By Francis Ewherido
In the last one week, I heard of some deaths that made me to be circumspect. Two of the people died as a result of overindulgence. We always joke that “something must kill a man” and laugh over it. But I also grew up to hear my mother say that “the stick that you see should not pierce your eye.” It is really annoying when doctors warn you to stop a habit because of the negative effects on your organs, yet you continue to indulge in it because you are “addicted” to what is killing you. Some argue that addiction itself is a sickness, but let us also accept the fact that there is a deficit of self-control and willpower. Let us quit being selfish? What about your spouse, children, siblings, aged parents, other relatives, loved ones and friends, don’t their feelings and the effect that your death would have on them matter?
Two other deaths touched me. One of them was prominent in his small circle, but the last person and certainly not the least, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, was a very prominent Nigerian, a man of many paths. “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes,” Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar. The other people who died within the period were no beggars. They were prominent men in their own rights. But Dokpesi was a big fish and comets were seen. In 1987 when I was a cub/student reporter in The Punch, Dokpesi was already a prominent man and one of those who made parties thick in the Lagos social circle. He was the toast of musicians at parties. Sunny Ade even mentioned him in one song. But perhaps he is most renowned for his pioneering efforts in the private ownership of electronic media in Nigeria. He established RayPower FM Radio Station and later African Independent Television (AIT). Dokpesi died in a domestic accident, we are told, at 71. May his soul and those of the others rest in peace.
Sometimes, it looks like when death comes calling, there is no hiding place. In those days, a man was sleeping in the afternoon in his own bedroom when an articulated truck veered off the road, rammed into his house and killed him. But are we going to say that we shall no longer travel because of road accidents, plane crashes or boat mishaps? Of course, no. It is in that regard that I am encouraging everyone who can afford an annual medical check up to go ahead and do so. That death will come when it wants to come does not mean we should not take our health serious anymore. Annual check-ups go for about a hundred thousand naira (N100,000) and above depending on the scope. You can also stagger your check-up over a period and start with areas that need immediate attention with as little as N15,000. I know some people will dismiss me. Life is tough, they will say. People are looking for money to eat and he is talking about medical check-up.
I know times are hard. I feel it too, so I can empathise. But I also know that the kidney failures, stroke, cancer, organ failure and some of the illnesses that are killing people could have been prevented if the problem was diagnosed early. For those suffering from these ailments, but are still alive, what we are talking about now is not N15,000 for one diagnosis or N100,000 for annual check-ups, but millions of naira being spent on treatment and management of the condition, and there are no guarantees. Save from the money you spend on indulgencies and take care of your health. I am not here to dictate to you how to live your life, but to remind you that you must be alive to live your life. Our lives are in God’s hands and even after these check-ups, there is still no guarantee. But at least play your part.
The beauty of annual check-up is that it gives you peace of mind. It also forewarns you of impending health challenges if not nipped at the bud. I actually did mine a few weeks ago. The results are what took me to my doctor and prompted me to write today’s article. There are two issues I need to nip at the bud. Thank God I know early. Annual check-up is like an examination result. You can do excellently well generally, yet perform poorly in a subject or two. If you perform poorly or fail in critical subjects like English and Mathematics (issues with heart, liver, kidney and other organs), there is a problem and you have to deal with it.
Annual medical checkup is a necessity once you clock 40. As I wrote a few years ago, “the checkups recommended by medical practitioners include: physical examination, visual examination, blood sugar level, Lipid profile, Liver function test, electrolyte, full blood count, urinalysis, prostate specific antigen (men above 40yrs), Chest x-ray (above 40yrs), prostate scan(Men above 50yrs), ECG (those above 40yrs), colonoscopy (men above 50yrs), mammography (for women above 40yrs) and some other tests. Each of these procedures serves a particular purpose. Chest x-ray, for instance, is meant to show the state of your lungs. Chest x-rays can detect heart-related lung problems, cancer, infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia or air collecting in the space around a lung, among others. Blood sugar level is for all persons 40 years and above, especially people from families where there is a history of diabetes. In fact, such persons should have been doing their checks long before 40 years.
Normal blood sugar level is between 70 and 99 fasting (that is when you wake up in the morning) and not more than 140 two hours after a meal at all times.” As a rule, you should have your glucometer (blood sugar measuring machine) and monitor your sugar level regularly if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic.
If you have high blood pressure, owning and using a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure monitor) regularly is a must. High blood pressure is regarded as a silent killer and it is true, but checking it regularly can stop stroke from creeping on you like a thief in the night. Not all strokes result from high blood pressure, but, at least, reduce the risk of stroke resulting from high blood pressure.
Exercise is very important, but be careful as you grow older. Many people have died while exercising. I was very sad to learn that Dokpesi died as a result of a “fall on his treadmill during a routine gym exercise.” About five years ago, I wrote: Beyond your physician, let your body, be your guide, before you slump and die prematurely. If you go to the National Stadium in Lagos, you will see some sexagenarians and septuagenarians jogging, while people in their 30s are walking. It is partly because of the instructions from their bodies. Some of those old men jogging have been doing it religiously for over 40 years. Exercise you must, but listen to your bodies.