Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Chemist's Shop (Complete) -Pope Jay

The time space between my admission into the great ife and my resumption into the institution is a part of my life I may never forget. In between these two monumental occasions was a holiday that was long and at the time unwanted. A long ASUU strike and an uneven calendar was the excuse that kept me at home for almost 13 months even though JAMB had told me that I had been admitted. However, when the holiday became quite boring and almost unbearable and acting upon the advice of family and friends, I got a job.

How I got my first job is another day’s story but one reason why my job was so spectacular was that it was in line with the course which I had just been admitted to study in the university; Pharmacy. I got a job in a community pharmacy as a sales attendant, what most Nigerians considering my masculine gender would refer to as a “Sales Boy”. My job description as a sales attendant was quite simple; I would simply sell Over the Counter (OTC) drugs, assist the pharmacist in dispensing prescriptions and behind the counter drugs. However, being a “student” of pharmacy at the Premier School of the noble profession, the superintendent pharmacist ( I hope he reads this) took me as his son and understudy; He told me things I would learn in school and most importantly, the things I wouldn’t learn in school (I am eternally grateful Sir!).

One of the extras that my professional father taught me was how to use the sphygmanometer, the device used to check blood pressure, and in a few months, I was efficient enough to check the blood pressure of customers whenever the Superintendent pharmacist wasn’t around or was busy. My newly acquired skill allowed me become friends with a lot of customers; most especially the older age group. Men and women in their forties and above would come to my “office” and I would check their blood pressure and relate it to their medication; stop a medication, reduce dosage or refer to the superintendent pharmacist. In the course of doing these things, I had to listen to their problems, struggles and issues that they felt had raised their B.P and try calming them. My little and newly acquired knowledge plus my OAU admission letter provided a basis of the confidence that my new friends had in me.

One of the friends I made during this time was Mr. Fagbemi. Mr. Fagbemi was an elderly man whom I predict to have been in his late fifties when I met him, He was one of the few Nigerians that believed that a high blood pressure was not a spiritual attack and so being more prone to this condition due to his age, he would come to the community pharmacy at a regular interval to check his Blood Pressure and eventually we became friends. Whenever he came around, we would wander off into a lot of topics; from the saddening state of the nation to the prestige of the Obafemi Awolowo University and he would show me glimpses into the times past and tell me stories of the late Obafemi Awolowo and other National Icons. I loved attending to Mr. Fagbemi because there was never a dull moment with him and every moment was enlightening but like quite a number of Nigerians, Mr. Fagbemi’s blood pressure was not so beautiful.

Mr. Fagbemi was whom you could describe as an average Nigerian; He lived in a rented apartment in a rural city in Ikorodu, He could afford three meals a day but couldn’t afford the luxury of being choosy with the meals, He perhaps had to send something back home being a ‘Lagosian’ in the family. Perhaps, it was his daily stress combined with his aging body that made his blood pressure go over the fair limit more often than usual and in the face of this, he had to be on steady medication.

Upon resumption to school, I left home, my job and my new friends to continue in my academic pursuit. However, anytime school was on break or ‘strike’, I would go back to my job and friends and one thing that made the stress of my job bearable was the company of these beautiful people. In May 2015, I was home on holiday and, as had become my custom, I went to sell drugs. On a fateful day as I sat in the pharmacy where I worked, waiting for the next customer, a neighbor brought me the saddening news that Mr Fagbemi had passed on.

I never got to know what caused Mr. Fagbemi’s death or his burial arrangements but I learnt that he had slumped at a friend’s place and upon getting to the hospital, the doctor pronounced him already dead and his family took him home for his burial. In my solitary mourning for my friend, I began to think of what might have taken Mr. Fagbemi’s life as no proper autopsy was performed; perhaps his blood pressure had gone too high or maybe that witch in his village had finally decided to become so villainous.

Even with his death Mr. Fagbemi still taught me a lesson, he showed me the role of the community pharmacy in the present Nigerian Health system. The Community pharmacy in Nigeria plays a vital role in the Nigerian Health system; it is the first link of an average Nigerian with the entire system. Whether a simple headache or terminal cancer; an average Nigerian would go to the Chemist’s Shop around the corner before he goes to a hospital for quite a number of reasons. Simply put, the community pharmacy is the first aid box of the society and in the Nigerian Society, all the majority ever gets for their illnesses is this first aid just because they cannot afford quality treatment. In Nigeria, the Community Pharmacy is not just an average Nigerian’s first link with the health system, for some like Mr. Fagbemi, it is the only solid link they ever get with the Nigerian Health system.

(Dedicated to the ones whose lives we lost because of the faults of the Health System. May their souls rest in peace)

Pope Jay
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