There is a problem somewhere.
Endeavor to obtain a concise medical history from certain-or most- patients in this Nigeria, and I bet you will be thoroughly confused midway through. Most Nigerians can confuse and mislead you in diverse ways.
There are quite a few subsets of confusing Nigerian patients, and I’ll highlight a few that I’ve come in contact with. Let us begin with The Misdirectors. These people will lead you to Jerusalem and Galilee with their stories, only for the realisation to dawn on you that the real information of relevance to you is in Ikeja. Time wasted that you can never get back.
Then there are The Preamblers, these people will give you a backstory that has almost no relationship with the issue at hand for minutes on end if they are allowed, and by the time they finish with all the addendums your mind is exhausted.
I dare not forget The Just Pain Awful Desriptors. This community of people, either by intention or not, express themselves in using the most ill-fitting adjectives and prepositions.
“How long have you had this headache? ”
“Doctor, it’s been a while o”.
“How long exactly, Sir?”.
“Like one week, Doctor”.
I’m of the notion that “A While” was connotative of a month or more, but I guess we are all different.
The Lying Unprovoked community needs to have a honourable mention in this. These people deserve a whole other article, but not today. Maybe another time.
I cannot end this list without recognising The Ones That You Have To Drag Every Single Thing Out Of Their Mouth. There’s a special type of headache that comes after clerking patients like this.
Last but not least, we have The Repetitors. Goodness gracious, these are quite a special group. I mean, I heard you the first time Sir, so it would be nice if it wasn’t repeated the seventh time and we all moved on from this segment. Thanks.
A good number of Nigerians are poor communicators, and it shows. From the way in which we give medical information, spanning across to the manner in which we relay directions to others, it is as glaring as a new streetlight. Once I was trying to direct this young woman that randomly asked me to show her a place, and I made the grave error of using the word Adjacent, which in all honesty was the best description. I could immediately read the confusion on her face. I settled on Opposite instead, which he was more at peace with. I’m even going too far with this: confidently differentiating left from right is an extreme sport for many.
So, how do I make sure the medical history I’m obtaining from a person is the closest version to the truth?
I question every single thing, and assume nothing.
Someone could use the word Constipation but actually mean Diarrhoea. “A while” might be five days, “a little bit” could be a month. She might say she’s never having an abortion but allude to having two spontaneous miscarriages. Anything is possible when you’re trying to take a decent history from the average Nigerian. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.
Of course there are times when I try my hardest and my patient however chooses to hoard information from me but lay it all at the feet of the managing Consultant-which is an indictment on me and does not really do the patient any much good-during ward rounds, I definitely feel slighted in those circumstances but I have to not take it to heart.
We all actually need to be better at thi thing called communication. It’s a win-win for everybody.