By Adesida Adewumi MD
In all my career I have never seen death of a patient so painful like Mrs Halima Mohammed’s, a 32 years old house wife and mother of three. I hope this will be a big lesson to those of us that like taking too much painkillers and we will change our ways. Some can’t sleep if they have not taken painkillers throughout a day; but it is actually a death sentence waiting to be executed.
I was in our emergency unit when Mr Mohammed rushed in his wife with a serious breathing difficulty. She was swollen from head to toe. She could not pass urine any more. She was saying irrational things and semi-conscious. Her BP was 280/ 140 mm Hg . I quickly placed her on oxygen and put urine catheter and bag for her to see her urine out put. She was given high dose of lasix (a diuretic drug to help her urinate out the overwhelming lodge of water in her body ). As a new doctor on duty, I was quickly taking a brief history from her husband at the same time to know what happened at home and in the past before they got here. He told me his wife, Halima had been the patient of the Nephrology unit of the hospital (Nephrology is the unit that looks after people with kidney problems).
It all started like five years ago when she was diagnosed to have Chronic Kidney disease (kidney failure) as a result of taking too much painkillers. She had been coming for follow-up until a couple of months ago when she suddenly stopped coming. She was already on dialysis before she unfortunately and sudden stopped showing up. I asked if I might know the reason for fortnightly dialysis treatment.
She doesn’t listen to me. She is too stubborn. I told her not to stop but she refused. She said she wanted to go and be taking herbal concoctions that will heal her. Doctor this is the result o, she said that the dialysis is not curing her problem,” the husband said.
“The doctor taking care of her explained to us that only change of her kidney can cure her but dialysis will help her to stay alive until we get a new kidney to give her. That we should start looking for a new kidney to transplant to her. It was this we were looking for when she suddenly decided she was not coming for the dialysis again. Her condition is far worse now than when she was doing her dialysis regularly,” he added.
From this short story from her husband, it was obvious the immediate solution to her problem is to do an urgent dialysis. I immediately called the Nephrology unit in. They recognised her instantly as one of their patients on dialysis that defaulted. They were shocked to see her almost unconscious. They swung into action immediately to take her for urgent dialysis.
While preparation to do this was ongoing, the husband went to donate blood for her and make other arrangements.
But she passed on. She suffocated inside the pool of her own body water that could no longer come out because the two kidneys had totally failed. She did not make a drop of urine till she closed her eyes in death. What made this death so painful for me was I could see how she was struggling to breathe, like she was drowning. It was a gory sight for me as a life-saver that I could not save a drowning patient of mine who was going through shadow of the valley of death. I hate being helpless to save lives.
Her husband rushed back to emergency unit from where he had left to donate blood for her for the dialysis , but unfortunately the deed had been done. She had closed her eyes in death. He wept uncontrollably like a baby on the floor.
“Painkillers killed my wife, doctor. I warned her to stop this habit but she would not listen to me. My support system is gone doctor. Who will take care of me and our three little children?”. It was a painful sight to behold a man in such agony and pains. I had to withdraw into my consulting room in the emergency unit to struggle with my almost falling tears.
Let me briefly educate some of us on painkillers and kidney problems. Long term use of painkillers like Ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen, codeine and aspirin can reduce blood supply to your kidneys over time and also damage your kidneys tissue directly, leading to irreversible kidneys failure over a long time which may eventually warrant dialysis and new kidney transplant for you to continue to be alive.
Many of us can’t do without taking painkillers everyday. Every slight body pain must receive painkiller before we will let it be.
Please, stop this habit!
I appeal to you to stop this deadly and unnecessary lifestyle today. You are killing your kidneys gradually and steadily. You don’t have to take painkillers for every pain. Most pains are just your body shouting for rest from overuse most times. Only rest can take away a lot of pains.
As I was on my way home that day, many lessons came rushing to my mind about this young family and who had just lost a wife, mother, sister, daughter, niece, cousin, and friend.. The husband was just 35 years old, now left with six, four, and two years old children to cater for. What were the life lessons I learned from this story:
1. In marriage, partners should listen to each other’s warnings. This is one of the purposes of two of you coming into each other’s lives. Please learn to listen to your spouse.
2. Painkillers can kill your kidneys and other vital organs and eventually send you to your early grave if you take them too frequently and for a long time. Most pains need rest, not painkillers. Painkillers can kill.
3. Learn to follow your doctor’s advice when you are sick. Avoid doing your own local treatment, like herbal concoctions, because you may not know how far damaging it can be to your health. That may worsen your condition or even speed up your death.
My heart goes out one more time to Mr Mohammed and the three little kids for losing this precious woman in her prime. I hope that after this story, with permission of Mr. Mohammed, the next of kin of the deceased, you will change and stop your chronic intake of painkillers.
Expect another intriguing write up from me soon. Follow my page on Facebook “FROM INSIDE MY CONSULTING ROOM”. Follow my health page on Instagram @doctorhealtheducation for daily education on your health. Invite your family to join.Thank you.
▪ Dr. Adewumi, works in the Department of Family Medicine, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) Kano, Nigeria
By Adesida Adewumi MD