By Isa Gusau
OUR boss, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum, my family, and my closest friends wouldn’t like what I am about to publicly reveal. I deeply apologise. Last week, I had a surgery at Max Multi Speciality Hospital in New Delhi, India. The surgery, which doctors categorise as “high risk’ was around my chest wall and lungs. It lasted several hours. It was very successful. Alhamdulillah!
Some readers, especially close friends, may now have mixed feelings: happy that the surgery went well, but disappointed that I kept them in the dark. I am sorry. If you (reading this) feel the same way, you have every right to be angry, assuming you interpret my decision to imply your importance to me. I even kept the surgery away from my children. I made sure they did not know what I was going through. I also kept it away from my brothers and sisters.
Sometimes, the best way to protect your loved ones and friends is by making them think everything is okay. If they know exactly what you’re going through, you may torture and potentially harm them. Unless it happens beyond your control, what is really the point of deliberately making your loved ones and friends suffer from the pains of extreme imagination and mental bereavement, whereas putting them in that state would not quite change your condition?
As a journalist 12 years ago, I had a surgery for appendicitis and a complication from the mistake of surgeon in Abuja, kept me hospitalised for two weeks. From my hospital bed, I saw how my children, – 12 years younger then, were often traumatised. I saw how my sisters in particular, brothers and close friends were sleeplessly worried. So, this time, I decided to free them from those pains.
I must say, however, that keeping people in the dark has its own downside. You could potentially lose a deliberate offer of prayers and well wishes. You also have to deal with people engaging you who do not know. From my hospital bed, I attended to office work and private issues, including financial requests. Someone even sent me a strong message, almost calling me a wicked man for not sending him money the day he made his request.
Funny enough, his request came the night before my surgery. At that time, I was undergoing a final round of mandatory tests: kidney, liver, and respiratory functions; hepatitis B and C, and HIV I and 2, which are conducted on all patients undergoing surgery, for the safety of surgeons who endlessly make contact with blood in the operating room.
I had about 100 tests, but negative for all dangerous diseases. Again, Alhamdulillah. But I must admit that anticipating results from cancer tests (and this happened a number of times), was traumatising. From the onset, I was sent for a whole body PET (positron emission tomography) scan. This is a nuclear diagnostic procedure that evaluates the functioning of all body organs and tissues from head to toe. It is one of the most advanced diagnostic machines for cancer, heart and lung diseases, gastrointestinal, endocrine, neurological, and other serious conditions.
All the tests confirmed what I already knew before arriving in India – that I had a chronic ulcer and some fluid between my chest wall and my lungs. The Indian doctors investigated me intensively, to rule out any dangerous cause of the fluid. This is why I had to go through so many tests for all of the deadly diseases. From both sides of my chest, the fluid was extracted and cultured to detect any link to all kinds of dangerous diseases. All negative.
At the end, the Indian doctors concluded I needed to have thoracic surgery, which involved penetrating my chest wall to evaluate my lungs, draining the fluid, and extracting some tissue for biopsy. Again, the biopsy revealed no link to any potentially fatal disease. Alhamdulillah!
The fluid was from a blockage. But how did I even find myself in India? One evening, in the second week of November 2022, I went to Governor Zulum with a communication plan we had produced at the Press Unit of the Government House.
The plan was to comprehensively showcase most of what the administration has achieved since 2019. We planned a syndicated multimedia campaign on traditional, online and social media, with dates and sectors to be focused on. The plan did not require funding. We only needed the governor’s blessing. Governor Zulum looked at it and said: “This is an excellent plan. Please see me tomorrow, insha’Allah, to discuss it.’ The following day, when I came, Zulum said something I did not expect.
“Gusau,” he began. “I am seriously worried about how you are losing weight. What is happening?” I said: “I have an ulcer, but I am also having some chest pain. I saw a medical doctor in Abuja, and after a chest CT scan, they found some fluid around my chest. The doctor said, from my test results, he did not think it was anything serious. He gave me some ‘water pills’ to drain the fluid.”
Zulum said: “Look, I really like your plan for our media campaign, but honestly, your health is far more important to me. I want you to immediately go to India and do an intensive check-up. I will issue a diplomatic letter to speed up your visa issuance. Leave this media thing until you get back. Zulum’s judgement call was thoughtfully wise because the ‘water pill’ did not work.
Zulum provided all the support I needed. I departed on December 13, 2022, and he kept monitoring my journey. The governor came to India for some engagements on December 25, 2022, and on his arrival, he immediately invited me. Later that same day, I was admitted ahead of my surgery, scheduled for Tuesday, December 26. Early on surgery day, Zulum called, just as he did later at night, to know how it went. This was despite assigning someone to monitor me and update him.
The next day, Zulum was by my bedside. We spent an hour together. I saw in him love, compassion, brotherhood, and fatherliness. I am eternally grateful to an extraordinary boss and to everyone who supported me. Although I lost weight, I am recovering, and from the look of things, I might soon be strong enough to challenge Omos, that big and ruthless wrestler, to show him I am stronger. Until that ‘fight’, I wish you the best of health, faith, and prosperity. Namaste!