Archives for category: Health

Want to wake up REALLY fast at 5.30 am? Try a scorpion sting. I guess I always knew it would happen eventually. It’s scorpion season here, the first rains send them scurrying indoors. We’ve killed ten in a week, but number 8 got me first. That puts paid to all my plans for today.


Had my final milk tooth out today, fifty years late. The dentist said about one in ten people retain a milk tooth into adulthood.

We’re well into November now, and I just got caught in a massive rain storm, even though the dry season is supposed to have started. The whole rainy season this year was very late, and I can’t remember a rainy season with fewer mosquitoes. Bliss. Still, Faustin, Mandahewa and Pandja have all been on malaria treatments at different times.

Today I had to have an abscess removed from my thumb at the local hospital. The doctor was planning to do this without local anaesthetic, until I insisted otherwise. In conversation with several Togolese friends since, I learn that it is very common to refuse anaesthetic for surgery. Most people only just make ends meet, and pain relief is considered an unnecessary luxury (2.50 pounds extra). Jonas is a good example: he had a string of quite major operations on his foot last year, and opted to do it all without anaesthetic. A Kabiye is expected to face pain without flinching. That explains the doctor’s answer to me this morning as he plunged the needle into my thumb: “Are you a man, or what?”

Scorpion season 2

It takes three people to administer the treatment: one to apply the electrodes to the sting, one to turn the handle, one to hold the patient down. You keep administering the shock for as long as the patient can bear it. This woman lasted 10 minutes, which isn’t long enough to completely neutralise the venom, but she’d had enough.

Scorpion season 1

Yesterday a neighbour got stung by a scorpion while working in a fields around my house. Electric shock is effective for neutralising the venom…

Just recovering from five days in bed doing battle with some old enemies: amoebas. The medicine for it is effective, but gives a metallic taste to everything you eat and drink. Try chewing a fork and you’ll get the idea. Faustin looked after me brilliantly, fetching meals from the dining room, shopping, and reporting on progress with the house repairs. I’m better now and back on track.

Nooooo! Beginning of week 3, and I am off sick already! I have picked up an extremely painful scalp infection, which feels like someone piercing my skull with knitting needles. It’s even painful to lay my head on a pillow. Then to make matters worse, I twisted something in my back (again…) and am completely unable to walk. So now I have wheels but am less mobile than before.

Good job Menteleyi is here, he’s doing a great job looking after me. And there’s another major bonus in being sick in Togo: going to see Dr L-D. She greeted me like a long lost friend and the consultation lasted two and a half hours as she caught up with everything I had been doing in the intervening three years. Our conversation ranged from scalp infections to contemplative prayer and more. She is an extraordinary doctor and I feel better just sitting in her surgery.

The day after arriving in France, on holiday in Provence, I had a bad attack of malaria, and was admitted to the emergency department of Avignon hospital. They pumped me full of quinine and I feel much better now, although I am extremely tired. Slippery stuff, malaria.

While in Lomé, I went to see my GP. At least that’s what she says she is, but I know she is actually an angel. During the two 1½ hour consultations, the conversation ranged from mitral valves to contemplative prayer. Evidently in her mind they are inseperable. You wouldn’t get that on the National Health. The upshot is that she sees no problem with me continuing my mountain-top existence, 250 miles from the nearest cardiologist.

Since returning home last week, I have been out walking in the village for an hour erery day, which improves not only the heart but also my language skills. Such a shame that roller-blades and terraced hill-sides don’t easily mix, but the spectacular views in all directions more than make up for this.