It’s becoming a regular scenario: men, women, the young and the elderly, slumping and dying without any prior or visible sign of illness. The recent case of the young Nassarawa United Football Club player, Chineme Martins, more than ever before makes it an issue for the front burner. Omolara Akintoye writes.
It was a gathering of the VIPs – Very Important Personalities. These men and women of ‘timber and calibre’ were all gathered to celebrate one of their own. The celebrator himself (name withheld) was in high spirit, resplendent in his well-tailored babariga, as he delivered his speech. Naturally, all eyes, full of admiration, were glued on him, as he gave thanks to his Creator for making the day a reality.
Suddenly, the unthinkable happened. The man of the moment fell, face to the ground, like a log of wood.
What could have happened, the bewildered audience thought for a jiffy? And then they all, almost simultaneously, rushed towards him. His aid was the first to reach him.
Frantically, he searched for a flicker of hope or sign of life in his fallen body. Alas, there was none. His pulse was numb. His breath, stopped. Further check showed he was stone-dead! All within a couple of seconds.
Immediately “party scatter”- like a popular Nigeria hip-hop artiste would sing. All fanfare ended.
Barely a week after that bizarre incident, a friend of this reporter broke down over the phone, whilst narrating how her sister “just dropped dead without any warning.” Now, she’s having to deal with the emotional wreckage and the tough task of sorting through her things and donating them to charity. Some of her jewellery collections, she’s also giving out to her friends.
In Abule-Egba area of Lagos, a young man reportedly slumped and died on his way home from work. Another, collapsed and died while playing with his kids at home.
The rate of sudden deaths or what people commonly describe as ‘dying without any sign or illness’ seems to be on the rise in our society.
Some recent cases of sudden death
Just last Sunday, a Nigerian Professional Football League player, Chineme Martins, slumped and died while playing in a league match between his club, Nassarawa United and Katsina United in the NPFL match Day 23 game at the Lafia City Stadium, Lafia, Nassarawa State.
While incidences of players dying on the pitch is no longer new, Martins’ case nevertheless calls for concern.
This is not to forget the heart-wrenching short video showing the moment a Nigerian rapper, Steve Soetan aka Surplus, slumped and died while playing street football with his friends. The young man was a promising rap act, with exceptional skill in football, who had hopes of becoming a household name someday.
He was a fresh Computer Science graduate of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Not long ago, Dominic Dukodo, another footballer also recently died while warming up for an NPFL game against Nassarawa United. His was a more curious case, especially because he was yet to get on the field of play, and could therefore not be said to have died of exhaustion.
Alhaji Isa Harisu, a member of the Sokoto State House of Assembly, also recently slumped and died when he arrived the office complex to attend the day’s plenary. He was not known to be sick.
Over a dozen Nigerian lawmakers have died in the office between 2015 till date. While death is inevitable, the cause of death of these lawmakers poses questions about the quality of the healthcare system in the country.
Research shows that the majority of these cases were ‘sudden deaths’ – not by accidents, but medically-related.
What are the causes of such sudden deaths? What are the preventive measures that can be put in place to avoid them? Are there any warning signals for potential victims?
Research conducted by some Nigerian teaching hospitals have identified stroke and heart attack as the major causes of over 93.7 percent of sudden and unexpected deaths (SUD) in the country.
The researchers also found that more males than females, at a ratio of 2:1, are affected, and the average age of the victims is “47.3 years. They blamed the rise in SUD on rural to urban migration, increased salt and fat intake from the consumption of processed foods, increased tobacco use and sedentary lifestyle.
The studies were conducted by the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba; Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH); University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), among others.
To check the rising cases of sudden death, the medical experts called for urgent review and upgrading of critical care management facilities in the country, as well as improvement upon the level of awareness, control and management of hypertension among the populace.
They also recommended that Nigerians should engage in physical activities in order to protect their heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease and stroke.
The Nation learnt that the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Yaba, Lagos, has already started a nationwide study on the rising cases of SUD even as the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO), is planning a national survey on Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
This media house also went round to sample people’s opinion on how often they go for medical checks and it was shocking to discover that people are too busy trying to make ends meet at the detriment of their health.
In an interview with Mrs. Clara Chukwuoma, a market woman, she said “Medical check? Where is the money to go for it, when I’m busy selling my market to get food for the family and make ends meet? I don’t have the time and the money for that, biko,” she said.
Mr. Ishola Owonikoko, a businessman’s response was similar. Even though he seemed a little well-off, he practically lamented the lack of time. “The last time I went for medical check was 5 years ago when the medical team came to my area.”
Cardiovascular disease/heart-related disease (CVD) is responsible for seven per cent; cancers, three per cent; diabetes, two per cent; chronic obstructive respiratory diseases one per cent; and others were responsible for 11 per cent.
The study published in the Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice and titled “Trends in acute emergency room hypertension-related deaths: an autopsy” investigated hypertension-related acute deaths in patients admitted to the emergency room of LUTH.
Autopsy reports for bodies deposited from the medical emergency room (ER) were reviewed. Details of the time of admission, time of death and blood pressure status prior to the event were obtained. The result shows there was 297 hypertension-related deaths, but 252 were analysed. There were 168 (66.7 per cent) males and 84 (33.3 per cent) females, and the mean age was 47.33±12.18 years (14 to 85 year). Two thirds of the subjects (65.5 per cent) were 50 years of age. The mean duration of admission was 5.88±6.41 hours. One third (35.3 per cent) died within an hour of admission.
The commonest causes of death were stroke 149 (52.8 per cent) and heart failure 103 (40.9 per cent). Intra-cerebral hemorrhage was the commonest type of stroke seen, 69 (52.3 per cent). Intra-cerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is a type of stroke caused by bleeding within the brain tissue itself – a life-threatening type of stroke. A stroke occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen and blood supply. ICH is most commonly caused by hypertension.
Another study titled “Sudden Cardiac Death: Clinical Perspectives from the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital” and published in World Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases concluded: “Sudden cardiac death is common among our patients admitted with cardiovascular diseases. The most common etiology is ischemic cardiomyopathy, followed by peripartum cardiomyopathy. Most of the victims were young, and there were no optimum resuscitative measures.”
A systemic analysis of sudden natural deaths at Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, published in The Nigerian Health Journal concluded: “Cardiovascular system pathologies, especially hypertensive heart disease, remain the leading cause of sudden natural deaths in this study.”
‘People should create time to rest’
Said Dr. Ehis Ukpebor, a gynecologist and CEO, Idowu Specialist Hospital, Ojota, Lagos, “There are lots of reasons why people slump and die. Let me go straight to the major ones.
“Stress – The last time I checked, I realised that people no longer give time for themselves. No time to rest, due to the nature of their jobs and other activities. You will see a lot of people waking up as early as 3am for work, coming back late in the night. This is rampant in the country today. A lot of people don’t know how to manage crisis. The situation on the road, activities at work, all these contribute to stress.
“People know how to endure pains and headache. These are some of the things many people no longer pay attention to. By the time the whole issue piles up, it becomes what we call stress. When one is stressed without proper medical attention, it kills.
“Another one is High Blood Pressure and poor diet. Eating foods that will nourish the body should be a habit not just eating anything.
“There is what we call secondary and primary causes of death. The primary causes of death are those with possible reason why a person slumped. For instance, diabetes. If someone is diabetic, without proper care, there is possibility that the person would slump, thus, we can call this primary cause of death.
“The secondary one is cardiac arrest. A person might slump and if taken care of, would survive. But once a person slumps and the heart is gripped (cardiac arrest), it’s the end. A lay man would say he slumped and died but cardiac arrest is totally different. It has no disease attached. Once it happens, it has no remedy.
“People should create time for medical check-up. Go to a hospital, examine your body, let medical experts run a test on your body every time.
“Stress is something that kills fast. We are all thinking of money and how to settle bills. In the process, the body is stressed. Also what we eat helps in fighting sickness. This is why I always tell people to inspect what they eat. No matter how little the food is, we should eat balanced diet. All these help the body against crisis.