Reaction to "The Edge of Joy" – MUST READ!


The night we posted the last blog I got an email from a good friend in Lagos. I have not been able to get this out of my mind. I therefore asked him if I could share it with you. Sometimes when we write and advocate for a better deal for health and healthcare in our country it might sound a bit abstract. It is hard to imagine that we are talking about life itself, our existence, our humanity. Read this post and reflect on it…and note that this is not happening in some obscure corner of our country to some poor citizen.   This is happening to one of us – just like you, living in Lagos, middle class, happy and full of energy about the future….Read his email, unedited…


I have extracted a quote from your recent NHW blog as a real life testimony of some of the salient issues you raised…

“Imagine a woman in labour; and her husband does manage to get her to a hospital. it is 8pm. He has to find blood…., the town is dark as there is no electricity….the private laboratories are all closed”

That was exactly the situation when a couple of months ago when my younger cousin was going to become a first-time father.

A young, upwardly mobile banker, he had payed a high premium to register his wife for antenatal care in a highbrow Victoria Island private hospital. He was therefore shocked when he got his wife who was in labour to the hospital and some nonchalant nurses ordered him to go and get blood!

Never lacking in humor, and despite his anger, he asked what they took him for: A cultist or occultist wondering how on earth they expected him to intuitively know where to get blood from that night! As the go-to-person for my family and friends in difficult medical situations (a.k.a. “where there is no doctor”!), I was called upon to advice on the nearest possible blood banks.

Given that he had tried Island Hospital unsuccessfully, I suggested Military Hospital Ikoyi where he managed to get 2 bags which were then taken to St Nicholas Hospital for testing.

In parallel, I was working my contacts and my friend who is an obstetrician was able to get us some supply at the Lagoon Hospital. First she expressed surprise that a patient’s relation will be sent to go and look for blood at night when giving blood is not standard practice in child birth.

Finally at about midnight, the result of the blood test at St Nicholas indicated one of the two bags tested positive for HIV! My young cousin was in shivers, his mind was imagining all sorts of scenarios that could have happened if his wife had been transfused with the contaminated blood.

Eventually the wife had an uneventful delivery but the drama was not over.

The next morning he was handed his baby’s placenta to dispose of!

That’s the situation of our healthcare delivery system in 2011!!!

My brother ……where do we start?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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