Get Through Harmattan Well, Warm and Fresh

After 2018 ended with little more than a whiff of the cold dry wind many love to hate, the harmattan’s grand entry as the past year wound down came as a shock. The absence of traffic on Lagos roads due to the annual exodus of residents to their hometowns seemed to pave the way for the gusts carrying dry, cold air and dust from the Sahara. One morning you were battling the simmering heat, the next you woke up with your nose dry.

Here comes winds whose voices you hear conversing, faces white and dried up and air that goes up your nose and settles behind your forehead head with some hammering. All of which is reminiscent of the Night king in that last battle.

Do you remember how in elementary science class, we were taught that our hair, scarves and even bedsheets will have sparks of electricity due to the friction generated by the air’s quality at this time. How magical it is to run fingers on beds and see the sparks flying about.

Hair: Your hair doesn’t have to be like that of Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands. There are a wide variety of oils and organic hair products you can use to keep your hair from being more frizzy than usual. Wrapping the hair in a silk scarf while you sleep is even more important right now so you don’t lose moisture while you go out, remember to keep it protected.

Oiled Skin: As a danfo coasted down a busy Lagos road, the driver teasing someone standing by her stall, “See as harmattan come make your face dull.” It was a young girl and it appeared they knew each other as she smiled at him with recognition and mild bemusement. Then he went, “me wey i dey talk na my beard dey hide my real face. My face be like person wey dey suffer. This harmattan ehn.”

You don’t want to look like you were mistakenly locked in a walk-in cold room for some time, lips dry, white and chapped, white lines appearing whenever you scratch your body and colour draining from them. Body moisturizers would help you lock in moisture. Leaving your skin unprotected will make it dry and may lead to itching.

Drink Water: Imagine your kidneys pulsing with glee as they get what they need to keep your internal plumbing going smoothly. Kidney disease is a chronic condition that can be expensive, long term and stressful. If there’s a way to prevent it or reduce your chances and it is drinking water please do it. This weather would make you more thirsty than usual, please do not wait for this to happen before you drink water.

Home: Dress warm as the cold can be biting at least in the morning. You could use water heaters or just boil water for your bath. Don’t be a hero like Folabomi Amoo said. Be humble and care for your body. Dust the surfaces at home and work more frequently, keep your windows shut and get a humidifier if possible.

Fire Safety: Be more watchful of fire as the dry air makes fire a big risk at this time. Turn off cooking gas when not in use, unplug electrical aplluances, servuce your car, keep fkammable objects like matches, lit candles and phones (yes, phones) awsy from diesel cans, petrol kegs and generators.

People living with medical conditions: Sickle cell patients need to drink more water, dress warm, drink warm fluids when it is cold and keep their clinic appointments. The weather may increase the frequency of crises. People with asthma need to protect themselves by wearing masks. The Yoruba say, ‘ma fi itiju karun’. Roughly translated as not to fall sick due to worrying about what people will say. Wear your mask or use a clean handkerchief. The exhaust on this city’s roads is bad enough, don’t let the dust be another trigger for you. If you are living with any other condition like kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes and are worried about how this weather may affect you, please do not wait till you feel worse, see your doctor.


Vulnerable groups: Children, pregnant women and the elderly are more vulnerable at this time and we must do our best to keep many people as warm as possible. Homeless people, mentally ill people who are not being cared for in a psychiatric facility but are left to roam the streets are also at risk. You can leave extra sweaters somewhere they can find. You could donate to the organizations procuring blankets and warm clothing for people in the northern part of Nigeria who feel the cold more. Remember the temperature drops to 11 degrees in some places and that these areas mostly do not have access to regular power supply and central heating.

Lastly, men!: Before harmattan some used to have white lines, ash like feet. It’s 2020, please moisturize. It doesn’t make you less of who you are. Even better, it keeps you healthy, confident and keeps your loved ones happy to see you. Besides, you would be raising a new generation of boys who look up to you and realise that adequate self care is important and a complement rather than a diminisher to masculinity. Keep your beard from being frizzy with the variety of oils available.

It may be tough for many reasons. That cold air especially can make one feel ill but everything has its end, we just have to do our best to survive. Two good things though- clothes get to dry quickly unlike the rainy months. Secondly, agbalumo is out!
How do you cope with harmattan?

The Two Sides of Love Author, Folabomi Amoo Shares Thoughts About His Debut Anthology

Don’t you just love the cover?

A collection of rich and profoundly resonating poems by Folabomi Amoo, The Sides of Love will touch you in the central fibres of your being, carry you through the dark moments, leave you breathless but most of all, give you hope in the amazing power of this unrelenting force called love. We had a chat with him about his new release.

First off, congratulations on the launch of your collection of poems. How long have you been writing this anthology?

Thank you very much. I worked on it for about a year. I first started with just writing poems as they come. Then as they started to accumulate, the story started to come together.

What a buildup that must have been. Could you describe the main recurring theme of the poems?

It is love. The two sides of it. The struggles and triumphs of two different couples. However, the most important thing is that both parts of the book are told through the eyes of the lovers themselves.

Name three poets whose works have most influenced you.

I am a very avid reader. I read people’s materials and I try to take bits here and there from everyone whose material I read. There isn’t really a person or particular set of people that I can point out to say I was most influenced by.

The Two Sides of Love as seen on OkadaBooks

Interesting. What inspired you to embark on this journey?

The first poem I wrote was in July 2018. I was in a bus on my way to work, and my mind was wandering. The words and the lines started to form in my head, but that day I chose to write them down. I showed a couple of people. They liked it and so the journey began.

The power of good feedback! Could you tell our readers the audience you wrote this for?

There is not really a target audience, but I can say that young adults would appreciate it more, as the book addresses issues common with young couples. But, the book is for everyone who is a fan of poetry.

A number of young people are developing their talent in poetry. What advice do you have for them?

No matter how weird, or different your poems may be at first, just keep writing. The more you write, the better you become and that is just the reality.

Folabomi, what’s next?

I have another book on the way once the dust settles. And I would be releasing it hopefully, in the first quarter of next year.

Thank you very much. We wish you succcess!

You are welcome.

…………….

To purchase a copy of this book for yourself, loved ones and strangers, kindly place your orders on Amazon, OkadaBooks, Selar and KoboBooks

You can read more of his work on Medium

_________________

OumissaInspire

Lagos

241219

For Parents Who Love Their Daughters No Less


This was my longest and most difficult labour yet. More than two days I had tried to bring my last child to the world. My obstetrician and her team were one of the best in the city and they had done everything. At a point, they had begun preparing for a cesarean but the baby decided that was grand entry moment. I was overjoyed to see the face so bright and hear the cry so strong. Each moment seemed to replenish my lost strength.

I was taken to the postnatal ward and there I found my prenatal ward roommate. Even though I was weary, I began to offer my congratulations to her but I stopped when I noticed she was crying. Feeling guilty, I thought she had lost her baby. When I asked her, she wailed, “My husband and his people will chase me out”. Flummoxed, I enquired further. “Chase you out for what?”

She then went on to explain how this was her third daughter and she had been expecting a boy because she is not considered a worthy wife and mother until she births a son. This was sad to me. Here was I with my fourth daughter and I had no such fears. I knew my husband could not wait to meet his latest daughter and I realized how privileged I was in that moment. I was overwhelmed by joy that my baby and I had survived the long labour and were both healthy. I tried to console her, telling her to be grateful neither she nor the baby had died.
She shook her head in that way that signalled I did not understand what awaited her at home. It was a lot to handle, seeing this woman who should have been recovering from childbirth worrying over something she had no power over. It seemed so unfair and I wish I could do more.

It sounds like a no-brainer, something that is too ridiculous but in many parts of the world in 2019, the arrival of girls is still greeted with sadness.
A viral video recently showed a pregnant lady at a baby shower whose friends pranked her by a balloon sex reveal indicating she was having a girl. The dismay and sorrow on her face was uncomfortable at best and outright disgraceful to watch. After her shocking reaction, the real sex of the baby was announced and her face lit up with joy. With attitudes like this still in this time and age, little progress seems to have been done.
Here’s to all the parents who are fighters, who are heroes for welcoming their daughters into the world with warmth, gratitude and raising them giving them the best just as if they had had sons. These parents do not get celebrated enough.
Yes, their actions should not merit special recognition in a fair and balanced world. But when everyone from the health care staff from the labour room, relatives, neighbours, friends, daughter’s teachers, and even the media badgers you with reasons why your child is less worthy because of her sex chromosomes and you just don’t care, you deserve ice cream and everything nice.


How something that occurs as a genetic game of chance still determines the quality of life of a vast proportion of half of the population is mind-boggling. These parents ignore scorn, and raise their girls in a society that denies their right to education, healthcare, safety and job opportunities.

They made sure her wings were in good shape to fly in a world that wants to clip them.

They stay up all night when she gets her first period and rock her while she asks what the blood and searing pain means. They watch her eyes mist over anew when they have to reply to her “But this won’t happen again, right?” with the difficult truth. They support her month after month as she navigates premenstrual syndromes, heartbreak, bullying, and people who put her down at every corner.

They have to jump through hoops to protect their girls from predators in the form of teachers, relatives, neighbours, dangerous love interests, lecturers, bosses and even strangers. They live in daily fear of teenage pregnancy, abusive husbands, sexual harassment and rape of their daughters. Oh and when these things do happen as they sometimes do, they believe her, welcome her with open arms and help her heal.

If she falls into another marginalized group eg she has a disability, is of colour or wears the hijab for example, these parents do more work. They advise her, make her strong and fearless, give her love and a listening ear. They watch with pride as she becomes a successful young woman. They made sure her wings were in good shape to fly in a world that wants to clip them.
Do you wonder why these parents beam so widely on wedding days, graduation days and at other achievements. They have fought for their daughters their whole parent life and like warriors returning victorious from an impossible battle, they are glad they and their girls won.

_________

Mariam Toye

Book Reviews With Oumissa 11: A Life Elsewhere by Segun Afolabi

From the title, it is evident that this is a collection of immigrant stories. The entire work traverses the varied experiences of black people in the diaspora. For the most part, the setting of their new abode is England.
Most of them were written from a male viewpoint while the inner workings of a female mind can be strongly felt in the remaining. The age range of the characters is diverse. We find people at the end of their careers and young children analyzing their immediate environment in that intelligent yet innocent tone peculiar to them. In capturing all demographics, the author delivers a well rounded view of life as a foreigner. The common background however, appears to be South West Nigeria as heavy Yoruba presence is seen in the names, customs and memories.

In one story, a diplomat mother grapples with the cold austere winter in Japan while raising two young children. The author goes ahead to illustrate the myriad forms of life immigrants lead as medics, musicians or tourists. This rich diversity is united by one single pervading theme – the struggle of integration and acceptance in a foreign land.

People are grateful to leave poverty and a lack of opportunities behind but beyond missing the familiarity of home, they do not find it so easy to earn and save in a new land.

Navigating life outside one’s home isn’t as rosy as it appears. I found this crucial because it is still a common view in many parts of Nigeria that going abroad is the solution to any and every problem. People are grateful to leave poverty and a lack of opportunities behind but beyond missing the familiarity of home, they do not find it so easy to earn and save in a new land.

For starters, tax is more heavily enforced than in their home country. Some lose themselves in the new culture and end up in a suspended state when they disconnect with home and are still not fully accepted in the host country. This affects their state of mind, leaving them sad, lonely and distrusting of both citizens of their adopted home and rather ironically, fresh immigrants.

Everyone is thinking mostly about adjusting to the new climate, food and culture while battling old demons. There were some shocking stories in this book. Afolabi was not afraid to take us to the inner recesses of the minds of some of the characters.
With a kind of abstractness running through this work, the core narrative was in the thoughts and not in dialogue. The whole book appears to lead nowhere but the careful tapestry lies just beneath the surface. You need some level of focus to get through this as it isn’t a light read. Perhaps it is just as well that it was written as a collection since the many breaks ease the weight of what was plaintive in many places.

Mint Stethoscope – A Guide for New Doctors

Official ebook release poster

It is so exciting to see this book released finally.

I wish I had this guide before starting my house job journey but I remain grateful for all the guidance I gathered from different sources.

We at Health Hub Africa present our contribution to making the path easier for those coming behind us. We must end the cycle of undue suffering. The rigours of medical practice are enough to deal with. Young doctors do not have to face extraneous ones that do not help their overall growth, care delivery and wellbeing.

The radiant cover page

It has been shown that many who get disillusioned with medical practice feel that way due to the lack of support or proper guidance during their crucial first year. By sharing this free ebook, you are investing in the career of young doctors and by extension strengthening the Nigerian healthcare system.

List of contributors

Well done to everyone who made this a reality. It was an honour to be the contributing editor of this work.

Help share word by using this picture, the Twitter hashtag #HouseOfficersGuide and the download link bit.ly/mintstethoscope.

__________

Dr Mariam Toye

Editor

Living Free of Pain – World Sickle Cell Day

Excruciating pain, drinking a lot of water, frequent hospital admissions, breaks from school or work and dealing with many restrictions to a normal life forms the perception of sickle cell for most of us. While these are present in many cases, the truth is that with adequate care, people living with sickle cell do lead wholesome and fulfilled lives. World Sickle Cell Day was first marked on June 19th 2009 after being recognized in December 2008 by the United Nations General Assembly as a disease of public health concern.

Sickle cell is a chronic condition commonly found in people of African, Mediterranean , Middle East and Indian descent. It is a group of disorders in which the biconcave red blood cell structure (picture the Trebor sweets of your childhood) is distorted into a sickle shape (like the sickle used in farms , crescent or the curve of a question mark). The biconcave structure of normal cells make them flexible to navigate smaller vessels. The distortion affects the ability of these cells to carry oxygen to different parts of the body leading to them being deprived. The abnormal shape makes the cells rigid and unable to navigate small blood vessels in the circulatory system. This gives rise to the joint and other severe pains experienced by sickle cell patients.

Cause

The molecule , haemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen. Sickle cell disease is caused by a genetic mutation which gives rise to Haemogblobin S or Haemoglobin C. The expression of the heamoglobin types make up the genotype of a person. Examples of geneotypes are AA, AS, AC, SC or SS. Sickle cell genotypes are SC and SS. AS and AC are carriers.

A child has sickle when she inherits the S or C gene from both parents.

Signs and Symptoms

These begin to show in early childhood and range from mild to severe among people affected. In most cases, the recurrent bouts of illness is often the first time the child’s genotype is identified. This can be especially traumatic for children who may not be able to express their feelings clearly. The younger ones among them are irritable – cry incessantly due to pain. Episodes of pain and other symptoms are also known as sickle cell crisis.

The sickled cells break down faster than normal red blood cells leading to anaemia. Anaemia in turn leads to breathlessness, weakness in addition to slowed growth and development in Nigeria.

Because the tissues of the body’s organs are starved of oxygen, they begin to show signs of damage. Among these complications are vision loss, bone degeneration, kidney damage, heart failure and poorly healing wounds on the legs (leg ulcers). If left untreated some of these complications can lead to death.

Diagnosis
Sickle cell can be suspected from the symptoms above but it is confirmed with genotype and other other clinical tests.

Treatment
Water – a cardinal part of managing this disease is for the patient to drink or be infused with adequate amounts of water. Sometimes, up to 3 litres per day. This aids circulation and helps reduce the joint pain.

Medication – Sickle cell patients take medication daily to prevent malaria, keep up their vitamin levels. This prolongs the life of the red blood cells and helps new ones to form. However, iron supplements does not help patients with sickle cell as the anaemia found in them is not due to a deficiency of iron. Antibiotics are given to clear existing infections. Hydroxyurea has been shown to improve symptoms significantly in sickle cell. This is usually prescribed by doctors experienced in the treatment of sickle cell. Since severe please (crisis) is often what brings most patients to the hospital analgesics are a major part of the treatment.

Blood transfusion is given to patients whose anaemia is severe to increase their blood levels. This is usually done in severe cases to save their lives.

Hip and other replacement surgery in case of fractures due to bone degeneration.

Recurrent cases are managed by haematologists who are medical experts in blood disorders. With adequate and timely treatment, many sickle cell patients lead fairly normal lives.

Cure
Sickle cell can be cured with stem cell or bone marrow transplant. This option remains inaccessible to most patients due to the high cost, the challenges of securing a matching donor and risk involved. However, many survivors have been cured with this procedure.

Prevention
People with AS, AC , SC and SS genotypes are advised to marry those with AA genotype. This prevents the incidence of their child having the disease. In many marriage registries and even religious bodies, a genotype test and counselling is increasingly becoming one of the criteria for the intending couples.

Growing Stronger With Sickle Cell
Adequate hydration as explained above reduces the frequency of crisis. Also, keeping warm in cold weather helps to prevent the joint pain and chest pain which is worsened by cold. Places or activities that lead to reduced oxygen levels should be avoided. These include high altitiudes and strenous activities. Improved hygiene helps to prevent infections and can be a lifesaving habit in this regard.

Counselling for patients and their carers is very important as the disease can take a toll on mental health. This helps them choose a healthy diet, regular water intake and practise all the the coping mechanisms above. Support groups have also been very helpful in helping patients stay strong.

For decades, we have had people with sickle cell attaining great heights in different fields of human endeavour. We must continue efforts to ensure that less children with sickle cell are born by ensuring genotype testing in couples. But for those who are living with the condition, practising these tips above helps them to lead normal lives.

Written by Dr Mariam Toye (@TheMariamToye on Twitter)

Passenger – Commuting in Lagos in the rains

Rain in Lagos is a leveller. It has the power to upset your plans and make you want to cancel the whole day. But we can’t let the weather stop us. We get up, pack our books, laptops and other stuff in waterproof lining, get a sturdy umbrella, strong shoes and match on to face a new day.

This Keke was empty and I loved the upholstery (some Lagos kekes are masterpieces of decoration.) I couldn’t resist a picture with my companion for weeks now. I knew it would fit her perfectly and frankly doing this made the gloomy morning a lot brighter. Would you believe it was raining just outside? Gratefully, the breeze did not carry this darling away.

How do you handle the stress of your morning rush?