It started like any other day. It had an extraordinary ending. On that fateful day, the first day of December 2001, and about 6pm in the evening, Nigeria local time, a friend of mine rode me on my dad’s bicycle to the pharmacy. We call it ‘chemist store’ in Nigeria.
Unlike in the United States where you can buy certain medicines over the counter but majority by prescription only, and where only trained medical professionals can dispense or administer medicines to you; in Nigeria, everything is bought over the counter. You do not need a prescription. In as much as you can pay for it, you can get whatever dosage you want for any medicine or combination of medicines. And you do not need to be a medical professional to open your own chemist store or administer medicines to customers. Folks who could not afford to go to a doctor can walk into a chemist and describe their symptoms to the chemist and he or she can prescribe medicines to them based on the information they gave to him or her. If they (the chemist) decide the customer needs a shot, they can as well decide the dosage of the shots they want to administer to the patient. The expertise of a chemist on the subject of medicine is gotten, not from going to school, but from apprenticing for an already established chemist. This apprenticeship can last from six months (for those that already have family money to fund their startup), to six years (for those who do not have family money to fund their store but based on the contract they signed with their master, hope that by the end of the six years, the master will give them enough capital to start their own business).
Now, that Saturday, December 1, 2001, was my fourth day visiting the chemist store for treatment. The chemist has been injecting me with the antibiotic crystal penicillin through my bottom for the past three consecutive days.
I was sick but didn’t know the cause of my sickness. Because I was a little bit reckless sexually as a teenager, I was afraid my sickness was a result of sexually transmitted disease I might have contracted through my philandering. But I didn’t want to find that out by going for a blood work, so I gave the sickness a name. I told myself I was suffering from pneumonia and went to the chemist and asked for seven doses of crystal penicillin, one of the antibiotics for treating pneumonia in Nigeria. She obliged me. Because the antibiotics is administered one dose per day, the injection was spread for a seven-day period.
Because of the effect the needle has had on my bottom for the past three consecutive days of injections, I couldn’t sit down comfortably anymore, and to bend down to pick up something or to wash my feet became very difficult. So, on that fateful Day 4, I suggested to the chemist to inject the antibiotic through my vein rather than through my bottom. That medicine is not intravenous. It didn’t stop there. I had four dosages of that injection left. Because I did not want to return to the chemist store anymore, I also suggested to her that she put the remaining four dosages into one and inject me with all four at once. Being a quack, she did not pause for a moment to think about the grave consequences of my suggestion. She readily accepted the suggestion of a novice (which is what I was as far as the field of medicine was concerned) and injected me with a heavy overdose of crystal penicillin. The antibiotic was supposed to be a cure to my imagined ailment, however, it turned out to be a precipitant for my untimely death.