Healthy Living

Avoid careless talk when handling sick people

Sick people have seen it all, and the only thing they require is consolation, comfort and hope that all will be well.

Avoid careless talk when handling sick people

Sick people have seen it all, and the only thing they require is consolation, comfort and hope that all will be well.

I woke up and couldn’t open my eyes with the usual ease. My face had been aching, with burning sensations that were increasing with each day for the last few days. I had a list a guesses as to what might have been the cause of my pain, but could not ascertain with accuracy what the issue was. I slowly went into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror and what I saw was a stranger. First, opening my eyes to get a clear view of my face was hell. But with my eye half open, I could still see the swollen forehead and cheeks. That could not be me. I washed my face, applied oil and went back to bed.

“How is your face now?”

This is a question I did not have an answer to.


I responded as I pulled the blanket to cover myself.

“Can I see how it looks?”

I prayed that the description he gave could not be worse than what I had heard the previous day.

One of my daughters had, the previous day, described me as a very old woman as my face developed wrinkles especially on the area around my eyes. And my husband had told me that she is the only person who had used the right words to describe the way I looked. Yet, on that day, I looked better than what I saw this particular morning.

With this fear, I was a little hesitant to show my face but after a little coercion, I did though half-heartedly.

He paused abit then asked “What might have happened? The situation is growing worse….we need to go see a doctor.”

I had avoided going to hospital all this while due to the fear of contracting COVID-19. I already had this existing condition, and my immunity must have taken a beating the last few days trying to deal with my skin condition.

Skin conditions are a result of many things –

I stayed in bed longer this morning. I had guests but I did not know how to face them. I knew the questions to expect but I did not know what to give as response. I slept for another two hours, and when I woke up, I asked to be served breakfast in my bedroom.

When my eldest daughter, aged 13, came to my room, she said I didn’t look that bad, and that there was no need of hiding.

“It’s very normal. People get sick, and you just need to let them know that it’s just an allergy which will soon go away.”

That’s the encouragement that I needed. I took my breakfast and after a brief debate with myself, I finally gathered the courage to face my sitting room, with all the answers which I poured out even before the questions came.

I was still hesitant regarding seeking medical attention in a hospital. At the local clinic, they couldn’t take my National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) card, and our clinical officer back at my place of work advised that I should look for a bigger facility that has a fully-fledged laboratory that could run tests to understand the root cause of the reaction on my face. I refused that advise, and went on to get treatment at the clinic.

While I could yet establish the cause of my facial reaction, the questioning of the doctor attending to me were ridiculous.

When did you begin experiencing change in your face? About Monday or Tuesday.

What did you eat on Tuesday?

I paused a bit, trying to remember?

Why don’t you want to say what you ate,” she asked?

Honestly, I can’t remember. T hat’s almost a week ago.

“Any new protein in your diet?”

“No,” I said.

But I remembered that I had applied hair texturiser on that Monday evening, as I was preparing for work. Unlike the usual procedure of relaxer application where you bend to the back while cleaning the head, this time round, I felt a little lazy. After applying the texturiser, myself, I got into the shower for a complete body cleaning – the one popularly referred to as head to toe. While I began from the head, applying the shampoo and rubbing the head with my hands, I forgot the fact that all the chemical was draining down through my face, as I bent forward. The mild itchiness that begun that evening had grown into burning sensation, swollen face and could only hope that the next stage could be more forgiving.

“That is the only thing that I can say is out of the norm. I haven’t changed my diet,” I responded.

“Did the chemical have hair colour?”


I was given two injections and a whole week dosage of medication. After leaving hospital, I limited my interaction with the world. Oblivious of the heartache I was getting myself into, I shared my suffering to one trusted sister.

One look at my face gave her lots of opinion –

“What! Aren’t you even scaring away the kids?” I kept mum, trying to get the words sink deep inside me.

I gathered courage and told her that in a matter of few days, my face would be back.

“Sure it will, but you will still have to deal with lots of stretch marks.”

I sat still in the car and in the entire of our day’s trip, I stayed locked up inside the car. I had listened to enough descriptions of my face. I admired the faces of all the people I saw walk outside – all smooth, glowing with even colour all round. What a beauty I had been before this incident, and how little attention I had taken to my former lovely face.

While I look into the future, with lot’s of hope that I’ll receive healing, here’s are lessons I have learnt about handling the sick.

  1. The situation may look very bad, and obviously so. However, do not be the person to say it bluntly. I have read stories of people who pulled through a difficult situation after a doctor gave them a few days to live.
  2. People may forget what you said, but they may never forget how you made them feel. Ensure the patient feels hopeful after an interaction with you. This will last a lifetime.
  3. When you share stories with a sick person, avoid those that end with death. The patient could make a conclusion that you are talking about their doomed situation.