They say it comes in 3s…Masquerade, malaria, mortality.

If we have learnt anything at all from this Covid era, it is that nothing at all should be taken for granted. So many freedoms, rhymes and rhythms of our lives have been disrupted, upended and in some cases, entirely denied.

Yet when things change in a severe way within a matter of hours, I believe the human nature worldwide is that of a state of shock…..

Last weekend of February 2021, I found myself with plans being changed, amended, and returned to. Leading me to be an attendee of the Lagos Yacht Club 88th anniversary dinner dance. However, with all the back n forth, it seems I missed the obvious play on words from the invite, and found myself as the only member wearing a ‘real’ mask, whilst everyone else (until they reached their bubbles), wore their face masks with ease.

Anyway, it turned out that this was the least of my concerns.

Some hours after leaving, it was noted that my body was absolutely burning hot – my skin felt like lava to touch. Yet I was lying there feeling utterly freezing, like I had been trapped inside an ice cave….

As the weekend continued, my temperature soared and soared, my energy went down and down, and my ability to move even my fingertips disappeared. Every single bone in my body felt like it was broken; such pain that I have no words to describe it. I was sweating whilst uncontrollably shaking. I was unable to walk yet very much needed to get to the bathroom regularly. Lifting my water bottle felt akin to the power needed as a heavy weight lifter. I was utterly and entirely poleaxed.

By Sunday, I knew I was in a bad way. I had also eaten nothing since Friday. My clinic is closed at weekends and I really didn’t feel able to manage the main hospital in the state I was in, plus with the added worry of covid concerns. So I put my faith in the universe and medicated myself to get through the night and into the early hours of Monday morning. Upon arrival at the clinic, the fears rose. Though so did my level of illness, so in fact I began to lose my sense of conscious awareness and just writhed in pain and vomit instead (not the best experience of my life, violent sickness whilst still wearing a face mask, followed by being on my knees and head deep in the doctor’s refuse bin). My blood pressure was dangerously low and I felt like I no longer had control over any part of my communicative abilities nor my body. Everything hurt, my head span, my body shook like a leaf, and I was totally out of it.

I was told I had severe malaria, sepsis throughout my entire blood system, and suspected appencitis. That I very much needed to be admitted and that the hospital was waiting for me. I made the decision to get there by my own means of transport, as I have been in ambulances here before and it takes an eternity to get through the congested traffic whilst in one. However, I felt mortified when, as we drove across the islands, I vomited out of the window, down the side of the car, and into the onwards traffic. (Sorry motor cyclists and pedestrians).

The next 4 days feel like a total blur, aside from one particularly torturous day when the vomiting could not be stemmed, nor my fever, and despite only having an intake of water, it basically didn’t stop for over 12 hours. My throat became scratched, my chest very sore, my whole system entirely drained and empty. I felt like death warmed up.

I was in a 3 bed room, wherein one of the other patients had no less than 12 visitors, all of whom stayed the entire night and opted to talk at their top of their voices throughout. Needless to say, it wasn’t the restoration tonic needed.

By Thursday, (I think), I was able to move to a private room. Visitors began rolling in and I continued to be deathly ill, though more and more soothed by the incredible acts of love given. I received a hanging plant, bouquets of flowers, get well soon cards, books, chocolates, biscuits, shea butter, people’s time and love, and a tremendous amount of comfort.

That said, I still wasnt’ really comprehending how very sick I was, in the sense of recovery rate and risk factors (for example, Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) is the immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury. Normally our immune system fights infection – but sometimes, for reasons we don’t yet understand, it attacks our body’s own organs and tissues. If not treated immediately, sepsis can result in organ failure and death. Not only that, 5 people die with sepsis every hour in the UK. I AM BEYOND THANKFUL, GRATEFUL, OVERAWED, DEEPLY APPRECIATIVE….AND ON AND ON. I did not know any of this until after the fact, and I thank the heavens for this.

All of the loved ones that kept coming, knowing that I could barely hold my phone let alone take calls or reply to messages, kept me from ever realising this. As well as how severe the malaria was too of course, with the added complexity that I definitely had appendicitis and with my health status, surgery had to wait.

It was on my 7th day that this was able to happen, though still not without some additional drama. As I was wheeled down to the operating area, I became in the middle of an argument between the ward and theatre staff, all the whilst acting as if I wasn’t there and was both deaf and blind to what was happening. The context was that they hadn’t yet sent for me and who do you think you are….bla bla bla. My incredibly low heart rate and blood pressure couldn’t take it well. I began feeling violated, dizzy, fully out of control and very, very scared. By the time a nurse returned to wheel me in, I found adrenaline-fuelled strength, seemingly levitating out of the wheelchair, and I carried myself back to the ward. Shouting back at them at the same time asking if they were mad? If this was their normal protocol, to make a very ill patient who was about to undergo strong anaethesia, (I was having an epidural), to feel the entire works of full body and mind stress and anxiety? In no uncertain terms, I made it very clear they were not cutting me up under that risk level.

The surgeon came into my room shortly after, wherein I politely but undeniably firmly, requested him to leave me alone. He was clearly shocked and affronted. And I was in a total state. Perhaps I have never felt so scared before.

After speaking with the head of the hospital and some loved ones, I was able to find resolve and calmness once again, though I felt even more like I had been hit by a truck. There really did not feel like I had much left in me.

I was wheeled down once again for the operation and I experienced the highly uncomfortable and painful application of the epidural. I was awake for the whole procedure, but I feel I astral-travelled after some time as I have little to no memory of the passing of time.

I ended up having another 7 days in hospital post surgery, after developing further infections and having issues with an low red blood count (for me it should be between 4000-11000 and mine was 2000). It seemed to go on and on. Happily they granted me an additional 24 hours of epidural cocktail, as this new pain was amplifying everything. Plus the position of the epidural prongs felt like sharp nails in my back. To sit up, I felt like I would be disembowelled and it took more strength than I could muster. I was unable to access the bathroom for personal care for some days, and I felt one hundred percent at the mercy of others. This would have been an easier cross to bear had there been consistency amongst the bedside manners of the staff. Some nights, there would be big arguments between them, one night a patient next door seemed to lose his mind (around 4am) and was making many threats, including towards me, the white woman. The confidence and capability of applying a canulla was also highly varible, resulting in the wearing of 19 different ones over the course of 13 days, yet in total, there were 27 attempts. My veins had all but collapsed by the time that I was discharged. I was bruised everywhere and I felt like a pin cushion.

For each day that I was determined to feel better and get myself home to my refuge, it seemed like something else was testing me. Day 4 post surgery, when I no longer had the epidural, saw me in incredible pain once again, whilst all of my ailments combined together in force. I was given a strong drug via the line and even whilst the flush was taking place, I felt everything go underwater, including the image of the two staff in front of me. My speech slurred, my eyes rolled and I was lost, yet again. I opted not to say anything immediately as I realised I hadn’t eaten yet. And figured that wooziness was just due to that. I ate, (courtesy of a dear friend who had sent in food that I was just about able to stomach at that point) and things got worse. Therefore I buzzed for the nurses and asked for the doctor to be called for. I was denied. So I buzzed and asked again. (There really is nothing like the intensity of being totally at the mercy of others and my mental state has taken some time to recover from a lot of these experiences, let alone the severity of the illness and when I later realised how critical I had actually been). I managed to finally see a doctor who told me I should just sleep it off. I had to press her so hard to get acknowledged and eventually I was given a steroid injection to halt the effects from worsening. By that point however, my left arm had filled with red, hot, sore lines, I felt nauseous beyond belief, and every time I closed my eyes (I kid you not), I became a witness to about 6 video cameo screens of all of the experiences of my life. I saw myself as a 9 year old eating dinner with my grandparents, I saw myself in lessons in secondary school, I saw different relationships, I saw me as a young child falling over. I saw everything all at once and my world turned upside down. I felt like I had sleep paralysis as it was so very hard to re-open my eyes and when I finally managed, I felt seasick and totally out of balance, then my focus would return. But within moments, my eyelids fell and I began seeing everything all over again.

This hallucinogenic trip lasted approximately 3 hours and took me into the early hours of the morning. I felt exhausted from it.

The entire experience started on March 1st and I was finally allowed a discharge 13 days later. However, I still had ongoing infections and I took away with me a true pick n mix of mediation. Since returning home, I have lost 8kg and I have been mostly at home on serious bed rest.

It has to be cited as the most terrifying yet exquisite experience of my life. Never before have I felt two such strong sensations at once – to be so so out of control and under the decisions of other people, and to be so so held by the universe and amazing people from all around the world.

I never ever want to see a hospital again. I never even want to sneeze again. But now, some time after all of this, I am shining. I am released, I am relieved, and I am deeply humbled. Oh, and for now I am also entirely petrified of mosquitos!

Living life as a marathon or a sprint…

Lagos life is becoming reminiscent of my old London life; fast-paced, not enough ‘end’ in my week, long journey times to reach nearby destinations, and opportunities to do so much, that I couldn’t even write it all into my diary let alone fit it in.

Rainy season this time around has been like no other I have known, for this time of year. Having returned to Nigeria at the end of August, it seems like not a single week has passed when the skies haven’t darkened, day has somehow turned into night skies, and plans have been set aside due to heavy downpours. Even yesterday, as I traveled to the beach hoping to get some ‘fresh’ sea air into my lungs for a reprieve, we found ourselves amidst a full canvas of rains, leading us to be wetter than if we had simply jumped from the boat and immersed ourselves within the lagoon. Arriving at the beach house, shivering and having the sensation of being a drowned rat, my simple choice was to submerge myself under the pool’s water. Despite it generally giving me an initial chill to the bone upon entry, I found myself warmed and soothed. Better under the water than it crashing down upon me.

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Making a personalized Irish coffee, to warm me through the rains,

There is so much of this place that I love. Yet I am working all hours that I can manage, still I find I am behind in almost every deadline that I face, and thereby of course, I feel like I don’t see much of these loves….

I have more invitations that I can keep up with, even in memory let alone in action, and I have missed some fabulous creative events, that generally make my life here all that richer. I missed the Lagos Photo festival,Lagos Photo festival, the Lagos Fashion week, many operas, meals with friends, dates with potential new relationships, the incredible Art X exhibition, jazz nights, embracing the spectacular Felabration, enjoying the incredible Ake Arts and Book festival held at the newly built Alliance Francaise that is no less than five minutes walk from my house.

Continue reading “Living life as a marathon or a sprint…”

Life is a beach…until it’s oh so not

Life isn’t always a beach. This is true indeed. Nor is it always plain sailing. Would we want it to be? Would we feel inspired, invigorated, challenged, awakened, aware…any of these things, if it were?

It is fair to say I have been feeling incredibly jaded. I have been reaching a level of emotional burnout, through the effect of various pressures, both externally and internally. And this takes its toll. Once stress is enabled to build-up within us, the effects become long-lasting, have damaging results health-wise, and our mental state feels the hit, hard.

Happy to say however, that though my pressures continue, I have turned some corners. With workloads and with facing some social anxieties head on, (by reconnecting with an old female friend), as well as treading the boards of my beloved dance floor once more. Is it fair to put the blame of all these stressors onto living in Lagos? Maybe. But not entirely.

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Disparate days

I’ve lived in various countries and many, many cities. I have worked across many of the workplace realms, at differing employment levels (from Social services, to Education, to hospitals, to catering and hospitality). And I have traveled to, and explored, quite a few countries also.

But never in all of my experiences can I ever recall days as disparate as the ones my eyes see and my feet tread here, in Nigeria. It is truly a fascinating, if not deeply heart-wrenching life I feel I am wrapped within. I often find myself spinning inside the spider’s web of confusion, intrigue, wonder and sadness.

Take for example this past week. I myself have been experiencing some health issues. As I am assigned a hospital through my workplace, I have been having tests with them. I have then been administered drugs to relieve symptoms. Yet for the second time in less than a year, the meds prescribed are ones I am highly allergic to (to the point of possible death)…

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Locked-down or locked-in?

Somehow almost an entire year has passed since I have put pen to paper (so to speak) and here I sit wondering how on earth so much could have gone unscripted. Much has happened, many countries traversed, friends made, friends lost, and one thing is for sure, many illnesses and adventures have been had.

Right now I sit here in my apartment watching the kestrels flying above the treetops and waiting to see if my newly found friend, a wild Egret, will deem to sit on my balcony once again and just stare at me nonplussed for some time. (He is quite the amusing fellow I can tell you; looks at me with his earnest eyes as if wanting food, yet when I put flaked fish out for him, he is too hesitant to take it. However when any other Egret dares to breach his boundary walls, he becomes almost apoplectic and I become certain he will fall off to his sudden death…..Yes I know, a bird can’t fall, but you get the jist).

Whilst it sounds tranquil and somewhat of a nice way to begin the weekend, it is also beyond my choice. It is Stage Two of elections here in Nigeria, this time for the State Governor roles. I will definitely not make any comment on this, nor the Presidential Election, as it is indeed not my place to do so. But what I can remark, is that when these take place, the whole place gets put onto “Lock-down/curfew”. No vehicles are allowed on the road during the voting process and due to any potential safety issues, we are asked not to venture beyond our premises.

Continue reading “Locked-down or locked-in?”

Sail away with me…

I love the sea. Pure and simple. I am always so much happier when I am near it. I financially crippled myself for years to be able to afford to live near it. I nearly died once when I was in it. (Nitrogen bubble in my spinal cord). And the first thing I said when I was properly conscious again, was to ask when I would be allowed to dive in it again. It’s part of me. As much as the blood in my veins. I believe in reincarnation and in truth, I believe a fair bit in magic too.

Perhaps I was a mermaid in another life.

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When I lived in Uganda, it was bitter-sweet for me most days. As I could see the Lake Victoria from the rooftop, where I would spend time practicing yoga, making skype calls, or simply drinking my coffee and watching the birds fly overhead. But that lake is filled to the brim with Bilharzia and so it was; I could see the water, but I would never be in the water.

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It’s all in the way that you feel.

“I live here, I may as well like it”, I retorted as I discussed the chaos that can be life in Lagos, to my newly-found friend who was visiting me from my beloved Uganda. And herein opened the can of worms that my mind and body has been keeping a rather large lid on.

I haven’t actually been liking it at all. Not inside. Not in my heart. Not in my inspiration.

Was it the fault of Lagos? Was it the fault of the artificiality  I feel from ex-pat lifestyle? Was it the fault of my continued chronic pain? Or was it just not “there”, wherever that happens to be?

Perhaps in fact, it was the fault of the intensive physio program I was ensuring I followed, due to my determination to be fully fit, flexible and mobile, so that I could get my life back…

Continue reading “It’s all in the way that you feel.”

Now. New in Nigeria.

Life twists and turns in so many ways, and almost a year ago to the day, I interviewed for, and made the final decision of, a move to Uganda, East Africa. Now, in 2017, I move forwards to another moment in time and find myself landing upon a new lily-pad – this time by the name of Lagos, Nigeria. This was a highly unexpected and unforeseen move, for various reasons, yet here I found myself, treading the waters of footsteps that have gone before me …. even those of my late grandfather, who worked in this country (though further along the coast) as an engineer over 60 years ago. In this change of an un-designated and thus un-mapped story of my wanderings, I walked forwards towards a new wabi-sabi; discovery of beauty in imperfection; the acceptance of the cycle of light and death.

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Continue reading “Now. New in Nigeria.”