We returned to Lagos at the beginning of last week and to our surprise there was no sign of Idris, our driver. I was unable to contact him on the phone and no one seemed to know his whereabouts. The last that we had heard was that he was going up to the north to visit his mother, who has been ill for some time and he wanted to use the time, when we were away, to visit here before she passed away.
Funny enough here in Lagos, the best way to get information around is by word of mouth and we soon had a visit from Idris’ wife and brother. However, that visit brought with it some very sad news. They informed me that he was very sick and that he was still up north seeing a tribal doctor. I asked what was wrong and I was only informed that I would not understand and that the sickness cannot be cured with western medicine. Only tribal doctors know what to do. Obviously this was incredibly frustrating and for the remainder of the week I kept trying to call Idris – day and night.
Eventually on Monday he answered his phone. I could hear immediately that he did not sound right. He was constantly slurring his words and when he informed me that his left side of his body was lame, I immediately feared that he had suffered from a stroke. I spoke with him again on Tuesday and he said that he was at a church receiving treatment and that the pastor told him that he had suffered from a ‘stroke’ or an ‘attack’ – as he put it. I just wanted to weep.
Idris is a wonderfully kind and thoughtful man. He has a beautiful family – we met all of them when they made the long journey to Karleigh’s dedication service at our church in March, and it is with great worry that we wonder what is going to happen over the long term. There is no such thing as social welfare here in Nigeria. If something happens to you – you are on your own. He works hard to ensure that his children are at school and are educated, as he understands that education is the freedom from the cycle of hardship. With this happening to him now, their futures are at risk.
It never ceases to amaze me how privileged we are – not just with the things we have, but also the things we know. It is easy for us to research some information on almost any topic that we like. We click a mouse or tap something into the keyboard and bingo – all the info that we could ever consume is available for us to digest. Here in Nigeria, that information is not so easy to obtain and neither is it really desired. Everyone seems at peace to simply ‘not know’. I asked many people here in the office if they knew what a stroke was and they simply shrugged their shoulders and looked puzzled.
The official response from my company was that if he does not return to work in three days, then we must fire him and find another driver. Can you imagine a company in the UK or South Africa saying that? It is atrocious. Having run the Brighton marathon for the Stroke Association, last month, it was amazing to see how big an organisation they are, and how far and wide their efforts are directed. If you or a family member suffers from a stroke and you are in the UK, you can expect to have a wealth of help and assistance easily at hand – not to mention the first class medical treatment you would have received. For Idris the reality is that just an MRI scan is just completely out of the question. We do not even know if the stroke was caused by a blockage of the artery or by hemorrhaging.
It is heartbreaking for us to think that he must fight this fight on his own. Not just the debilitating affect of the stroke, but the complete lack of any support or assistance which he will need now and possibly for some time in the future, maybe the rest of his life. We hope and pray that he can fully recover from this, and we have seen others who have had strokes and have made amazing recoveries. The challenge right now is to try and get him preventative medication and of course, stop him from being sacked!