Saturday, February 23, 2008

The 111th good thing about Lagos: I didn't break my nose

The last time I fainted, quite a few years ago, was the morning after a day when I had some minor outpatient surgery. I arose out of bed and promptly went into the bathroom and fainted, likely a result of some reaction to the anesthesia or other surgery trauma. I fell flat on my face on the tile floor and as a result, broke my nose. This led to a lot more trauma and, within a month, another surgery to fix my broken nose.

I fainted early this morning and, thankfully, only have a scrape and a couple of sore spots to show for it. I woke up around 3:30 AM needing to use the bathroom, but felt fine otherwise. But immediately after returning to bed, I started having severe abdominal cramps and broke out in a cold sweat. Something was really wrong. Brent wasn't in bed -- often when he can't sleep he goes into the other room and starts working or watching TV. So I got up to find him to see if he was having similar problems. We've been lucky with our health here and haven't had any major problems related to food poisoning, but it is fairly common here with the lack of hygiene in society in general. Before I got to him, I fainted, apparently, because the next thing I was aware of was wondering where I was and what was happening after realizing I was on the floor. I called out to him and he came and I was able to fill him in on what was going on with me. He wasn't having any ill effects so I was reassured that this illness wasn't due to the grilled chicken or salad I had fixed for dinner. I laid on the floor for a while until I felt secure enough to have him help me back to bed. The chills, sweating and severe cramps lasted only about an hour and then abruptly went away. This morning I woke up feeling sore in a few places and a bit weak, but, thankfully, otherwise okay. I'm very lucky it wasn't more serious. I was talking with a friend the other day whose illness began much like mine, very quickly, and she ended up in the hospital here for several days and feeling sick for over a week and was looking into having to leave the country. They decided it was likely some kind of virus and she said she had heard of other people who have had similar symptoms. Many gatherings of women here devolve into a kind of "old people's" illness and ailments talk where we discuss health problems and symptoms. And there was a very scary situation with an Indian contract worker in our company a couple of weeks ago who took sick and the clinic either diagnosed him inaccurately or didn't realize the critical nature of his condition. By the time they evacuated him it was too late and he died upon his arrival in Johannesburg. It turns out that he had septic shock. Now, that is a serious problem and likely a majority of people die from it no matter where they are, but it was a reminder that we are living a bit on the edge as far as health care goes while we are here in Nigeria. When talking about this worker's death, Brent made the comment that he thinks the reality is that if an American or a European were as sick as this guy was, they would have shipped him out sooner -- the fact that he was an Indian contract worker may have meant his insurance didn't provide for the same level of emergency service we have. I don't know if I should be embarrassed or reassured by that. But, this morning I'm very grateful that for a while longer I don't have to have personal experience with our SOS health clinic's services.

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