I now know how Prof Wole Soyinka felt, when he got a cable in the early 70s, that simply said “The man died”. This was a journalist Segun Sowemimo – who was brutally beaten, by soldiers on the others of a Military Governor of then Western Region. The reason? An imagined slight.
The journalist had the help of his trade union and as his condition worsened, the Military Governor was compelled – at the expense of the State, not at a punitive cost to the Governor and his soldiers – to fly the journalist to England for treatment.
But gangrene had set in on the injured journalist, and the affected leg had to be amputated. Prof Soyinka later went to London and followed Segun Sowemimo’s case with interest. He looked for Mr Sowemimo but found that he had been flown back to Nigeria. Soyinka then sent word to his colleague in Nigeria to trace Sowemimo and send him news of him. The reply was contained in the cable Soyinka received which simply stated “The man died”, of course it became the title of his book.
Three weeks ago, I had written that a colleague of mine a retired Permanent Secretary like me, who has had diabetes for 17 years, had his three left toes amputated, due to gangrene resulting from diabetes. The JOHESU strike affected his treatment here in Umuahia, and he was subsequently flown out to a private hospital for further management.
A family friend sent me a text last Sunday which simply stated “Your colleague has died”. The mental agony of my colleagues and I, all retired Permanent Secretaries, and who are very elderly cannot be imagined. The worse being that most of them also suffer from diabetes with incipient disabilities – like diabetic retinopathy and poly neuropathy, affecting their sights and gaits.
My phone has been ringing non stop, with palpable apprehension, as if to ask “ who is next, is it me? The dead colleague and I, are from the same clan, and we were very close, so it was a double jeopardy for me. As a doctor and a close relative. We have been reflecting whether there was anything the doctors could have done to save his life?
Did they do too much or too little?
As my Reverend Minister said, when he heard the news of his death – “Doc it is over for your colleague, you have to counsel those who are still alive”. So what lessons shall we learn from my colleague’s death?
Alright, let us all, when I say let us, I mean everyone reading me now. If you are above 40, please answer the following questions – 1) Do you have any disability? 2) Do you have any chronic illness that is gradually impairing your good health? 3) Is there any habit of yours that is detrimental to your health? 4) Do you have any health challenge due to accidents etc that keeps you incapacitated?
Then this must be time for introspection, let the death of my colleague become an epiphany to better our lives health wise. To assuage the feelings of my colleagues, let me for the umpteenth time summarise the process of aging.
The process of aging
• What we must all know is that the process of aging begins in the middle of late 20s, and continues until death.
• No one escapes it’s effects, but there are often great difference in its degree of impact on people of the same age. We must pay adequate attention to how we live our lives.
• Please note that the efficiency of a man’s body functions at the age of 75, is proportionately less than at 30.
• At age 75, give or take, 10% of the following features are lost, They include :1) Body weight. 2) Basal Metabolic Rate(BMR) 3) Body water content. 4) Blood flow to the brain. 5) Cardiac output at rest. 6) Filtration rate of the kidneys. 7) Number of nerve trunk fibres. 8) Brain weight. 9) Number of kidney glomeruli. 10) Maximum ventilation volume. 11) Kidney plasma flow 12) Maximum oxygen uptake. 13) Number of taste buds. 14) Return of blood acidity to equilibrium.
• Read above again. We lose 10% of those functions at 75, but this is not all-or-none assertion. You could manage your health so well that even at 80 those functions are only minimally lost.
What is our take this week?
Medical Science through Gerontology – the serious study of aging can prolong life span, but cannot yet prolong youth. So we must live a life of moderation if we want to age gracefully. Always be medically guided.
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