NIGERIAN VS. AMERICAN HEALTH
Perceptions. So, as you might have guessed or maybe you don’t know, I’m Nigerian first and maybe I haven’t said it before I’m a nurse as well, I wanted to use this opportunity to enlighten you guys on some perceptions I believe we’ve come to entertain for as long as I know regarding our health. You see, back when I was in nursing school, I struggled when I was in the nursing program in high school here in the States, not because I didn’t understand English but because most of the terms I had to learn were all new to me and that made it all the more difficult to understand some simple medical terminologies and phenomenon. Thinking back on it now, that was why I almost failed out of the program. Diabetes, Hypertension, Anxiety, Hyperemesis gravidarium, Glaucoma, like really? These were almost like gibberish to me and thank God, I kept on learning, I almost gave up but I’m glad I didn’t.
Since I was old enough to know what nurses did back home and how a nurse had impacted my life when I was very sick, I’d always wanted to become one. So I wasn’t surprised when I said, “I want to become a nurse” when I was asked by my High school guidance counselor. The counselor told my parents, “oh we have a nursing program here in our school” and my second life began right then and there. I had only heard of malaria, hypertension and typhoid, imagine my surprise when I learnt there was more to life than those two diseases that I had grown to know and hear about. My grandpa died of a heart attack I believe because of his history of hypertension but I couldn’t grasp what it meant until learning more about it here in this country in high school in the nursing program. Now I feel like I can talk about why my medical knowledge was lacking. Growing up in Nigeria, people were very hush hush about what they were going through, physically, and mentally, it was kind of like a taboo to talk about themselves and the diseases they had or to even get help for important health related issues, mostly because they were poor or lacked education or like my dad says all the time, “lack of exposure”. Even if they were not poor, western medicine was sort of last option if all the traditional routes had been exhausted. Now its kind of the opposite, if western medicine doesn’t do the magic then they’ll turn to the traditional ones or sometimes they’ll use both together.
So today, I’ll focus on 4 aspects of health that I believe are very important to any individual and the perceptions I’ve observed from living in Nigeria compared to living here in this country.
Regarding pregnancy and birth, what I’ve noticed now that I’m older is that, pregnancies were not celebrated as much as they are here in this country. Even though everyone’s pregnancy story is different and even though the news of being pregnant is a good one, regardless if you’re married or not, most likely, you wont go announcing to everyone you meet that you’re pregnant, they‘ll just most likely confirm it when they start showing or not at all. However here in America, I’ve noticed the opposite, from the time women miss their period, they’re already announcing to everyone and God forbid if they miscarry, they get a lot of support from those people they’ve chosen to tell. This is almost like a taboo from what I’ve learnt from the part of Nigeria I lived in. If possible, the more you can hide the baby until its born, the better, but from who though? Thats for me to know and for you to figure out, but seriously, If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you anyway. The other aspect of celebrating pregnancy that is not popular in Nigeria when I was growing up is that of pregnancy photo shoots, I’m sure that with technology advancements and access to instagram, facebook and other social media outlets, this too will soon gain its popularity. So when you ask some Nigerians their due date or if its a boy or girl, and they are not familiar with American culture or its lack thereof, don’t be surprised if you don’t get an answer. Even as a nurse myself, I did guard both my pregnancies to an extent because of all I’d heard growing up. Nowadays, there’s a thin line between private and public information, the younger generation might not be able to tell the difference anymore. Teach your kids the right way, I beg you.
Regarding preventive care, my perception growing up was that there was none unless you were rich and understood the importance of healthy living, you most likely wouldn’t go see a doctor unless the sickness was very severe and by this time, a medical intervention might be unlikely to save you. There is however an important emphasis placed on antenatal care. Here in the States however, if you’re working and pay some percentage of your salary to a health insurance company as a single person or as a family, you or your family will be covered in the treatments or emergency treatments you receive at your physician of choice. For those who don’t have health insurance, the cost of care is higher and sometimes unbearable. Wow, I actually remember a time when I needed a hole in my teeth to be filled, I had a cavity, it was done when I had insurance and didn’t have to pay any money out of pocket but when I was in college, I wasn’t covered anymore by my parents’ insurance, my tooth was shaking and what happened was, I pulled it out myself because by then, I was having headaches and couldn’t eat well anymore, unfortunately I didn’t know that my tooth had broken apart into three parts deep in my gums because it became weak over the years and later it got infected. I just thank God by the time I saw a doctor, I was now insured and was able to take out the tooth without paying too much money. So this is the importance of having health insurance and I wish our Nigerian government officials would work on making healthcare something one can be proud of in Nigeria among many other issues. The perception of some Nigerians however is that, once you have enough money to come to the States then they will be cared for automatically, which is not so in many cases, this is why the orange man can call our homes shit hole countries but for the purpose of time, I wont go further into that.
Regarding disease and mental health, my perception was that none existed just like preventive care. I feel like because we are majorly a religious country, we tend to pray more during these times and have faith that God will heal us. Mostly, we see disease as a test of our faith while others tend to ignore or deny that the problem even exists and they think maybe it will go away on its own, sometimes due to their lack of education or due to poverty. People with some type of associate with their symptoms and usually could ruin the reputation of a whole family, thats why I probably wasn’t exposed to people who had these disorders when I was younger, family members wouldn’t talk about these diseases in the first place, talk less of hearing about them. Regarding death and dying, the only person I saw dead when I was younger was my grandfather who died of a heart attack most likely, probably due to his history of hypertension and was he taking medications or maybe he changed his lifestyle, I have no idea. One thing is that kids weren’t allowed to know a lot about what’s beyond their age, right? Here, everyone knows everything about everything since pre K, you can ask my kids, they know what a volcano and a cave is, I didn’t even teach them that. Am I right or am I right? Thank you google. Well, I asked my dad and husband about their experience with death and dying while they were back home and what I learnt was that death below a certain age, let’s say below 65 was believed to be unnatural, regardless of the situation surrounding the person, which sounded mostly like cases of coincidences and unhappy endings. If someone doesn’t understand the phenomenon of a disease or disorder or an infection for instance, the blame is placed mostly on the fact that nature or someone is against that person. Over here though, the individual can buy a casket ready for his death if it happens anytime, some believe that they do not want to burden their children wit funeral expenses, that will be a taboo in my country.
Regarding health care delivery, there’s a lot of laws here that prevents a lot things from happening to patients, like patient abuse, illegal dissemination of patient information and patient’s exposure to danger either through medication administration, medical or surgical intervention. Unfortunately, there’s a lot thats lacking in our health care industry back home. You will find that people who travel to African countries often have to get some shots before they travel out to prevent them from getting some diseases like malaria, typhoid, and yellow fever, some have to travel with some basic medication, pain relief, bug sprays, and others. Due to lack of important supplies by community clinics and some hospitals will actually pray not to get sick because the health care system lacks too much to get sick there. Thats one of the reasons why I eventually ventured into the nursing field. There’s been a lot of incongruence and lack of trust for western medicine and sometimes this manifests in the gathering of information through medical histories. I know my parents are guilty of this as well as other Nigerians or Africans, I was taught to not reveal my past medical history of relatives, cancer, diabetes, and others to the doctor not because of being shamed for it but because, they feared that they would be associated with the diseases, not knowing the medical history map helps in mapping out interventions to prevent such from becoming problems in the future. I feel some of the older generations are still operating under this assumption. I’ll stop right here today.
I’m always imploring people to have a primary physician and instead of guessing what the problem is and wasting precious time with that bad headache and that back pain they had, to visit them instead, it can’t hurt. I just pray that the general system in Nigeria and other African countries will get better for good. Until then, eat well, exercise more and live a peaceful life so you don’t add unnecessary stress to your life. Am I forgetting anything, you guys can help me with the ones I’m missing, what are the perceptions that stand out about your country compared to living here in the United States. Alright, that wraps it up.
Thank very much for staying around with me till the end, I hope you’ve learnt something new today. Ask questions if you have any, you can leave a comment as well. Also, you can like this post by giving it 5 stars. To get notified of newly posted posts, Subscribe now. I’m hoping to read from you beautiful people very soon. Don’t forget to love your neighbors as yourself and remember, to RestInPeace, we all need to be LivingInPeace, Stay blessed.