Osteoarthritis: My Mother’s Ordeal
By Mohammed Ibrahim Zakzaky
One night this past January 2018, I believe it was the 5th I received most distressing news about my father suffering from speech difficulties, and some stiffness in some of his limbs, which sounded very similar to symptoms of a stroke. I am quite familiar with this because my late grandmother suffered the same. Prior to this event, I and the rest of the family had been living in constant fear about both my father’s health and that of my mother, for up (us) until that date my father who had already lost one of his eyes had remained unable to read with his single remaining eye since an operation he had undergone back in early 2016; a situation that was never properly remedied. This was the bane of sleep for me. Before that he had been capable of reading. In fact all that happened since then was that he was given a +9 glass for his one remaining eye and a magnifying glass, which could can use together to barely read one word at a time if the font were large and clear enough. All attempts to get a second opinion have failed, all our attempts to even hear from the operating doctor himself have also failed, and all attempts to even see the doctor’s official reports have also been bureaucratically refused. In fact all we knew was third hand information as the doctor himself appeared to have been working under the strict subversive supervision of the DSS.
My mother on the other hand has been suffering from a case of osteoarthritis almost two years before the events of December 2015. Although I am not a doctor, I will attempt to describe what osteoarthritis is for those unfamiliar with the condition. It is said that the average adult human body consists of two hundred and six bones. This enormous number of bones relies on connective tissues to support the average frame of a human being. There are many types of connective tissues that form the numerous joints that connect bones together. One of these connective tissues known as cartilage function to allow two or more bones at a joint to move smoothly during the joints normal function. Cartilage can be found between all mobile joints in the human body. However either due to old age, stress on certain joints, inherited factors etcetera. Over time the cartilage at certain joints may deteriorate gradually. This begins with mild and occasional pain at the affected joint and gradually becomes constant pain. It also causes joint swelling, decreased motion range and other side effects over time. This is what osteoarthritis is.
According to all the doctors I have met since when my mother was first diagnosed nearly four years ago, treatment for this painful condition is administered in several stages. First there is management through measures designed to slow the progress of the disease (dis-ease). Then there is medication, to help the sufferer (in this case my mother) cope with the intense and increasingly consistent pain, in time the afflicted person would be given stronger and stronger types of pain killers. Ultimately the two previous measures will become no longer viable, so that the person suffering must immediately have Joint Replacement surgery. All cases of osteoarthritis will inevitably pass through these basic stages of treatment; otherwise the suffering joint will become immobilized and unusable. They will eventually suffer uninterrupted pain every single second of every single hour of every single day for the rest of their life; unless they get surgery. The Doctor’s objective in the stage by stage treatment is to delay that surgery for as long as possible, due mainly to the risks associated with the surgery, not that it can be avoided. Come the time of surgery, as it will inevitably come, it must be done immediately.
In my mother’s case she is suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee joints. In the past two years she has been living in constant and increasingly unceasing and excruciating pain. This has rendered her only capable of standing or walking for increasingly shorter and shorter periods of time. All the while for the past two years every effort to have her examined by a qualified Rheumatologist has fallen on the deaf ears of the DSS, a department of states services toiling under the elected government led by a corpse at best, or an element of evil that can only be balanced on the periodic table of evil intent, protons, neutrons and electrons and Buhari? Etcetera? Until after my father’s stroke which by now I can confidently hope to understand, based on the opinions of the doctors who are hard at work trying to manage a recovery; the stroke was caused by a combination of extreme stress accompanied by extreme inactivity for a man his age. My father also suffers from hypertension as his blood pressure fluctuates constantly, a complication that my late grandmother also suffered from.
When it finally became possible for my father to be examined by his own doctors, the only thing they could possibly do was to try to ensure that they could try to manage a recovery from what is seemingly a deliberately induced stroke. At nearly 70 years of age, he needs to be able to move around more than anything else. He also needs to at the very least to be capable of avoiding situations that guarantee the escalation of his existing blood pressure problems. All situations that can and will be caused by his inability to even read, for he is as you know devoted to study. If today I was to find myself in a situation whereby my wife was in constant pain, and I could do nothing about it, a stroke will be a stroke of good luck for me. The suffering and the pain is too much for my comprehension.
After my father’s stroke there has been one important change, and it is the only one. At least now my parents can see doctors who actually care about treating them. At least now I don’t have to practically guess the truth. Now I can know enough to answer questions. Now for the first time I can tell people the truth about the condition of the health of my father and my mother. Now I know enough to talk about my father’s health. I also know of the health of my mother. I wish, and I always wished it would be good news. It always feels good to say ‘lafiya lau’ and repeat ‘lafiya lau’ I desperately wish I could say that. But so far the information I have gotten is disturbing to say the least. Please if you see me do not ask me, because if I can answer I will do it here in the next paragraph.
Though a doctor has finally been allowed to examine my mother. Unfortunately the doctor’s opinion is one I have dreaded for the past years, many at times I would go sleepless for days and nights wishing, begging that God spare me just a little longer, because I know full well that her Jailors care nothing about her wellbeing, and would rather let her die in agony than allow me to do what needs to be done. This sum of all my fears which has just arrived is not unique to my mother alone. In fact it is quite common to women of her age who are also mothers of children. Having carried the burden of myself and eight others for too many stints of 9 months, her knees are now complaining. I was the first to strain those knees, eight came after me, she has watched as six of them were butchered in front of her eyes. I am sure a lot of sons and daughters know exactly what I am talking about, and a lot of mothers have already gone through only some of the experience I Imagine. The only difference is that in my case I am willing and able to take my mother to a hospital at any moment but alas I am being prevented from doing so, because she lives in captivity with the DSS.
This is not an exaggeration, I have seen this before. The mother of a friend of mine who had osteoarthritis stubbornly delayed traveling for the necessary operation, even following the doctor’s advice for immediate surgery she made little of it. In the end my friend was forced into action when having dislocated and locked her knee in place, his mother screamed for him. She was just trying to stand when the incident occurred; she screamed and wailed in extreme agony for days. By then no amount of pain killer injections or tablets were capable of providing her any relief of significance, luckily he was able to make all the necessary arrangements to have her flown to Dubai for immediate surgery, She moaned and screamed all the way there. To this day we do not like to discuss this traumatic affair.
Even back then I was aware that my mother was ultimately going to be at risk of going through the exact same situation. Except in my particular case my mother is not being placed at such risk because of emotional weakness on my part, my mother needs joint replacement surgery ‘now’ right now, I could get her to where it could be done. But she is being illegally detained at the point of a gun. And there is nothing I can do about it, I do not have a gun. According to the doctor, my mother should have had the surgery long ago, so it is already late.
Of course there was no way I could have known that, since this is the first time that a doctor has been allowed unrestricted access in order to properly assess the situation, it’s also the first time I the son of my mother has been able to know the doctor’s opinion on the health of my parents. The doctor also discovered that the reason my mother had been suffering from increasingly frequent stomach pains has been the fact that a foreign object had been left lodged inside her since December 2015. Through various tests the doctor has determined that it must be a pellet from a bullet. Why this malicious object was left there in the first place, or what more disease it will cause is unclear. My mother’s voice has already changed for the worse.
I can only thank God that he has seen fit to grant me the company of sturdy friends who continue to keep me company in the streets of Abuja. Though we may be few at the moment, we will become many in time. We will continue to protest peacefully against oppression and injustice. Meanwhile I pray for an opportunity to reduce my mother’s pain (or fix it if I can). I know I may fail, I know my mother will continue to suffer; her osteoarthritis will progress as osteoarthritis always does, I know that I will watch as her pain shall continue to increase in intensity. As I remain powerless to offer the obvious solution for my mother, even though I can do so at any given time. I have no power to do so, because of the fact that she is in captivity.
I pray to God to erode the power of the axis of evil, that is the Nigerian Army (murderers and intimidators), The DSS (department of states services, in the hand of Lawal Daura) and Tyrant retired General Muhamadu Uzbekistani Buhari. The president of the country where joint replacement surgery will forever be out of reach if you are unlucky enough to have a mother who has (somehow) offended some of ‘all the president’s men.’ It’s a good book if you have time to read it.