One hot afternoon while taking my afternoon Siesta, I was woken up by a hard knock at my door. It was a sick-call. “Fr please come fast before the man gives up the ghost,” the voice from outside said in an Uboma dialect.
Without further interrogations, I dressed up and jumped into my Carina II car. I had once visited the sick man at Etiti General hospital where we discussed and prayed together. He had a kidney problem. Reaching the man’s compound, that hot afternoon, I was greeted by a large crowd of “mourners” standing outside the house talking in low tones while the sick man could be heard from a distance shouting at the top of his voice saying all sorts of uncoordinated things.
His actual state showed all signs of a full-blown psychosis. For the bystanders, that meant that he was about to die in the next minutes. Everyone was patiently waiting to hear him take the last breath. If I had not visited the man at the hospital, I would have anointed him and prepared him for death immediately on arrival because that was the reason I was invited. “But what has kidney problem gotten to do with the brain?” I pondered within me.
I suspected drug abuse. Immediately, I called out the wife and asked her about the drugs his husband was taking. The woman brought them. I requested some bystanders to help me get the man into my car. In a twinkle of an eye the man was seated at back of my car still yelling like one high on mkpuru mmiri. On reaching Etiti Medical Centre, I jumped all protocols and requested to see the doctor immediately.
The young huge and tall doctor appeared without delay. He went straight to see the man who was seated in my car. After examining the drugs, he told me that they were a combination of kidney problem and diabetes medications. We asked the wife where the drugs for diabetes came from. “Is he also diabetic?” I asked. The wife began to tell a very strange story that is not strange in Nigeria. It happened that a friend of the sick man runs a chemist shop in Onitsha.
As soon as he heard of his friend’s sickness, he immediately packaged some drugs and handed them to a bus driver to deliver to his friend at the village. The chemist man, however, was wrongly informed about the exact sickness his friend was suffering from. He was told he had diabetes instead of kidney problem. As soon as the wrong medications were delivered to the man, he started taking them together with the ones he was already taking. That was what led to the sudden breakdown.
The doctor then instructed us on what to do. He charged us nothing. We thanked him and left. By the next day, the man had already regained consciousness. When I visited him, he was full of joy and thankfulness. About 2 years after the incidence, I travelled to Europe for further studies and academic research. As days went by in Europe, the picture of that incident became clearer to me. I recalled that such incidents were common occurrences in Nigeria.
I began to ponder over the following questions: why did the family decide to call the priest without any plan of seeking medical assistance? Why did no one make any effort to calm or revive him? Why did they give up hope so soon on him? What could have happened to the man If I was not there? How many people have died in this or similar manner? The more I stay in Europe, the more I understand how low the value of human life has fallen in Nigeria, and the more I understand the connection between low sense of human dignity and poverty.
Check all the developed countries of the world. They are countries that place high regard on human life. Check all the poor countries, the reverse is the case. Jesus took our flesh to remind us of our God-given dignity. Unless we recognize that dignity through our actions, then poverty, backwardness and misery will continue to torment us despite the incarnation of Jesus and our faith in Him. Think about this as we wait for the celebration of Christmas. Have a blessed and reflective Advent.
Fr Angelo Chidi Unegbu (10.12.2021)