Rebecca strives to bring healing to the afflicted

Rebecca strives to bring healing to the afflicted

Africa today is poised for massive economic growth. Before it could mobilize to this point, it had to overcome entrenched notions, some of which sound hauntingly familiar. It took quite some time to grasp how that tiny little mosquito could cause such a devastating febrile (fever-causing) disease.

Listen carefully: 35 year old student-doctor Rebecca Umah became infected while living in her high school dormitory. “I was burning up with fever. I was so weak. My joints were swollen and painful, I could barely get out of bed. I was so afraid what was happening to me, I prayed fervently for God’s healing.”

The real cause

What’s your diagnosis? Based on the information so far, you would swear it was ‘The Chicken’. But if I tell you this was back in Nigeria, of course, malaria becomes the prime suspect. It is carried by the Anopheles mosquito vector, cousin of our own Aedes Aegypti of Dengue & Chikungunya fame. Rebecca responded to the standard painful Chloroquine injections though her recovery was marred with abscess and scars.

Forget about sharks and snakes and lions or whatever. Mosquitoes kill more people around the world than all other animals combined.  I did not make that up nor is it a Government conspiracy.Dominica is simply one of many countries struggling to cope with this same Chikungunya crisis. Pity anyone who thinks otherwise. For those who can read and access information online,there is really no excuse for such obstructionist attitudes. In Guadeloupe, for example, officials are imposing increasing fines on non-compliant citizens.

For Rebecca, her malaria experience confirmed her decision to study medicine. Today, it sharpens her approach to Chikungunya. She obtained a degree in Industrial Chemistry with honours from Abia State University in Nigeria followed by a Biological Science degree from University of Ghana in Legon, Accra. Next she furthered her studies at the American International School of Medicine in Guyana before seizing the better opportunity at All Saints in Dominica.

Louis plans to specialize in obstetrics-gynecology

Louis plans to specialize in obstetrics-gynecology`

Her fellow All Saints student, Louis Benedict Nnaemeka, is likewise aged 35. Louis also earned a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry with honours from Abia State in Nigeria. He worked with Excellence Laboratories where he assisted in research and was a leader in medical diagnosis. He got additional experience working with pharmaceutical companies, interacting with scientists and discussing patients’ treatment options.

Click here to listen to Louis and Rebecca in their own words. These are talented, mature students whose tremendous thirst for learning has carried them here. If there is one thing we can learn from their experience is that we need a more creative and effective approach to managing this disruptive disease.

Cosmopolitan country

Dominica is the nation that produces the highest per capita of doctors in the world. Thanks to dual established medical schools, with respect to population, a higher number of international physicians pass through our doors than any other country. Refugees and strangers from all tongues and nations come here to live and thrive, thereby greatly enriching our national development.

Louis devoutly attends St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Goodwill. In his view, “Dominica is a small island with smaller socio-economic problems compared with bigger countries in the world. Its health problems and epidemics disease are low, the crime rate is low. It is not affected by industrial pollutants and is quite advanced in environmental protection.”

Rebecca, a pastor’s wife, misses her husband while studying away from home these past two years. Yet she remains effusive about Dominica as “a very wonderful island to visit and see the beauty and glory of God’s creation.” According to her, “though it has a tiny population compared to where I came from, it features excellent water supply, steady electricity and very friendly, hospitable and welcoming people, I must tell you.”

The welcome song at Rebecca’s ‘Nigerian church’ in Dominica is unlike any other. Deeper Life Bible Church, is located at the junction of the Pt. Michel/Grandbay road. Interestingly enough, it is pastored by David Abiodun, the dynamic Registrar at Roseau’s All Saints University School of Medicine. Don’t take my word for it. If you ever have a chance, put aside any reservations just long enough to check it out for yourself. Trust me, you will experience a far different picture of Nigeria than the one painted by those  BokoHaram terrorists. These are the ultra-extremists in the remote corner of the country who sully the name of Nigeria and evoke the global ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign.

New Approaches to Chikungunya

Gone are the days when we were conditioned to think of Africa in terms of Tarzan swinging on vines to rescue Jane from the wild natives. Today, two of Dominica’s most respected and well-loved physicians are Nigerian in the persons of Dr. Fadipe and Dr. Ade. After their training, Louis and Rebecca have the option of staying or practicing elsewhere. Wherever that may be, I am confident they will bloom where they are planted.

One thing that stands out when we do patients’ medical histories is the answer to the question, “What have you done for, or what treatment have you received for your condition?” In the majority of cases, the answer is one word: Paracetamol. Maybe it’s just us, or is this something that others also find concerning? Now, no disrespect; Paracetamol (Tylenol) is a great pain reliever / fever reducer, but it is not without risks. Too much of it can cause liver damage while doing little to treat the actual underlying disease process.

What a privilege it is to play even a small role in the success of these students! Thanks to their insights, Urgent Care is achieving rather dramatic results. This new approach is based on alternative prescription drugs combined with specific local herbal preparations. Even before the onset of rash and fever, it is not unusual for patients’ swollen painful joints to keep them completely bedridden. An awful pattern soon became evident. Working adults have even soiled themselves before they could arrange for personal assistance. Yet, within 24 hours of a home or office visit, these same patients are literally out of bed performing their basic activities of daily living (ADL’s)

It is only the grace of God or sheer luck for anyone on island who has not yet contracted Chikungunya. But the time is coming when this epidemic will no longer dominate headline news. To hasten that day, let’s be diligent in following instructions by the World Health Organization and our own dedicated Environment Health officials. Until then, this much is clear: we can surely remove the sting of this disease and quickly bounce back to better things. Help is only a phone call away.

Click here to review additional local information on Chikungunya.

Dr. Sam Christian is surgeon who runs the Urgent Care on 137 Bath Road. It offers general medical care, office surgery, acupuncture and a special new Chikungunya treatment. He is Medical Officer of the Dominica Cadet Corps and Medical Adviser to the Dominica Cancer Society. Dr. Christian can be reached at 440-9133 or by writing to urgentcare.da@gmail.com.