•A citizen’s near-death experience shows how easily self-medication can kill
COVID-19, to many, is a season of great dread, as everyone scampers from being infected by a pandemic that had left much of the globe in thrall.
But even that can’t be justification to stake own lives on dangerous remedies. That is the sobering story of Citizen Bisi Awoniyi, daughter of Chief Sunday Awoniyi, the late seasoned northern bureaucrat and popular politician in the Okun area of Kogi State.
Ms Awoniyi took a concoction of lemon, garlic, ginger and turmeric, laced with zinc and 100mg of Vitamin C — a sure-fire to boost immunity against COVID-19 infection, her friends told her. They had been on the same regimen and could swear to its efficacy.
“I do not doubt the efficacy of each one of the herbs, as they all have their merit,” she admitted, “but I guess it was assumed that their combined efficacy will be awesome in boosting immunity and warding off any viral infection including COVID-19.”
That assumption, with hardly any clinical proof, almost turned a fatal presumption.
Again, in Ms Awoniyi’s own words: “After taking my home remedy booster with breakfast, I felt I had a bit of heartburn or indigestion and got Gestid Suspension from a chemist. At about 2 pm, I thought I felt better and decided to eat a bit of the roasted chicken I made the night before, but within 10 minutes of eating a little portion, I started feeling sick and had to rush to the bathroom to throw up. That was how my near-death experience started.”
Then, her decision to take little rice thereafter, only triggered even worse results: throwing up within 10 minutes, excruciating abdominal pains snowballing into serious chest discomfort, continued vommitting, weakness sparking dizziness, and stooling of blood! The crisis had lasted from 10am to around 8:30pm and was only getting worse — until her London-based son called, and phoned for urgent medical help.
“By the time I realised I was in deep trouble,” she confessed, “I started praying and confessing my sins both known and unknown, asking God for forgiveness and mercy, in case I didn’t have the opportunity to make it.” Yet, that was a totally avoidable situation.
First, why an educated and well exposed woman would do self-medication beggars belief. But her friends talked her to it. Those friends swore at the mixture’s safety and efficacy. If these friends belong to her demographic class — and it is most likely they do — then it’s safe and logical to project such self-medication practices could well be rife among that class, despite their education and exposure.
That is dire news, concerning self-mediation among Nigerians. It suggests the practice may not only be restricted to the so-called illiterates but it could also be rampant even among the higher classes. That is troubling and alarming; and it ought to be discouraged. But it also shows how messages to discourage self-medication should be framed and targeted at peer-groups, rich or poor, knowing the power of peer influence.
Even then, personal practices are no less important. From her own testimony, Ms Awoniyi blundered from one self-medication to another. Had her son not arranged for proper clinical management, even at home, only God knows what could have happened. Still, she deserves kudos for speaking out on her odyssey. That single act would make others to learn from her near-death experience, and correct that habit.
People should take only scientifically certified drugs, with clear dosage. That has been stressed too many times but it still bears re-stating. With a good chunk of the population hooked on herbs and other forms of alternative medicine, requisite government agencies should ramp up clinical tests on these alternative drugs to underscore their safety for consumption; and clearly state their dosage, to clarify their efficacy.
COVID-19 may be a global season of fear and stigma, in low and high places, just because a cure is not available yet. Still, even fear and stigma can’t justify reckless self-medication, which could well be just a few steps from wilful suicide, as this citizen’s near-death experience has shown.