Once in a while, life events leave you in deep thoughts about how a lot of hurt can hide under a beautiful smile. So it was with this pretty, middle-aged woman who was being managed by the diabetic unit for hyperglycaemic crisis (markedly elevated blood sugar). Despite diverse regimens and insulin injections, her blood sugar refused to normalise after eight days on admission, so we could not discharge her home. We kept running investigations and examinations, re-checking over and again for whatever we were missing out, and found nothing significant. We had changed insulin brands severally, cursing the fake drug makers and marketers.
So I happened to be pacing around the corridor one midnight while I was on call duty when I saw her from the window. I don’t know how many cubes she had taken prior to seeing her but I am sure I counted six. This woman kept popping cubes of sugar into her mouth as she laid in her bed, her hands deftly going from her black purse to her mouth. She gaped in shock when she saw me staring at her in utter bewilderment. She begged me not to expose her plot.
She knew she would be discharged home as soon as her blood sugar went below the high cut-off and didn’t want to be discharged. Her husband beats her mercilessly at home, at the most mundane provocation. She folded up her sleeves to reveal scars on her wrists and shoulders and back. Home is a dungeon she did not want to return to. He had threatened to, throw her out of the house should she tell anyone; send her kids to be catered for by his mother in the village and bring in another woman. Once, she had tried to kill herself after receiving a heavy bout of beating, but she couldn’t get past the nauseating smell of the fumigating chemical, and the faces of her three children flashing through her head like a floodlight. He had nearly killed her one other night after he came home late, drunk. She still could not imagine how she managed to wrestle the knife from him and fled to their neighbour’s flat where she passed the night.
Spanning several weeks, she scoured the internet for whatever she could read about diabetes mellitus. She was very believable when she affirmed those symptoms and named numerous anti-diabetic drugs that she ‘had been using’ and her tests values. She had us all fooled.
As she narrated her ordeal with a tear-streaked face in that quiet corner of the ward that midnight, I wondered at humanity and marriage. How a man can inflict this much pain on his wife, how much torture it had taken to bring this woman to this level where she doesn’t even care for the discomfort of a hospital stay, the hourly insulin injections and the whole litany of medical procedures she had to endure. And you needed to see this monster-man and the woman, how they related affectionately. You would think they had the best of marriages. Other patients in the ward envied them. I shook my head as I walked out of the ward, trying to push back the ball of tears that throbbed in my eyes. I wondered how much longer she had before her holiday was over.
Niyi Marcus is a Medical doctor currently based in Lagos state
Twitter handle @niyimac01
Facebook: Niyi Marcus
On next episode of Doctor-Patient Palaver, Mr Adebayo narrates his ugly experience as a patient in one of Nigerian tertiary health facilities.
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