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Lost and found 3: with lessons on epilepsy

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.



From the previous episode,

“What if it is not treatable?” Mama asked, her face was a rumpled sheet of worry as she turned unwanted attention to her grandson, “Sunday, have you finished it?”


The truth comes out

The boy nodded gravely, his heart forcefully leaping against his ribs. He held his lips firmly together and stole a glance at Mama. His fear eased when he saw she was now looking at aunty nurse.

“What did you give him?”

“It’s my family’s special herbal mix. It works for everything: malaria, fever, headache, typhoid, everything. It is what we used for his mother when she convulsed in his pregnancy, just one cup and her body became calm.”

“Ah! Mama, it’s not good. One medicine cannot work for everything.” Mama hissed. “What? Didn’t your mother use herbs for you too? These children of nowadays will be pretending as if we did not raise them well. They put aside all the things we taught them just like that. I am not stupid, my daughter.”

“Mama, I understand you. But is it not safer to give Sunday medicine that you are sure of what is inside? These herbs you cooked for him to drink, what are they? I could smell lemon grass when I came in, what else did you add?”

“Leave that one. I’m sure it will work.”

“But things like these can destroy the liver or kidneys.”

“What? It’s not true.”

“Mama, it is better to be safe than sorry. Look at Sunday, he’s still very small. You can give him the best care, for his mother’s sake.”

“You this lady, what is it? Were you sent to me?” Mama snapped. The two women glared at one another briefly and then burst into laughter.

“Yes ma,” the nurse said after recovering herself, “I want what’s best for Sunday.”

“Fine, I’ll bring him to your hospital. And I want them to treat him and remove this epilepsy from him. I cannot have a child with epilepsy. See, I did not allow him go to school because of it. Can you imagine?”

“Haba! Mama, it doesn’t stop him from going to school. But he cannot swim, drive or work in a factory.”


Nothing is lost

Mama returned from the general hospital the next day overjoyed about Sunday’s condition. She replayed the doctor’s words over and over in her head. “I don’t think Sunday has epilepsy, Mama,” he said. “Both times he had convulsion, it was caused by fever and your hitting him. If it had happened just like that, we would have placed him on drugs immediately.” She showered the surprised doctor with prayers and praises, her pleasure was boundless.

So my grandchild, Sunday, is well. I won’t have to sell my gold bracelet to buy drugs. Iya Tawa was telling me only yesterday how expensive they are. I did not even know her first son has this thing, that family has many well-kept secrets. Since I’ve known them, that boy has never had convulsion. She said it is the drugs that sustain him anyway. If only there was a cure for it. Mama reasoned in her heart. She had been cautioned to find other means of punishment that did not involve hitting. That was a hard one but she was determined to try.
She met Ife at home unusually early from school. “What happened? Have I not paid your fees?” Sunday had returned to school on their way home.

“Yes ma,” the girl answered, then looked away like she did when she was hiding something. “Then why are you at home?” Mama asked, putting away her umbrella and removing her blouse.

“I took your watch, ma.”

“Eh?” Mama paused retying her wrapper and stared at her, mouth wide open in disbelief. The tick tock of the clock rang out loudly in the ensuing silence. “You are the one who took my watch!” Mama managed to say after a few seconds.

“It was the devil that made me do it,” Ife had begun crying. “The Mallam in our school collected it and gave me new canvas shoes.”

“So you used my gold watch to do trade by barter and you let me beat Sunday because of it. Ah, I’m in soup. No, you are in soup. I will kill you today, stupid child.”


Epilepsy does not yet have a cure. It is managed with drugs called anticonvulsants. Because of their dangerous side effects, these are not drugs to be used just anyhow. They may be stopped after some time when you have been seizure-free but even this is done gradually. See your healthcare provider before using such drugs and when you have not had a seizure in a long time, usually about a year or two. Certain activities are unsafe in epilepsy because of the associated dangers if you lose consciousness while at them. They include swimming, driving, climbing heights, and operating heavy equipment. Epilepsy does not only relate to convulsions which is the first thing you most likely think of, there are other types of seizures which are much less dramatic.
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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