Asthma ACUF asthmatic
The lack of asthma medication causes severe harm to most asthma patients in Nigeria.

Encounter With An Asthmatic Patient By Zayd Ibn Isah

I had never seen an asthmatic patient until this fateful evening. I came back from work, tired and dehydrated. I rushed to the bathroom and took my bath. Then I went out to get my usual ‘bachelor food’ from Mama Nkechiʼs restaurant. On my way there, I saw a young man rolling on the floor, panting, holding his stomach and breathing heavily. At first, I thought he was ‘on colos’, the street slang used to describe someone under the influence of ‘Colorado,’ an illegal substance containing many drugs, including cannabis. As I passed by, someone asked me what was wrong with the young man, and I speculated that it could be due to the influence of drugs.

However, someone a lot more familiar with asthmatic symptoms suggested that he might be asthmatic and that perhaps his inhaler had run out. We moved closer and discovered that the young man was indeed holding an empty inhaler in his hand. Without hesitation, I channeled the inner Usain Bolt in me and sprinted to the nearest pharmacy just to buy an inhaler. Sadly, by the time I returned, he had become unconscious.

By now, a small crowd had gathered around the young man’s body. The scene was like something out of a movie. We quickly forced his mouth open and administered the inhaler. To the glory of God, he started breathing again. A collective sigh of relief rippled through the small crowd. Something loosened inside me, something unfurled its wings within me and flapped, flapped into flight. I realized that what I was feeling inside was immense gratitude that my small act of kindness had saved someone’s life.

Unfortunately, while the young man was on the ground battling for his life, somebody callously stole his phone and wallet. As much as I tried reassuring the him not to worry, to let it go and instead be grateful to God for life, I fumed inwardly and wondered what sort of person would steal from someone at such a low point in their life. I couldn’t shake off the troubling realization of how we arrived at this point as a society. If it were an isolated area, the criminal would have stripped the young man of everything, including his clothes, and would probably even have killed him.

I have heard stories of how people steal from dead accident victims on the road. There are things we do that even the devil would shout “Oh my God!” for, things that he would deny knowledge of if we were to accuse him of being the mastermind behind them, on the Day of Judgment. After what I witnessed, I now pray to God Almighty that no matter how bad things get for me, may it not be so bad that I would steal from a fellow human being lying lifeless on the floor? That, to me, is the height of inhumanity. Needless to say, some human beings are not worthy to called human. It takes someone that is more beast than human to steal from a dead person or dying person.

Just the other day, I read in the news about a fuel tanker that collided with a commercial bus, resulting in the deaths of some passengers while others sustained injuries. Shockingly, instead of attending to the victims, those who arrived at the scene of the accident were preoccupied with scooping fuel into their containers and buckets. And yet, as karma would have it, the fuel tanker eventually exploded, claiming the lives of almost everyone present. It’s disheartening how we seem to have lost our collective sense of empathy as a people. This trend deeply concerns me, so deeply that I’ve begun to wonder if poverty also robs people of their humanity. In a room full of millionaires, billionaires and influential people, if the young man had fallen to the ground and struggled to breathe, no doubt he would have gotten the best of care. But I digress, and I fear that I might be seeing things through the lens of class and status.

In the midst of this sobering story is the glimmer of help and support the young man got from us. We all became emergency doctors, and what mattered to each and every one of us present there was for the young man to be alive. We didn’t care about his tribe, status, or religion. We only cared about his state of being. That itself has rekindled my hope in humanity. And one man’s act of wickedness cannot dampen my hope of a free and just society filled with selfless and compassionate people.

With that being said, I have learned some lessons from the young man’s story. For one, it is the fact that ignorance is not always blissful. Sometimes, what you don’t know may kill you or even someone close to you. Imagine if I was the only one that saw that young man in his hapless state; that is how I would have left, thinking he is one of those drug abusers I see everyday on the streets. This is a succinct example of why assumptions are dangerous in many situations.

Another lesson is that some of us really take for granted the sound health we enjoy today. Sound health is underrated in this part of the world, because more often than not, we’re all busy just trying to survive until something bad happens. But the truth is that we all need to start taking better care of ourselves, while being grateful to God for good health. Health is wealth, now and always, economic recession or not.

After the young man regained himself fully, I asked him how he is coping with buying drugs, especially now that prices of drugs and other things have gone through the roof. The small inhaler I bought for him was about ₦4,500, and according to him, he uses it up constantly. Now, imagine if he has no steady means of income? Imagine others in similar situations who can’t afford the basic needs of life, let alone buying drugs? The bottom line is, let’s strive and be each other’s keeper. Tough times are hard on a lot of people, but they become much easier to bear when we all come together to ease our burdens. Humanity first.

Zayd Ibn Isah can be reached at [email protected]