tears were gonna roll out of my eyelids, lids well suited for a strong man like this….Imagine!

An aged woman in the community said in Yoruba, “Aisan Malaria lasan lasan”, meaning “Ordinary Malaria disease”; well, no be lie na! At least many of us in Nigeria have Malaria and it does nothing to us na!
Chai, that statement rang a bell of a Genius, called to dine with the earth just in his prime. Let me not bore you with the long story….

My mother, a proud mum of 3 boys..We used to call ourselves “the Three golliwogs”, a name synonymous to the fictional characters of a book we all enjoyed reading as children. Oyemade was the eldest of all. Tejumade and Sijuade (Myself) take succession.

Oyemade, most brilliant and intelligent of all, playing series of scrabble premiums at age 15..Can you imagine!? He played the big brother role perfectly, was a loving brother and son. Did you notice i said ” he was”? Well, no be mistake.

Flash back December 1998, the news of Oyemade’s admission into the prestigious University of Ilorin, was a great joy to the entire family. Of course, our first born will be going to the University. Is it not enough to call for celebration? His admission letter came in handy and we had a mini celebration within the house…at least a bottle of Tandi Gurana went round each person as we sipped with joy and chatted all day. who remembers that drink sef?
In about a week, Oyemade felt slightly feverish, accompanied with other symptoms as headache, cold and nausea. Malaria was suspected immediately, of course what else could be suspected if not the “common malaria”?. Mama, with so much love quickly approached the pharmacy to get Antimalarial drugs for her son. Every loving mother will do that na, abi no be so? May God bless that woman for her love and care. Oyemade got slightly better in a few days but the feeling of migraine lingered. The hospital was the next point of call. My father was the head of a strategic unit at the general hospital, Lagos Island and his entire family used the same hospital. That hospital had so many specialists but often, the facility is overburdened (story for another day). Oyemade had to undergo a series of diagnostic tests whose results were to be ready three days after ( that day fell on the January 1st 1999 public holiday) so it will only be ready another day after i.e 2nd January.

The hospital only gave out some anagelsics and some other drugs (not antimalarial ), which i really do not remember. Antimalarial drugs were not given because, off course, my mother had diagnosed and treatment based on motherly intuition. Only a test result would lead the team to the next treatment phase.
On 1st January 1999 precisely, the case worsened and he was barely able to stand. It was like a sudden relapse. He lost appetite so quickly and vomited a few times that evening. Then, a bit of calm was restored as he took the ORT for rehydration. He ate, used the drugs from the hospital and relaxed. Mum took him to the hospital but doctors were on holiday. Remember he has an appointment for the following day after collecting the test results. All that was needed was to wait till following morning. We had a gist that night sharing together how he intended to help build my emerging library …i had a lot of books, enough for an emerging kid library.

The following day was significant in the family as it was Tejumade’s birthday (You remember him?), of course we were siblings. Birthdays in our family were days we eagerly waited for as we have special delicacies for the day. Oyemade’s illness will not stop that na….at least it wasn’t enough to stop it as mum quickly prepared sumptuous Jollof rice as early as 6am. We were only waiting for daybreak to swallow the whole thing, the aroma was ……… you can fill in the space.

Oyemade will be going to the hospital that same morning. So mum quickly tried to prepare him and he’ll have his meal too. He however refused to eat our delicious birthday rice. He would prefer Ogi with milk. Mum quickly prepared ogi with milk but he’ll not take it too. He instead asked a question which rings in the head, “If i can’t eat these, can you post to me?”. This got everyone confused and immediately they were off to the hospital in a jiffy.
The results were ready and he was urgently seen by a doctor. At this time, he was looking ‘frightenly’ pale and weak. His speech became almost disappeared and the moment was different for all. He was on emergency !

Nobody remembered it was Tejumade’s birthday. The atmosphere around the house was tense. Tejumade and I had to stay in the house with grandpa. The poor man was nervous and tensed all through. Till night, no one heard from the hospital (no mobile phones then). I didn’t know how i slept late into the night but what was to be discovered when i woke up was tragic!
We lost him!, Oyemade was gone!……as i type this, my eyelids are tear-filled.
Test results saw he had recovered from Malaria ….however he suffered anemia, a condition which causes depletion of red blood cells in the body. On 2nd January, 2019, it’ll be 20 years ago this happened. It’s real mehn.

Doctors say it was Malaria-induced, Anemia. Will you still say, “Ordinary Malaria”?.

Did my story touch you? Did it raise emotions? You have a right to get emotional too. The most we can do now is read the next lines below.

Keep safe from Malaria by sleeping under treated nets, rubbing mosquito repellants, avoid water stagnation and poor drainage at homes and surrounding, spraying the walls and corners of the house with non-toxic insecticides, get diagnosed and treated early when you feel symptoms (do not self medicate).

Volunteer, join a team playing a big role in the Antimalaria drive today.
Let’s play a part to grow a malaria free Nigeria. A world without Malaria is possible!

Sijuade is an SDGs advocate, health educator & Founder/Executive Director, Health Volunteers Naija

Thanks for reading

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