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The Lonely Stranger: A touching story with lessons on fungal infections

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.



The first day of second term, Matthew resumed with the boys. He spotted a pair of stainless white socks tucked neatly into brown Cortina shoes under green shorts and a fresh-white short sleeved shirt. With a slim build, he looked like any other student of Government boys school, Ijede. Only one thing was unique about him.
“Do you have grey hair?” Dimeji, his seat partner, asked.
“Are you blind? He has no hair at all,” the boy on his right countered.
Matthew did not know what it was so he stayed mute. The scrutiny of the large, silvery, rounded, bald patches on his head skated around thoughts of his younger siblings and mother; all he really wanted was to go home.
Twice during mathematics period, bits of folded paper hit the round targets on his head. Yet, every time he turned around to find the culprit, no one moved. He was dejected. Squeezing his lips together to keep from crying, he slowly lifted his right hand. “Don’t be a baby,” Dimeji cautioned in a whisper. His mother had said the exact same words to him when he had begun crying as they drove through the school gates. His arm fell limply to the desk and he lowered his head in shame.
The bell for break rang shortly after and a senior boy sauntered in. “Last boy,” he casually said. Matthew watched, mesmerized, as his classmates jumped the wooden desks and chairs in a hurry to stand before the senior, and in shock when all forty-one pairs of eyes and more turned to face him. He had not even noticed when his seat mates deserted him.
“Come here,” the senior said, reaching into his pocket. “Buy me two fish rolls and one coke.” A clean five hundred naira note was pressed into his right hand.
The entire class giggled. “What?” The senior asked with irritation. “He’s a new boy,” someone answered. “I don’t care,” came the reply. “Bring it to SS3C now.”
Confused, Matthew turned to Dimeji who appeared wobbly like a reflection in rippling water, he had no idea where the shop was. Dimeji was laughing like the rest of them. Not wanting to seem like a sissy, he walked to the door and out of the class, the sun blinding him briefly. He found a lonely bush path that curved away from the back of their class. And after walking some distance, he paused to cry. The silvery scales on his head glistened in the drenching sunlight.

“Come, let me show you the tuck-shop,” a voice suddenly said behind him. Hurriedly wiping his tears, he lifted his head to see Dimeji wearing a wide grin.
“Don’t tell anybody,” Matthew quickly said.

“Okay,” Matthew replied with a sniffle.
“These things on your head, when did they start?”
“I don’t know. Maybe last week.”
“If you shave all your hair to gorimapa, it will go.” Matthew looked on. It did not bother him much except when the papers were thrown at him earlier. They itched often but not too much. His mother had said it was normal and would soon pass.
Then they sighted two senior boys approaching the old classroom block.

N.B: Matthew has a skin condition popularly known as ringworm which can affect the scalp as in his case, the body, the nails, the pubic area. It causes a typical ring-like pattern, temporary loss of hair in the affected area, itching, may cause pain, redness and pus, and is spread by person to person contact, sharing combs, brushes, bed linens, toys, etc.
Treatment is mainly with antifungal substances in the form of drugs, shampoos and creams. Dimeji’s advice was wrong as shaving off all the hair worsens the condition by spreading it to unaffected areas of the scalp.


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Dr. Akin-onitolo A. is a graduate of the University of Lagos whose mission is to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) using health promotion and improved health literacy. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who had her elective at King's College London. Hugely interested in travel, meeting people and generally being creative, reading and writing fiction are a few hobbies you could find her engaged in during her spare time. Catch up with her on Twitter @Akinonitolo and Instagram @t_onitolo