Live the life you've dreamed." - Henry David Thoreau

Help!! In search of role models!!

Live the life you've dreamed.

One of the things that intrigues and saddens me is the transition I note in the medical records of a young girl as she grows into womanhood.
Initially most girls attend the GP for simple coughs and colds. All is rosy. A little paracetamol makes everything alright. She is her parents’ cute little thing with no cares in the world. She skips about the clinic curious about everything, as healthy as can be. The snuffly nose is likely viral and not needing anything done other than paracetamol for a slight fever.

She attends again just as she starts puberty. She is with mum and suddenly she needs 6 months of antibiotics to keep her acne at bay. No matter how I reassure her that her spots are an expected outcome of growing up and nothing to worry about she is adamant that they are ruining her life and must be fixed ASAP.

Four months down the line, we are discussing contraception and she seems to have turned into this stranger who can barely smile. Her heavy and inexpertly applied mascara discloses that she is getting initiated into womanhood. Who is this male that will not let our little girl enjoy the simplicity of girlhood? I miss her innocence!

How can I tell her that it’s just too early to start ingesting all sorts of hormones?

How can I make her understand that this is the time to study and build a solid foundation for her future? I mention gently that she doesn’t have to feel obliged to have sex at 14 years but she looks strangely at me and huffs ‘I am the only one not having sex yet in my class!’

She visits me all the time now. She keeps forgetting to take her contraceptive pill, she can’t stand the contraceptive injection, ‘Wouldn’t it make me fat?’ She screams when I suggest it.

‘The coil then?’

‘No! I don’t want anything down there!’

‘What of an implant in your arm?’

‘Does it hurt?’ she asks fingering the tiny rod I have shown her.

‘No we will numb the area and pop it in. You won’t feel a thing.’ She is happy with that.

I ask about school.

‘They are nuts!’ She replies.

She attends again. I smile when I see her name on my screen. I call her into the consulting room. She walks in with ‘my boyfriend.’

‘Who?!’ I silently scream.

‘Where is mum?? Who is this boyfriend?’

I keep my questions to myself and force myself to listen.

The tests are back. My little no-longer-so little girl has Chlamydia! I am furious but cannot show it. I give them both treatment and sternly explain the importance of using condoms with new sexual partners.

I wonder again about school.

She is wearing her school uniform concealed under a jacket that looks like a man’s one. I notice it is creased and slightly too short and too tight for her. Does she look tired or is it my imagination? Has she been home at all? I wonder.

She attends two weeks later, unable to pee.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘It is so sore and I have got rashes all over my pussy!’

She has Herpes this time around. ‘Boyfriend needs to be treated as well,’ I explain as I pass a catheter to drain her bladder.

‘Stupid man! He left me! ‘Her Lips quiver as she tries not to burst into tears.

‘Sorry to hear that.’

I am silent as I finish up and remove the catheter.

She is back in three weeks. We can’t find her period!!

‘What of the implant?’

‘Oh I attended last month and took it out.’

‘Seriously?! But I thought boyfriend was at large….’

‘I have a new partner. He is so gorgeous! We are going to have a baby’ she explains excitedly.

I am completely stunned.

I prescribe folic acid and book an appointment for the midwife.

I feel foolish for asking about school. I don’t want to dampen her joy. Am I old fashioned? Have the times left me behind? At sixteen, I was neck deep into my Science books not necking with a bloke. The last thing on my mind then was having a baby.

She attends with her new bloke two weeks later. ‘We want a termination’ he explains. ‘We are not ready for a baby yet.’

She doesn’t say much. She clutches his hand as if it is her lifeline. I look at her and feel hopeless. Her mascara is smeared around her eyes that look so tired. She has been crying.

I need to be sure this is what she wants. She nods her agreement when I ask her directly. I desperately search for my little girl in the eyes that I look into. A stranger stares back at me. I arrange an appointment at the TOP clinic.

She returns not too long after. I anxiously look at the corridor as I let her into the consulting room. Surely she is not alone, is she?

She cries her heart out. I offer tissue after tissue. She has symptoms of mild depression. I counsel her. I recommend ‘Beating the blues’ ‘mood gym’ or what about a nice book at the library? ‘I don’t know where the library is,’ she replies.

I am about to suggest more but she cuts me short, impatiently.

‘My friends say I need antidepressants.’

Your friends!!? Are they doctors by any chance?

We reassess next week. She is adamant that only tablets will fix her mood. She will cut herself if I don’t do something.

‘Cut?’

She rolls up her sleeves and shows me tiny shallow cuts on her arm.

‘Why?’ I ask, ‘what will you do in summer when it’s time to wear short sleeves? How will you hide your self inflicted scars?’

I refer her to the psychiatrist.

She is started on medication.

It’s been twenty years.

My little girl has turned into a bitter hardened woman with alcohol as her closest companion.

We are trying to save what is left of her liver.

‘Please stop drinking so much,’ I plead.

‘Why?’ She spits.

I am on a home visit but there is nowhere to sit.

Clutter all over. I can easily count up to 10 empty bottles of beer.

‘What of work?’ I ask desperately hoping for a tiny ray of sunshine.

She laughs at my stupidity.

Her ‘friends’ come in.

‘Please leave now,’ she asks as the two men sweep off clutter from the sofa unto the floor so they can sit.

The three of them light up their cigarettes laughing at nothing. They seem like zombies.

I want to scream at them, to leave my little girl alone but as I open my mouth to speak, I gulp in smoke, I choke. My eyes burn. I feel like they are receding into the distance. I can still see them laughing but I can’t hear any sound. Am I going crazy?!

I run out into the street and greedily inhale some fresh air.

Sadness engulfs me. Longing for what should be threatens to overwhelm me.

When the call comes, I am not shocked. ‘We found her in a pool of vomit,’ says the police man. She may have choked on her own vomit, they think.

‘We need a doctor to come and PLE,’ he asks.

I find a reason not to go. I have a migraine. I plead with my colleague to go.

I want to remember her as she was many years ago. Bubbly, full of life, excited about everything… Not stone cold, covered in vomit.

RIP my little girl.

What can we do to keep our young girls from sliding into these patterns?

Where are the fathers?

Where are the mothers?

Where are the big sisters?

Where are the big brothers?

Where are the leaders?

Where are the heroes and heroines our girls can look up to?

It is indeed an epidemic of lack of decent role models.

How many more of our young people shall we lose before we find the role models?

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Dr Adaeze Ifezulike is a Family Physician/GP who is passionate about healthy lifestyles, weight management, optimising sexual health and wellbeing particularly among women and youths. She is the author of ‘Medicine abroad: compulsory for medics trained outside the western world’ https://amzn.to/2tUCdX6 and ‘Understanding contraception’, an Amazon Best seller.

Mindset queen – Tribute to Dr Nkem Ezeilo

So we woke up that morning in the hotel. We were attending a program together. We were also on a squat challenge… along with more than 100 women who were with us on our ‘Whatsapp’ healthy lifestyle group.
I think the challenge for the day was to do 120 squats.

I recall getting to 80 and wanting to stop. I looked over to Nkem and she was still going on her squats with no sign of stopping. I said to myself, ‘If she can do the challenge despite her diagnosis, I too can.’ So I carried on with my squats.

And we completed the squats challenge for the day.
I remember saying to myself that if Nkem wasn’t here, I probably would have deferred the remaining 40 squats to evening and by evening, I might have forgotten due to the business of life and end up not completing my squats.
nkem-and-iYou see Nkem was like that….
She swept you along with her strength. When you were with her, you believed you could do ANYTHING!!
As time went on, I knew she was often in pain. I would glance across the table at her or watch her from the corner of my eye and marvel at how she could keep such a straight face despite what was going on in her body.
As we went from place to place, I insisted on hauling her luggage and mine but she would often laugh at me and say something like ‘I am ok oh!’ or ‘Don’t be silly, Ada.’

nkem-and-i-jpg2
She spoke so much about the power of the mind. She believed that what the mind believed and focused on would be one’s reality. She would often say ‘Onye kwe, chi ya ekwe’ meaning ‘ If you agree, your maker will agree.’
5 years ago diagnosed with the most aggressive form of cancer. She fought it. She gave it her best shot. She truly believed she would pull through. She wanted her story to encourage the millions of people out there suffering from cancer.

She went to the wards and told other cancer sufferers ‘Look at me!! I was diagnosed with cancer more advanced than yours so please believe you will pull through.’ She spread light and hope through the wards.
‘I see why people die, Ada’ she once said to me, ‘The pain is so bad…so bad…that the person just decides “Right I have had enough” and they give up and die.’  I know she was close to that several times. But she stayed strong. She did her best. Her legacy lives on.
RIP Dr Nkem Ezeilo (05/02/1973 – 11/09/2016)


Register now for my FREE SuperHealth webinar titled ‘Super Health for you’and get a gift!!! – an eBook called ‘Three things that are slowly killing our children.’

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Plus you get a FREE eBook that would blow your mind when you attend the webinar. Learn why our children are estimated to live atleast 10 years shorter than us. Claim your spot for the webinar here.

Dr Adaeze Ifezulike.

Family Physician and Author.

Conversations with an African Grandmother

JulietGrandmother: Adaugo! Adaugo!

Adaugo (In a very sleepy voice): Eh nnem, I am coming o…
Grandmother: Nwam, I hope you had a good night’s sleep? Hurry up, have your bath, eat breakfast fast and accompany me to visit mama Ikenna

Adaugo: Nnem, isn’t a bit too early to be visiting anyone?

Grandmother: You know mama Ikenna and her theatrics. Her son Ike, came this morning before the sound of the first cock crow, to rouse me from sleep. Your grandfather did not find it amusing at all and even warned Ike severely. First, he asked him if anyone was at the point of death? When Ike replied in the negative, my Batram gave him a tongue lashing and lecture on how young men of today don’t respect the sacred hours that the body needs…

Adaugo (Smiling broadly): Nnem, everyone knows grandpapa doesn’t like anyone disturbing your sleep. He’s always complaining to mama and uncle Jaja that the townspeople bring all their problems to your doorstep.

Grandmother (Laughing cheekily): Woman to woman, you know a man is fully awake and standing early in the morning. Ike’s loud knocking came at a most unfortunate time for your grandfather. I pity the poor young man.
Leave that aside, get ready, let us go across and see what mama Ike is worrying about today. Just yesterday, we finished rejoicing that her daughter Olihe had recently put to birth, a bouncing, baby boy. I pity that poor child Olihe. Each time she comes homes, she’s disappearing more and more into shadow of herself. I hope all her constant quarrels with her husband will finally cease.

Adaugo: Nnem, I’m sure it will be a short visit. Let me just brush my teeth and splash some water. I can bathe fully when we get back.

Grandmother: Okay, hurry up. I still have to finish up my story to your sister, Adaku. I can tell that Ekwunife’s talk hurt her deeply, no matter how she pretends. I know she’s still crazy about that isi coconut she married.

(Loud knocking at the door) Kpom! Kpom! Kpom!
Onye kwa? All these early morning callers! Polycap, Polycap, hurry and see who’s at the gate.

Adaugo: Nnem, let me go and open the gate. I don’t think he’s at home. Polyp said he would be going to Onitsha very early in the morning to buy some plumbing materials to fix his bathroom.

Grandmother: Oh yes, he did mention that to me yesterday. See how my memory fails me, old age is finally here to stay.

Adaugo: Nnem, you’re still the sharpest and smartest woman I know. Let me go and open the door.


 

(Adaugo comes back into the room, followed closely by Mama Ikenna)

Grandmother: My dear neighbour, how are you and your husband? We were about to come to your house. I hope all is well.

Mama Ikenna (Turning to her son and Adaugo): Both of you children, biko wait for me outside the room. Let me speak with my mama Jaja over something very important. (The children exchanged amused looks, with Adaugo rolling her eyes as they both stepped out of the room).

Grandmother: Ngwa, mama Ike, my dear sister and neighbour, o gini? Did anyone die?

Mama Ikenna: No

Grandmother: Is anyone sick? Is Olihe’s baby okay? Is she fine?

Mama Ikenna: No! It’s none of that. (Bursting into tears): It is Olihe’s husband o. Chiedozie has started his madness again. My poor, beautiful daughter, Olihedinma, what kind of bad luck is this? My enemies are after my happiness, they will never succeed. I will bind all of them with the blood…

Grandmother (Interrupting her): Please, biko I beg of you before you start cursing your enemies and binding people up and down, let us unbound your story. Biko, may you please tell me what the actual problem is?

Mama Ikenna: Mama Jaja, ndo. My apologies, it is just that my heart is very heavy today. After I left you yesterday, I went to St Anthony of Padua prayer meeting as we agreed. I had not even announced the good news, before Olihe’s neighbour, Mr Okoro, that very helpful man who lost his wife at the beginning of the year, came to find me and he shared some very disturbing news. Do you know that just barely 24 hours after my daughter Olihe put to birth, her husband raised a hand on her again! What have we done to Chiedozie eh? Why does he keep using Olihe as a punching bag?

Before, I thought it was because she had given him only 3 girls but now that she has a son, he still beats my daughter. Why is this happening to my daughter? Why is this happening to our family. First, her father beat me for years, until he had his stroke and now my own daughter is going through the same thing again! Chukwu nna, o gini ka any melu?

(She breaks down into loud, agonized crying)

Grandmother: Mama Ike, biko I’m sorry but I have nothing to say to you. You already have the answers you seek. The first time Chiedozie beat up your daughter, our beautiful, shy and quiet Olihe, what did I tell you? Did you not ignore me? What do you want me to do now? Tell your daughter to wait till her husband has a stroke or till he kills her, i nu go? Do you hear me?

Mama Ikenna: Mama Jaja, my dear friend and neighbour, please forgive me. I know you’re still angry with me. I should have listened to you before. You know that years ago, when Olihe came back crying and complaining that she didn’t want to be married to Chiedozie any longer, I was the one who told her to shut up and go back to her husband’s house. I thought it was because she had not had a baby boy and so her husband was angry at her. I remember you told me to call a meeting of ndi umuada and umunna so that they could admonish Chiedozie and his family. Yes, you even suggested that she stays home with me and wait till her husband comes for her.

Grandmother: Exactly! Your daughter comes to you in her pain and instead of you to be a tigress and fight for her, you shame her into believing she is less than and unworthy of love. What has having a male or female child got to do with anything? Are all children not gifts from God? You were afraid of what people will say. You fear the tongues wagging. You did not want her to rock the proverbial boat. Okay, ngwa nu, the boat has capsized, do you want to teach her how to swim to safety or are you still living in denial? Call Adaugo and your son Ikenna to come in. This is part of your problem. Why are you hiding these things from the children? How will your son learn to be a better man if you don’t show him the pain caused by his father and now, your son-in-law?

(Mama Ike goes outside and brings in Adaugo and Ike)

Grandmother: Adaugo, Ike, sit down and listen carefully. Ngwa, my sister, tell them about Olihe’s situation.
(After a few minutes of narration, Ikenna rises up in anger).

Ikenna: Mama, I remember when sister Olihe came home crying, a few years after she got married. Obinna and I were very young but I’ll never forget how sister cried and cried and begged you and papa to let her stay. When we woke up in the morning, she was already gone. I remember asking you why she was crying and you dismissed my questions, saying she was being childish. I tried asking more questions but you slapped me and told me to mind my business. Mama, the reason why I never forgot sister Olihe’s cries was that it reminded me so much of yours…

Grandmother: Mama Ike, my sister, you see? The things we think we hide in the dark, the children see with their light. The mother’s pain is sucked by the baby through her breastmilk. You did your daughter and your sons a great injustice. And now you must correct it.

Mama Ikenna: What are we to do? Should we call a family meeting and contact Chiedozie’s family?

Grandmother: Mba, that is the second stage. The first thing is to get your daughter to safety. Ikenna, nwam, go and call your brother Obinna and also all your male cousins. The 4 sons of your father’s brother, nnanyi Ezeugo and your father’s half-brother, okechukwu are enough. All seven of you must come back here, lets plan a visit to ‘strong man’ Chiedozie.

Adaugo: Nnem, biko, I hope you’re not planning what I think you are? This sounds like our family’s famed method alias ‘The Uncle JAJA approach’

Mama Ikenna: My sister, what is this ‘The Uncle JAJA approach?

(Adaugo and Grandmother burst into simultaneous laughter)

Adaugo: Nnem, you will have to tell this story. I was too young when it happened….

Grandmother: My dear sister, mama Ike, its a simple and short story. Hmmmnnn, a long time ago, my hothead of a son, Jaja, the famed writer, came back from obodo oyibo with his wife, Kego. You know Zinachukwudi, Jaja’s wife. She’s our friend, Uzoaku’s daughter. That quiet, respectful and intelligent girl, I was so thrilled that he met and married the daughter of someone I have loved like a sister for years.

Well, just after the wedding they had a quarrel and in the process, my dear Jaja raised his fist against this beautiful daughter-in-law that God blessed our family with. The worst part was that she was pregnant at the time. Alu! Can you imagine the shame and pain? I have never seen a woman love someone like my Zina loved Jaja nwam.

Mama Ikenna: Unbelievable! Jaja dotes on his wife. They are always celebrated on television and in those big, big city magazines. In fact, everyone says he’s like Nna anyi Batram….

Grandmother: My dear, it wasn’t always like that. I know my son has always been hot-tempered, coupled with his mood swings whenever he’s writing those his fat, fat university text books and novels….Anyway, Zina came running to Batram and I to report Jaja’s actions to us. To say we were shocked was an understatement. Where did this boy learn such behaviour? It broke Batram’s heart to see that a son he’d raised would treat a woman so. I was in such a terrible shock. That is the thing with children, they will always surprise you!

So Batram had a lengthy and heavy talks with him for some days and also send him to the Reverend Father’s classes, as he put it ‘so he would learn some more about being a husband and a real man’. Batram even insisted that Zina go back home to her family and stay there for a few weeks while Jaja finishes his ‘manhood’ classes as he termed them.

Jaja was of course shattered by all of this, he apologized over and over again to his lovely wife. In fact, Zina started getting angry at all the hoops that Batram was making her husband jump. The day she was to go to her family, she woke up and suddenly announced to my beloved and I, that she had forgiven her hubby and was ready to get back together with him.

My Batram almost fell for her pleas. But I was adamant. You know the problem with you young ladies of nowadays…

Adaugo interrupting, with mirth: Too much book sense and not enough common sense!

Grandmother: Exactly! Love nwantiti was shacking my dear daughter-in-law. So I called her quietly into my bedroom and had a heart to heart with her. Basically, I told her that unconditional love is a beautiful thing but it also needs sweet conditioning oils of respect and honour, if not it will turn bitter very quickly. I also told her that she must go back to her parents and wait for Jaja and the clan to come and beg her people.

It was important that Jaja also go before ndi umuada and umunna to tell them how he used his wife as a punching bag and disgraced the clan. He would also explain the steps he had taken to understand his triggers and deal with his self-control issues. Of course Zina thought all these were too much for her beloved. She expressed her displeasure that we were giving him such a hard time. But I did not relent and so she went to her people.

Well, the next thing I did was call his male cousins, Bernard’s sons and Zina’s two elder brotherss, they were 7 young men in total. And I instructed them to give my Jaja the beating of his life. Gentle enough not to seriously hurt him but firm enough that he would remember and feel the pain! And thereafter, we happily and proudly accompanied him to plead for his wife, Zina’s hand. And the rest they say is history…

Mama Ikenna: I don’t understand, so why did you have his seven cousins beat him up?
Adaugo: Aunty, that is the same question we all asked when we heard this story. And to this day, we tease uncle Jaja about that beating, albeit to his chagrin.

And it always makes aunty Zina so happy. She always tells anyone who cares to listen with pride: “When my soulmate Jay, made the mistake of beating me, he got the beating of his life, went for manhood classes and came to re-ask for my hand in marriage, with a pledge to my people never to do that again…because I am his queen.”

To which uncle Jaja would always reply by planting a big kiss on her lips and bowing in an exaggerated way to her, saying with aplomb, ‘Indeed, you are my queen.’ Then he would remind us all that his wife loved him so much that she actually begged his parents to forgive him. And that she didn’t want to go back to her own parents…..

Grandmother: Mama Ike, my dear sister, in our tradition, seven is the number of completion and it is important that we always complete the cycle of our stories in order that forgiveness happens.

Mama Ikenna: I still don’t understand, what has that got to do with having Jaja beaten up.

Adaugo: (Laughing) Biko, don’t bother to even listen to grandmama about this her number 7 nonsense. She tries to justify her actions. Truth is, she’s a fierce advocate against violence of any kind and worst of all against women. We all secretly think she beat up Jaja to score a personal point.

Grandmother (laughing heartily): Adaugo nwam, there’s no secret about it. Imagine the shock of my own son raising a finger against his woman, and a pregnant wife at that! Abomination. Which ear will hear this and not be in shock? It is very simple. Jaja beat up his wife. If all he did was apologize and she took him back, that is such a disempowering story for her. And you know how I hate incomplete stories. (Chuckling loudly and mischievously). The complete story today is that he beat up Zina and then 5 of his own cousins and 2 of Zina’s brothers beat him up too. Then, he had to go for a course and come to her people to beg. That is a kind of love story that is sweet for years to come.

It is important that a woman (or man) never settles for a resolution that in years to come will bring up resentment. Plus, every man in the clan now knows that to raise your hand against any woman is not something we do. So, let Ikenna and Obinna gather their cousins, because Chiedozie is about to learn that Olihedinma has mad people in her family too. Sometimes, you have to shake up a bad pattern loose. And if he does not change, mama ike, it is better you settle to accept and love a single daughter who’s alive and well, than a married daughter whose spirit is already dead. She who has ears, let them hear!

Adaugo, eh he, before I forget, remember to ask me about the story of Mama Ezinne’s daughter, Azuka. Her father, Azikiwe, refused to go for her 7th child’s naming ceremony. Azikiwe really impressed me o. There are so many lessons for all of us women in their story. But first, let us implement the JAJA treatment on isi okpukpu Chiedozie.

Adaugo: Nnem!!

Grandmother: Why are you calling me? Since Chiedozie has shown that he has fighting prowess, let us give him 7 of his age mates to practice with, Olihedinma is not the correct match for him, ….(To be continued)

Culled from the super new book written by the amazing Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido of the Whole Woman Network. Available December 2015. We can’t wait to get the whole book and see what happens to chiedozie 🙂

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.”

By Maya Angelou.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A PEACEFUL, PROSPEROUS AND JOY-FILLED NEW YEAR from the Sexual Wellbeing Network.

Maya Angelou was a Poet and Award Winning Author who died in 2014.

How I survived the Ebola Battle: A survivor’s story.

“Every day I would attempt to recall the period Patrick Sawyer was on admission – just how much direct and indirect contact did I have with him? I reassured myself that my contact with him was quite minimal. I completed the anti-malarials but the aches and pains persisted. I had loss of appetite and felt very tired.”
The story of Dr Ada’s escape from death in her own words………

“On the night of Sunday July 20, 2014, Patrick Sawyer was wheeled into the Emergency Room at First Consultants Medical Centre, Obalende, Lagos, with complaints of fever and body weakness. The male doctor on call admitted him as a case of malaria and took a full history.

Knowing that Mr. Sawyer had recently arrived from Liberia, the doctor asked if he had been in contact with an Ebola patient in the last couple of weeks, and Mr. Sawyer denied any such contact.

He also denied attending any funeral ceremony recently. Blood samples were taken for full blood count, malaria parasites, liver function test and other baseline investigations. He was admitted into a private room and started on antimalarial drugs and analgesics. That night, the full blood count result came back as normal and not indicative of infection.

The following day however, his condition worsened. He barely ate any of his meals. His liver function test result showed his liver enzymes were markedly elevated. We then took samples for HIV and hepatitis screening.

At about 5.00pm, he requested to see a doctor. I was the doctor on call that night so I went in to see him. He was lying in bed with his intravenous (I.V.) fluid bag removed from its metal stand and placed beside him. He complained that he had stooled about five times that evening and that he wanted to use the bathroom again. I picked up the I.V. bag from his bed and hung it back on the stand. I told him I would inform a nurse to come and disconnect the I.V. so he could conveniently go to the bathroom. I walked out of his room and went straight to the nurses’ station where I told the nurse on duty to disconnect his I.V. I then informed my Consultant, Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh about the patient’s condition and she asked that he be placed on some medications.

The following day, the results for HIV and hepatitis screening came out negative. As we were preparing for the early morning ward rounds, I was approached by an ECOWAS official who informed me that Patrick Sawyer had to catch an 11 o’clock flight to Calabar for a retreat that morning. He wanted to know if it would be possible. I told him it wasn’t, as he was acutely ill. Dr. Adadevoh also told him the patient could certainly not leave the hospital in his condition. She then instructed me to write very boldly on his chart that on no account should Patrick Sawyer be allowed out of the hospital premises without the permission of Dr. Ohiaeri, our Chief Medical Consultant. All nurses and doctors were duly informed.

During our early morning ward round with Dr. Adadevoh, we concluded that this was not malaria and that the patient needed to be screened for Ebola Viral Disease. She immediately started calling laboratories to find out where the test could be carried out.

She was eventually referred to Professor Omilabu of the LUTH Virology Reference Lab in Idi-Araba whom she called immediately. Prof. Omilabu told her to send blood and urine samples to LUTH straight away. She tried to reach the Lagos State Commissioner for Health but was unable to contact him at the time. She also put calls across to officials of the Federal Ministry of Health and National Centre for Disease Control.

Dr. Adadevoh at this time was in a pensive mood. Patrick Sawyer was now a suspected case of Ebola, perhaps the first in the country. He was quarantined, and strict barrier nursing was applied with all the precautionary measures we could muster. Dr. Adadevoh went online, downloaded information on Ebola and printed copies which were distributed to the nurses, doctors and ward maids.

Blood and urine samples were sent to LUTH that morning. Protective gear, gloves, shoe covers and facemasks were provided for the staff. A wooden barricade was placed at the entrance of the door to keep visitors and unauthorized personnel away from the patient.

Despite the medications prescribed earlier, the vomiting and diarrhea persisted. The fever escalated from 38c to 40c.

On the morning of Wednesday 23rd July, the tests carried out in LUTH showed a signal for Ebola. Samples were then sent to Dakar, Senegal for a confirmatory test. Dr. Adadevoh went for several meetings with the Lagos State Ministry of Health. Thereafter, officials from Lagos State came to inspect the hospital and the protective measures we had put in place.

The following day, Thursday 24th July, I was again on call. At about 10.00pm Mr. Sawyer requested to see me. I went into the newly created dressing room, donned my protective gear and went in to see him. He had not been cooperating with the nurses and had refused any additional treatment. He sounded confused and said he received a call from Liberia asking for a detailed medical report to be sent to them. He also said he had to travel back to Liberia on a 5.00am flight the following morning and that he didn’t want to miss his flight.

I told him that I would inform Dr. Adadevoh. As I was leaving the room, I met Dr. Adadevoh dressed in her protective gear along with a nurse and another doctor. They went into his room to have a discussion with him and as I heard later to reset his I.V. line which he had deliberately removed after my visit to his room.

At 6:30am, Friday 25th July, I got a call from the nurse that Patrick Sawyer was completely unresponsive. Again I put on the protective gear and headed to his room. I found him slumped in the bathroom. I examined him and observed that there was no respiratory movement. I felt for his pulse; it was absent. We had lost him. It was I who certified Patrick Sawyer dead. I informed Dr. Adadevoh immediately and she instructed that no one was to be allowed to go into his room for any reason at all. Later that day, officials from W.H.O came and took his body away. The test in Dakar later came out positive for Zaire strain of the Ebola virus. We now had the first official case of Ebola virus disease in Nigeria.

It was a sobering day. We all began to go over all that happened in the last few days, wondering just how much physical contact we had individually made with Patrick Sawyer. Every patient on admission was discharged that day and decontamination began in the hospital. We were now managing a crisis situation. The next day, Saturday 26th July, all staff of First Consultants attended a meeting with Prof. Nasidi of the National Centre for Disease Control, Prof Omilabu of LUTH Virology Reference Lab, and some officials of W.H.O. They congratulated us on the actions we had taken and enlightened us further about the Ebola Virus Disease. They said we were going to be grouped into high risk and low risk categories based on our individual level of exposure to Patrick Sawyer, the “index” case. Each person would receive a temperature chart and a thermometer to record temperatures in the morning and night for the next 21 days. We were all officially under surveillance. We were asked to report to them at the first sign of a fever for further blood tests to be done. We were reassured that we would all be given adequate care. The anxiety in the air was palpable.

The frenetic pace of life in Lagos, coupled with the demanding nature of my job as a doctor, means that I occasionally need a change of environment. As such, one week before Patrick Sawyer died, I had gone to my parents’ home for a retreat. I was still staying with them when I received my temperature chart and thermometer on Tuesday 29th of July. I could not contain my anxiety. People were talking Ebola everywhere – on television, online, everywhere. I soon started experiencing joint and muscle aches and a sore throat, which I quickly attributed to stress and anxiety. I decided to take malaria tablets. I also started taking antibiotics for the sore throat. The first couple of temperature readings were normal. Every day I would attempt to recall the period Patrick Sawyer was on admission – just how much direct and indirect contact did I have with him? I reassured myself that my contact with him was quite minimal. I completed the anti-malarials but the aches and pains persisted. I had loss of appetite and felt very tired.

On Friday 1st of August, my temperature read a high 38.7c. As I type this, I recall the anxiety I felt that morning. I could not believe what I saw on the thermometer. I ran to my mother’s room and told her. I did not go to work that day. I cautiously started using a separate set of utensils and cups from the ones my family members were using.

On Saturday 2nd of August, the fever worsened. It was now at 39c and would not be reduced by taking paracetamol. This was now my second day of fever. I couldn’t eat. The sore throat was getting worse. That was when I called the helpline and an ambulance was sent with W.H.O doctors who came and took a sample of my blood. Later that day, I started stooling and vomiting. I stayed away from my family. I started washing my plates and spoons myself. My parents meanwhile, were convinced that I could not have Ebola.

The following day, Sunday 3rd of August, I got a call from one of the doctors who came to take my sample the day before. He told me that the sample which they had taken was not confirmatory, and that they needed another sample. He did not sound very coherent and I became worried. They came with the ambulance that afternoon and told me that I had to go with them to Yaba. I was confused. Couldn’t the second sample be taken in the ambulance like the previous one? He said a better-qualified person at the Yaba centre would take the sample. I asked if they would bring me back. He said “yes.” Even with the symptoms I did not believe I had Ebola. After all, my contact with Sawyer was minimal. I only touched his I.V. fluid bag just that once without gloves. The only time I actually touched him was when I checked his pulse and confirmed him dead, and I wore double gloves and felt adequately protected.

I told my parents I had to go with the officials to Yaba and that I would be back that evening. I wore a white top and a pair of jeans, and I put my iPad and phones in my bag.

A man opened the ambulance door for me and moved away from me rather swiftly. Strange behavior, I thought. They were friendly with me the day before, but that day, not so. No pleasantries, no smiles. I looked up and saw my mother watching through her bedroom window.

We soon got to Yaba. I really had no clue where I was. I knew it was a hospital. I was left alone in the back of the ambulance for over four hours. My mind was in a whirl. I didn’t know what to think. I was offered food to eat but I could barely eat the rice.

The ambulance door opened and a Caucasian gentleman approached me but kept a little distance. He said to me, “I have to inform you that your blood tested positive for Ebola. I am sorry.” I had no reaction. I think I must have been in shock. He then told me to open my mouth and he looked at my tongue. He said it was the typical Ebola tongue. I took out my mirror from my bag and took a look and I was shocked at what I saw. My whole tongue had a white coating, looked furry and had a long, deep ridge right in the middle. I then started to look at my whole body, searching for Ebola rashes and other signs as we had been recently instructed. I called my mother immediately and said, “Mummy, they said I have Ebola, but don’t worry, I will survive it. Please, go and lock my room now; don’t let anyone inside and don’t touch anything.” She was silent. I cut the line.

I was taken to the female ward. I was shocked at the environment. It looked like an abandoned building. I suspected it had not been in use for quite a while. As I walked in, I immediately recognized one of the ward maids from our hospital. She always had a smile for me but not this time. She was ill and she looked it. She had been stooling a lot too. I soon settled into my corner and looked around the room. It smelled of faeces and vomit. It also had a characteristic Ebola smell to which I became accustomed. Dinner was served – rice and stew. The pepper stung my mouth and tongue. I dropped the spoon. No dinner that night.

Dr. David, the Caucasian man who had met me at the ambulance on my arrival, came in wearing his full protective ‘hazmat’ suit and goggles. It was fascinating seeing one live. I had only seen them online. He brought bottles of water and ORS, the oral fluid therapy which he dropped by my bedside. He told me that 90 percent of the treatment depended on me. He said I had to drink at least 4.5 litres of ORS daily to replace fluids lost in stooling and vomiting. I told him I had stooled three times earlier and taken Imodium tablets to stop the stooling. He said it was not advisable, as the virus would replicate the more inside of me. It was better he said to let it out. He said good night and left.

My parents called. My uncle called. My husband called crying. He could not believe the news. My parents had informed him, as I didn’t even know how to break the news to him.

As I lay on my bed in that isolation ward, strangely, I did not fear for my life. I was confident that I would leave that ward some day. There was an inner sense of calm. I did not for a second think I would be consumed by the disease. That evening, the symptoms fully kicked in. I was stooling almost every two hours. The toilets did not flush so I had to fetch water in a bucket from the bathroom each time I used the toilet. I then placed another bucket beneath my bed for the vomiting.

On occasion I would run to the toilet with a bottle of ORS, so that as I was stooling, I was drinking.

The next day Monday 4th of August, I began to notice red rashes on my skin particularly on my arms. I had developed sores all over my mouth. My head was pounding so badly. The sore throat was so severe I could not eat. I could only drink the ORS. I took paracetamol for the pain. The ward maid across from me wasn’t doing so well. She had stopped speaking. I couldn’t even brush my teeth; the sores in my mouth were so bad. This was a battle for my life but I was determined I would not die.

Every morning, I began the day with reading and meditating on Psalm 91. The sanitary condition in the ward left much to be desired. The whole Ebola thing had caught everyone by surprise. Lagos State Ministry of Health was doing its best to contain the situation but competent hands were few. The sheets were not changed for days. The floor was stained with greenish vomitus and excrement. Dr. David would come in once or twice a day and help clean up the ward after chatting with us. He was the only doctor who attended to us. There was no one else at that time. The matrons would leave our food outside the door; we had to go get the food ourselves. They hardly entered in the initial days. Everyone was being careful. This was all so new. I could understand, was this not how we ourselves had contracted the disease? Mosquitoes were our roommates until they brought us mosquito nets.

Later that evening, Dr. David brought another lady into the ward. I recognized her immediately as Justina Ejelonu, a nurse who had started working at First Consultants on the 21st of July, a day after Patrick Sawyer was admitted. She was on duty on the day Patrick reported that he was stooling. While she was attending to him that night, he had yanked off his drip, letting his blood flow almost like a tap onto her hands. Justina was pregnant and was brought into our ward bleeding from a suspected miscarriage. She had been told she was there only on observation. The news that she had contracted Ebola was broken to her the following day after results of her blood test came out positive. Justina was devastated and wept profusely – she had contracted Ebola on her first day at work.

My husband started visiting but was not allowed to come close to me. He could only see me from a window at a distance. He visited so many times. It was he who brought me a change of clothes and toiletries and other things I needed because I had not even packed a bag. I was grateful I was not with him at home when I fell ill or he would most certainly have contracted the disease. My retreat at my parents’ home turned out to be the instrumentality God used to shield and save him.

I drank the ORS fluid like my life depended on it. Then I got a call from my pastor. He had been informed about my predicament. He called me every single day morning and night and would pray with me over the phone. He later sent me a CD player, CDs of messages on faith and healing, and Holy Communion packs through my husband. My pastor, who also happens to be a medical doctor, encouraged me to monitor how many times I had stooled and vomited each day and how many bottles of ORS I had consumed. We would then discuss the disease and pray together. He asked me to do my research on Ebola since I had my iPad with me and told me that he was also doing his study. He wanted us to use all relevant information on Ebola to our advantage. So I researched and found out all I could about the strange disease that has been in existence for 38 years. My research, my faith, my positive view of life, the extended times of prayer, study and listening to encouraging messages boosted my belief that I would survive the Ebola scourge.

There are five strains of the virus and the deadliest of them is the Zaire strain, which was what I had. But that did not matter. I believed I would overcome even the deadliest of strains. Infected patients who succumb to the disease usually die between 6 to 16 days after the onset of the disease from multiple organ failure and shock caused by dehydration. I was counting the days and keeping myself well hydrated. I didn’t intend to die in that ward.

My research gave me ammunition. I read that as soon as the virus gets into the body, it begins to replicate really fast. It enters the blood cells, destroys them and uses those same blood cells to aggressively invade other organs where they further multiply. Ideally, the body’s immune system should immediately mount up a response by producing antibodies to fight the virus. If the person is strong enough, and that strength is sustained long enough for the immune system to kill off the viruses, the patient is likely to survive. If the virus replicates faster than the antibodies can handle however, further damage is done to the organs. Ebola can be likened to a multi-level, multi-organ attack but I had no intention of letting the deadly virus destroy my system. I drank more ORS. I remember saying to myself repeatedly, “I am a survivor, I am a survivor.”

I also found out that a patient with Ebola cannot be re-infected and they cannot relapse back into the disease as there is some immunity conferred on survivors. My pastor and I would discuss these findings, interpret them as it related to my situation and pray together. I looked forward to his calls. They were times of encouragement and strengthening. I continued to meditate on the Word of God. It was my daily bread.

Shortly after Justina came into the ward, the ward maid, Mrs Ukoh passed on. The disease had gotten into her central nervous system. We stared at her lifeless body in shock. It was a whole 12 hours before officials of W.H.O came and took her body away. The ward had become the house of death. The whole area surrounding her bed was disinfected with bleach. Her mattress was taken and burned.

To contain the frequent diarrhea, I had started wearing adult diapers, as running to the toilet was no longer convenient for me. The indignity was quite overwhelming, but I did not have a choice. My faith was being severely tested. The situation was desperate enough to break anyone psychologically. Dr. Ohiaeri also called us day and night, enquiring about our health and the progress we were making. He sent provisions, extra drugs, vitamins, Lucozade, towels, tissue paper; everything we needed to be more comfortable in that dark hole we found ourselves. Some of my male colleagues had also been admitted to the male ward two rooms away, but there was no interaction with them.

We were saddened by the news that Jato, the ECOWAS protocol officer to Patrick Sawyer who had also tested positive, had passed on days after he was admitted.

Two more females joined us in the ward; a nurse from our hospital and a patient from another hospital. The mood in the ward was solemn.
There were times we would be awakened by the sudden, loud cry from one of the women. It was either from fear, pain mixed with the distress or just the sheer oppression of our isolation.

I kept encouraging myself. This could not be the end for me. Five days after I was admitted, the vomiting stopped. A day after that, the diarrhea ceased. I was overwhelmed with joy. It happened at a time I thought I could no longer stand the ORS. Drinking that fluid had stretched my endurance greatly.

I knew countless numbers of people were praying for me. Prayer meetings were being held on my behalf. My family was praying day and night. Text messages of prayers flooded my phones from family members and friends. I was encouraged to press on. With the encouragement I was receiving I began to encourage the others in the ward. We decided to speak life and focus on the positive. I then graduated from drinking only the ORS fluid to eating only bananas, to drinking pap and then bland foods. Just when I thought I had the victory, I suddenly developed a severe fever. The initial fever had subsided four days after I was admitted, and then suddenly it showed up again. I thought it was the Ebola. I enquired from Dr. David who said fever was sometimes the last thing to go, but he expressed surprise that it had stopped only to come back on again. I was perplexed.

I discussed it with my pastor who said it could be a separate pathology and possibly a symptom of malaria. He promised he would research if indeed this was Ebola or something else. That night as I stared at the dirty ceiling, I felt a strong impression that the new fever I had developed was not as a result of Ebola but malaria. I was relieved. The following morning, Dr. Ohiaeri sent me antimalarial medication which I took for three days. Before the end of the treatment, the fever had disappeared.

I began to think about my mother. She was under surveillance along with my other family members. I was worried. She had touched my sweat. I couldn’t get the thought off my mind. I prayed for her. Hours later on Twitter I came across a tweet by W.H.O saying that the sweat of an Ebola patient cannot transmit the virus at the early stage of the infection. The sweat could only transmit it at the late stage.
That settled it for me. It calmed the storms that were raging within me concerning my parents. I knew right away it was divine guidance that caused me to see that tweet. I could cope with having Ebola, but I was not prepared to deal with a member of my family contracting it from me.

Soon, volunteer doctors started coming to help Dr. David take care of us. They had learned how to protect themselves. Among the volunteer doctors was Dr. Badmus, my consultant in LUTH during my housemanship days. It was good to see a familiar face among the care-givers. I soon understood the important role these brave volunteers were playing. As they increased in number, so did the number of shifts increase and subsequently the number of times the patients could access a doctor in one day. This allowed for more frequent patient monitoring and treatment. It also reduced care-giver fatigue. It was clear that Lagos State was working hard to contain the crisis.

Sadly, Justina succumbed to the disease on the 12th of August. It was a great blow and my faith was greatly shaken as a result. I commenced daily Bible study with the other two female patients and we would encourage one another to stay positive in our outlook though in the natural it was grim and very depressing. My communion sessions with the other women were very special moments for us all.

On my 10th day in the ward, the doctors having noted that I had stopped vomiting and stooling and was no longer running a fever, decided it was time to take my blood sample to test if the virus had cleared from my system. They took the sample and told me that I shouldn’t be worried if it comes out positive as the virus takes a while before it is cleared completely. I prayed that I didn’t want any more samples collected from me. I wanted that to be the first and last sample to be tested for the absence of the virus in my system. I called my pastor. He encouraged me and we prayed again about the test.

On the evening of the day Justina passed on, we were moved to the new isolation centre. We felt like we were leaving hell and going to heaven.

We were conveyed to the new place in an ambulance. It was just behind the old building. Time would not permit me to recount the drama involved with the dynamics of our relocation. It was like a script from a science fiction movie. The new building was cleaner and much better than the old building. Towels and nightwear were provided on each bed. The environment was serene.

The following night, Dr. Adadevoh was moved to our isolation ward from her private room where she had previously been receiving treatment. She had also tested positive for Ebola and was now in a coma. She was receiving I.V. fluids and oxygen support and was being monitored closely by the W.H.O doctors. We all hoped and prayed that she would come out of it. It was so difficult seeing her in that state. I could not bear it. She was my consultant, my boss, my teacher and my mentor. She was the imperial lady of First Consultants, full of passion, energy and competence. I imagined she would wake up soon and see that she was surrounded by her First Consultants family but sadly it was not to be.

I continued listening to my healing messages. They gave me life. I literarily played them hours on end. Two days later, on Saturday the 16th of August, the W.H.O doctors came with some papers. I was informed that the result of my blood test was negative for Ebola virus. If I could somersault, I would have but my joints were still slightly painful. I was free to go home after being in isolation for exactly 14 days. I was so full of thanks and praise to God. I called my mother to get fresh clothes and slippers and come pick me. My husband couldn’t stop shouting when I called him. He was completely overwhelmed with joy.

I was told however that I could not leave the ward with anything I came in with. I glanced one last time at my cd player, my valuable messages, my research assistant a.k.a my iPad, my phones and other items. I remember saying to myself, “I have life; I can always replace these items.”

I went for a chlorine bath, which was necessary to disinfect my skin from my head to my toes. It felt like I was being baptized into a new life as Dr. Carolina, a W.H.O doctor from Argentina poured the bucket of chlorinated water all over me. I wore a new set of clothes, following the strict instructions that no part of the clothes must touch the floor and the walls. Dr. Carolina looked on, making sure I did as instructed.

I was led out of the bathroom and straight to the lawn to be united with my family, but first I had to cut the red ribbon that served as a barrier. It was a symbolic expression of my freedom. Everyone cheered and clapped. It was a little but very important ceremony for me. I was free from Ebola! I hugged my family as one who had been liberated after many years of incarceration. I was like someone who had fought death face to face and come back to the land of the living.

We had to pass through several stations of disinfection before we reached the car. Bleach and chlorinated water were sprayed on everyone’s legs at each station. As we made our way to the car, we walked past the old isolation building. I could hardly recognize it. I could not believe I slept in that building for 10 days. I was free! Free of Ebola. Free to live again. Free to interact with humanity again. Free from the sentence of death.

My parents and two brothers were under surveillance for 21 days and they completed the surveillance successfully. None of them came down with a fever. The house had been disinfected by Lagos State Ministry of Health soon after I was taken to the isolation centre. I thank God for shielding them from the plague.

My recovery after discharge has been gradual but progressive. I thank God for the support of family and friends. I remember my colleagues who we lost in this battle. Dr. Adadevoh my boss, Nurse Justina Ejelonu, and the ward maid, Mrs. Ukoh were heroines who lost their lives in the cause to protect Nigeria. They will never be forgotten.

I commend the dedication of the W.H.O doctors, Dr. David from Virginia, USA, who tried several times to convince me to specialize in infectious diseases, Dr. Carolina from Argentina who spoke so calmly and encouragingly, Mr. Mauricio from Italy who always offered me apples and gave us novels to read. I especially thank the volunteer Nigerian doctors, matrons and cleaners who risked their lives to take care of us. I must also commend the Lagos State government, and the state and federal ministries of health for their swift efforts to contain the virus. To all those prayed for me, I cannot thank you enough. And to my First Consultants family, I say a heartfelt thank you for your dedication and for your support throughout this very difficult period.

I still believe in miracles. None of us in the isolation ward was given any experimental drugs or so-called immune boosters. I was full of faith yet pragmatic enough to consume as much ORS as I could even when I wanted to give up and throw the bottles away. I researched on the disease extensively and read accounts of the survivors. I believed that even if the mortality rate was 99%, I would be part of the 1% who survive.

Early detection and reporting to hospital is key to patient survival. Please do not hide yourself if you have been in contact with an Ebola patient and have developed the symptoms. Regardless of any grim stories one may have heard about the treatment of patients in the isolation centre, it is still better to be in the isolation ward with specialist care, than at home where you and others will be at risk.

I read that Dr. Kent Brantly, the American doctor who contracted Ebola in Liberia and was flown out to the United States for treatment was being criticized for attributing his healing to God when he was given the experimental drug, Zmapp. I don’t claim to have all the answers to the nagging questions of life. Why do some die and some survive? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God in the midst of pain and suffering? Where does science end and God begin? These are issues we may never fully comprehend on this side of eternity. All I know is that I walked through the valley of the shadow of death and came out unscathed.

Dr Ada Igonoh’s story was originally published by BellaNaija and is shared here to create awareness. Maybe a tip picked up from this inspirational story may save someone’s life…..who knows?

Another survivor speaks out: Lovely Nevo Burrell on surviving breast cancer.

Nevo Burrell

Nevo talks us through finding out that she had breast cancer and the impact it had on her life. We often think cancer is confined to someone or some people out there. It can be an eye opener to find it so close. Especially in someone relatively young.

 

How often do you check your breasts?
What is your reaction when you find a bump where there should be none?
Do you ignore it and hope it goes away?

We are very pleased at the Sexual Wellbeing Network that beautiful Nevo Burrell has so generously shared her story to encourage other women to be breast aware.
Watch the video below and feel free to share with others.
The Sexual Wellbeing Network community celebrates Nevo Burrell and wish her many more years of fulfillment in her work.Sexual wellbeing network, Nevo Burrell.

Nevo works as an Image Consultant and Personal shopper. A typical consultation consists of colour analysis (ascertaining the best colours that work well with the individual’s natural colouring), styling (identifying the body shape / physique and advising how to dress) – also looking at face shapes and advising on appropriate hairstyles, glasses, wardrobe planning, de-cluttering and personal shopping amongst other things. She can be contacted on nevo@nevoconcept.com and phone number  +44(0)7961 175 938

Click below to hear how brave Nevo survived breast cancer. You would be glad you did 🙂 Don’t forget to drop a comment below and feel free to share with your network.
Wondering about contraception? Get your copy of ‘Understanding Contraception’ here

 

 

 

ABC of PRE-Eclampsia: A Tribute to the late Kefee Don Momoh ”Branama Queen.”

Attention please!
This article is for you if you are pregnant, have just had a baby or know someone who is pregnant.

Many pregnancies happen uneventfully. The woman goes into hospital and comes out with a baby – wonderful!
But occasionally things do not go as planned. Sometimes, a condition called Pre-eclampsia rears its ugly head in pregnancy and can have devastating consequences.

Pre-eclampsia is not a topic usually featured on this blog. But I have written this in response to a request from a reader asking that I use this medium to raise awareness of this condition following the death of Nigerian singer Kefee Don Momoh who was loved for her catchy tunes such as ‘Branama’ and ‘Kokoroko.’
Reports by popular media at the time of her death revealed that the singer was said to have been 6 months’ pregnant when she died of complications of Pre-eclampsia.

I do not have any direct links with her family, was not involved in her medical management and cannot confirm what she died of but I just want to use this medium to encourage all pregnant women to ensure they ATTEND PRE-NATAL-CARE as a way of preventing unnecessary death from Pre-eclampsia.

So what is Pre-eclampsia?
This is a medical condition which occurs in some pregnant women or women who have just been delivered of a baby due to problems with the placenta through which the baby in the womb is fed.
At the initial stage, the woman may not feel anything at all.
The signs (which can be detected at ante-natal care) may be high blood pressure and protein in urine.
The woman may also notice some symptoms such as headache, blurring of her vision, pain at the upper right side of her tummy and swelling of her face, ankles, feet and hands.

The only cure for pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby.

There is still so much science does not know about Pre-ecampsia and research is ongoing to understand what it is about the placenta that causes pre-eclampsia.
Some studies suggest the following risk factors for Pre-eclampsia:

  • first pregnancy or first pregnancy with a change of partner.
  • is likely to happen in the next pregnancy if it happened before.
  •  Age above 40 years
  • may occur if your mum or sister had pre-eclampsia
  • more than 10 years between pregnancies.
  • if you already have hypertension, kidney problems or Diabetes before the pregnancy.

So what should you be doing if you are pregnant??
1. Attend every single pre-natal appointment during your pregnancy. Please don’t be slack about this. Many women say ‘they just check my blood pressure, that’s all’ so they miss their appointments because they don’t understand the value of the pre-natal checks.
2. Ensure that your blood pressure is checked EVERY TIME you attend the clinic. Please be involved: no harm in knowing what your blood pressure is like usually and keeping an eye on what its doing during your pregnancy and in the few weeks afterwards.
3. Ensure that your urine is checked EVERY TIME you attend the clinic. Protein in urine can be an important sign of pre-eclampsia. If you are not asked, please speak up and ask to have your urine checked.
4. Swelling of your feet can be normal in pregnancy but sudden weight gain or excessive swelling especially if there is also puffiness of your face, around your eyes and hands may be an important symptom of pre-eclampsia: ensure that you bring this to the attention of your health care provider immediately.
5. Very painful headache that isn’t easing with simple painkillers, and which is making your eyes sensitive to light or causing your vision to be blurred should be reported IMMEDIATELY so that your blood pressure can be checked.
6. Sudden appearance of nausea and vomiting long after morning sickness of early pregnancy has ceased should be checked out.
7. Tummy pains especially the upper right side of the tummy but also at the shoulder may be a sign of liver problem which can occur in pre-eclampsia
8. Breathing problems may be a sign of fluids accumulating in your lungs: please report this to your doctor immediately.

If you are found to have pre-eclampsia, the doctor would monitor you very closely and may have to deliver the baby before its due to save your life.
Complicated pre-eclampsia can result in seizures (Eclampsia) and death of both mother and baby.

Pre-eclampsia occurs in less than 10% of all pregnancies and if diagnosed and managed appriopriately, can still result in a good outcome for the woman and also the baby.

RIP Branama Queen.

We hope this tribute helps to save other lives from Pre-eclampsia.

Another survivor speaks out: Husband Bullying.

Husband bullying,sexual wellbeing, Women experience very challenging circumstances and it’s always a pleasure to meet someone who says, “It was tough but I survived!”

I met one of such amazing women and she wanted me to share her story to encourage other women who feel unsupported by their partners when they are pregnant. This is her story in her own words.

Child Number one

Hubby was so happy when I told him we were pregnant. So many issues were going on at that time but he said, we keep this child, we might not be able to afford it, but we are having this baby.
“I can’t wait to tell my mum, I hope it is a boy,” he said.
I said “ I hope the child is healthy.”

Child number 2, 3 1/2 years later

“So you are pregnant, how many times did we sleep together? You did not consult me before you got pregnant. I am not ready for another child. We should have planned conception, so it can be a boy. I don’t even want to know anything about this child – You better do something about it.”
Luckily for me my mother in law was on my side on this one.
She said “don’t worry, You’re having this baby for me.”

Child number 3

I was four months gone, having periods and all, when I found out I was pregnant. I had removed the coil because I was so ill with it and it affected my blood pressure. Also, my husband and I did not have sex that often, so I could not really be bothered.

    BIG MISTAKE!!

We went down the same old route of  “the pregnancy is not mine, you better go and find the owner of the pregnancy or get rid of it. I will have nothing to do with you or the child. You have just denied the girls of their father.”

And this time the man moved out of our bedroom, started an affair that lasted four years. I would hear him speaking to this woman in the middle of the night. He spent days away from home.
As if that was not enough, I was subjected to having a scan to find out the sex of the baby at seven months of pregnancy. Plus when my in-laws arrived on holiday and saw me pregnant and they could sense the tension in the home, they called a meeting.

Their son said he was not ready for another child. Every time I slept with him, I got pregnant.

My father in law said these piercing words “What is the matter?” Why are you having children like an illiterate? Don’t think that the number of children you have, will stop my son from going outside.”

Wow – such damaging and piercing words!

I got up from that conversation and never took my problems to my parents-in – law after that statement.
As soon as a I had my third child, I asked my doctors to have my tubes tied. They were not willing but I insisted.

  • My body, my choice!

Four years later he moved out, just before I received diagnosis for breast cancer tests. Two years later he filed for divorce.
I hold no grudges. I learnt a big lesson. Today I hold my head up high, to the glory of God my children are now more independent. I am better. If I had to do it again, I would but I am happy I did not succumb to the pressure to terminate any of the pregnancies. I hope my story helps others.
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Talking Sex in the Afrocarribean Community.

Afrocarribean health event, sexual healthRobert Gordon University (RGU) recently hosted a conference to highlight sexual health amongst the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Several delegates attended the free event at the university’s Riverside East building on Saturday, April 19.

Sponsored by NHS Grampian Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus MCN and African Health Project Waverley Care, the conference boasted an impressive line-up of keynote speakers.

Conference convener Dr Adaeze Ifezulike is GP Clinical Lead for Sexual health and Blood borne Viruses in NHS Grampian and author of the Amazon Bestseller book “Understanding Contraception.” She said: “The Afro-Caribbean community make an invaluable contribution to the energy sector, NHS, educational sector and indeed all areas of UK business and yet continues to lag behind in sexual health issues with high abortion rates as well as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B infections. “This is completely unacceptable and one of our objectives at this conference was to mobilise both the healthcare and Afro-Caribbean communities to take steps to improve our sexual wellbeing.”

Dr Winifred Eboh, a senior lecturer at Robert Gordon University, helped to organise the event and gave her own presentation entitled: “Cultural misconceptions that affect sexual behaviour and risk taking.” Dr Eboh said: “We’re very proud to have hosted the conference here at RGU and add our support to this cause. We have received great feedback from delegates who said they found it interesting and informative, and enjoyed the interactive nature of the event which allowed detailed discussions. “Sexual health and wellbeing amongst the Afro-Caribbean diaspora is a very important topic and we hope the event has helped to raise awareness of the work being done to address a number of issues in this area.”

Afrocarribean Health event, sexual health Other speakers on the day included Dr Emmanuel Okpo, Consultant Public Health Physician at NHS Grampian, Dr Daniella Brawley, Consultant in Sexual Health at NHS Grampian and Katai Kasengele from Waverley Care. Dr Okpo reviewed the state of sexual health (unplanned pregnancy / abortion / HIV and Hepatitis B/C) in the black community in the UK and Dr Brawley’s presentation helped to put the side effects of contraception into perspective with the treatment of blood borne viruses. Katai Kasengele showcased the work of African health projects and support available for Africans living with HIV.

Download our E-book ”Understanding Contraception” and learn why its an Amazon Bestseller!! Start reading in seconds!!Understanding Contraception E-Book

Download Dr Adaeze’s free guide to Outstanding Sexual Intimacy here.