By Hope Eghagha
The first time the sudden death experience hit close to me was when my only younger biological sister Racheal jumped into the night of her life without notice.
Rachael was a 39 year old boisterous and active artiste/Arts reporter in Lagos; she dropped dead suddenly after alighting from a taxi somewhere in Surulere late in 2004, about November.
It happened on a Monday evening after the day’s work, after she had been paid for some job which had done, after she had just moved into her own apartment and ready to start life on her own.
As everyone headed home at close of work, she went into the last home of humanity.
The Saturday of the previous week she had phone-called me to lament the death of Jaiye Aboderin who had slumped on the basketball court that weekend after a dunk; she was supposed to interview Jaiye for her magazine after I linked them up.
Little did she know that her own exit was around the corner!
It was a rude shock to me, to the entire family, and the Arts community in Lagos. But it made me more conscious of how vulnerable we are as human beings to the call of death.
While we got ready for her funeral I got to know of more sudden deaths stories across the land. The late Elder Segun Olusola was a senior friend of Rachael’s.
He called to tender his apologies about his inability to attend the funeral and said he was going to attend the funeral of a Permanent Secretary who had died at his desk in the office.
I also got to know about a cab driver whose passenger died in the back seat while in transit from Ikeja to Victoria Island. When they arrived at their destination he wouldn’t wake up. The cab driver was in trouble!
In recent times too many people have dropped dead, with no obvious sign of ill-health. A couple of young people have died while exercising; others have died while descending the staircase.
The most dramatic of sudden deaths happened to a former schoolmate somewhere in Bayelsa State.
A man in his early fifties, I guess, he had just been made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The week after his thanksgiving he slumped one morning when he entered his car ready to drive off to work.
He died a week later in the hospital. Last September a healthy-looking 55 year-old man slumped at his place of work on the island in Lagos.
He was rushed to a highbrow hospital and died about five days later, a victim of a massive heart attack.
His wife, (good wives always know when a man is over working himself) had advised him to go to hospital and check his cholesterol level because he always sweated profusely at night. He refused.
The list is long. I am sure some of us reading this would have one story or another to tell. Why are sudden deaths on the increase? Why are men and women in the thirties or forties victims of sudden death?
I am not a medical doctor; so I am not in a position to proffer scientific reasons why these deaths have been on the increase. I can only guess. I know that stress level is very high right now in Nigeria. Money to pay the house rent. Money to pay school fees.
Money to maintain the car. Money to feed the family. There is the problem of traffic congestion.
Family pressure and social demands are also there. Too many friends and family need help. Pressure to help the kids get employment, settle down and get married. I have been forced to read up literature on the subject. Indeed, Mr. Sudden Death is very much here.
Life style, heart diseases, uncontrolled hypertension, high levels of bad cholesterol and severe stress conditions are said to be some of the causes.
Sadly, when it happens we begin to look for ‘remote’ or ‘spiritual causes.’ That is when some catch the witch in the office or in the family or where they live. Ignorance is indeed a disease.
Our lives have become so sedentary that we do not exercise the body enough. We sit down for hours on end tasking the brain and stressing the body.
Some people sit down from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. in front of the computer, anxiously watching the screen and reading reports which could make the heart fail.
We move from the computer to the smartphone reading news reports or looking at pictures that do not help the heart.
Breathing behind us the determination to succeed or to out-do our rivals. Office and social pressures are also there. Sometimes we go to bed but the mind does not sleep. We wake up tired and set out again for the day’s uncertainties.
On the flip side, when you stay by a dying friend, family member or colleague, you sometimes wish that sudden death would be better.
A man who stays sick for three to five years, suffering, going in and coming out of hospital and dies in the end would make one wish that death had come earlier.
The terrible terminal diseases are the greatest culprits in this. I remember once telling two elderly citizens that going out suddenly was best for anyone.
That it prevented undue suffering, unnecessary hospital costs and trauma. The two old men were quiet for a while in the car.
The silence ended. They politely and calmly cautioned me that it gave the victim no opportunity to make amends with God nor did it prepare his family for a sudden exit.
I was cured of my naivety. A sudden death is no tea party. It disorganises the family and all the people around the victim.
The demands of modern day living can dive anyone crazy. They can make people go to bed without waking up. So we should think and worry less. Worrying cannot change anything.
Nobody should carry on as if they are work machines; even machines do break down. Remember that the body needs rest. Remember to get enough sleep. Remember to exercise. Remember that working too hard all year round is hazardous to health.
Remember that when you drop dead the office would look for a replacement immediately, even before your body runs cold.
Remember that if you drop dead suddenly you would throw your loved ones into confusion and sometimes perpetual disadvantage.
Remember to listen to your body clock and pause for a while if you are tired.
Remember to feel and enjoy the simple things of life particularly with family. Above all, for those who believe, commit the troubling issues to a higher force which provides a better framework for enduring the stress of modern day living!