This is not the name of a famous person, it is a medical condition and it is more common than you think.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Before February 2021, I did not know anything like this existed and I was blissfully ignorant that such an illness could affect just about anyone. We are instinctively protective of those we love, and when a loved one is in pain, so much pain you can’t do anything about, you are reminded of the true helplessness of being human. I do not want to ever live through those painful days of seeing someone I care about fight for life, for sight, for speech, for mobility. That experience shook me to my very core.

What is it?

Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. It’s usually a reaction to medication that starts with flu-like symptoms, followed by a painful rash that spreads and blisters. Then the top layer of affected skin dies, sheds and begins to heal after several days. —Mayo Clinic 2020

You might wonder why I am writing this. It’s a new month after all, I should be motivating or cheering , or at the very least, saying happy new month. I will get there. Stay with me. This is an awareness, that a singular drug reaction can put your life in danger.

Please do not self medicate. Always seek for a doctor’s prescription and if you can not reach one, try, abeg try and inform whoever is giving you any new medication if you are on some other drugs or have certain allergies. Remember to check NAFDAC number (or what the food and drug security quality check is in your country), and expiry dates.

Common symptoms of Stevens-Johnson are Flu-like, and these appear first. Then a painful rash that spreads and blisters follows. On the skin, you have: rashes, blister, peeling, rash of small purplish spots, red spots, or small bump. For the whole body: fever or malaise. Also common are cough, eye redness, itching, mouth ulcers, photophobia, sore throat, or swelling. It is not an easy ailment to diagnose by yourself. This is why it is important to know that it exists.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

I remember how useless I felt in the hospital, sitting by the bedside, waiting on the doctors to say something. Having been raised by a medical practitioner, I know the kind of information a patient has a right to. And it’s the exact kind of information many medical practitioners in Nigeria do not disclose to their patients, for reasons unknown to me. It is such a frustrating thing.

The nurses were just sending us pitiful glances and always saying ‘ah! Madam well done oh’ , ‘sorry fa’ , ‘may God heal you’ whenever they came around to change a drip or flush a canula, after that, they will traipse to their station with woe on their faces. The doctors on house jobs were their own kind of special. Some will stand over us and be whispering loudly, as if we were to dumb to comprehend their conversations or didn’t not deserve to know what their suspicions and findings were, then there were the ones that will not even make eye contact. Whether from haughtiness or first time jitters, I don’t know. The resident doctors were a lot better. It was from the not-so-hushed whispers of two house job doctors that I got the gist after almost three days of being in the hospital. The slim, bespectacled Dr M and her chubby counterpart were doing rounds and taking in low tones about each patient. When they got to us, they were whispering. ‘ I think it’s Stevens-Johnson oh’ Dr M muttered under her breath, while furiously flipping sheets on her wooden tablet. ‘ehn, that’s what Dr said’ the light skinned partner replied. ‘I heard it’s very rare. hei’ and they looked up and saw me watching them closely. Perhaps it made them uncomfortable because they suddenly moved to the next patient. Still, I asked “please how is her condition? What really is going on?” While walking to the next bed, Dr M called over her shoulder. “we are also still investigating. If we find out, we will tell you.

It was from there I used Google to find out what they were talking about. Much later, I told a doctor who was checking on her condition and all he said was ‘that’s exactly what I suspected. I pray she comes out of it.’ This episode taught me so much. We underrate good health. If you have made it this far into the year in one piece, you should see that as a miracle. A big one. If you have no cause to visit a Nigerian healthcare facility, you have been given such a blessed gift.

Another lesson I learnt is that ignorance is not bliss. Sometimes, you must press to get what you want. And you may be out of your element and drowning in new territory, but that doesn’t mean you should not have your wits about you. Whatever you have struggled with all year long, I believe that light will shine, and with it knowledge. And I pray that it will all unravel and suddenly make sense. Welcome to December 2021. It has been such a long journey for me. So many candles lit up. Many more celebrations. Learning to balance the yin and yan of life. I pray the next twenty four days are kind to you. You deserve a break.

Love, Ballie💖




And He said unto me, Write.

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Balpolam Idi

Balpolam Idi

And He said unto me, Write.

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