Flo Rida walked with us to the car whilst her kids stood at the doorstep waving us good bye. My husband, Ian opened the driver’s door and got in and I gave Flo a final hug. My husband eased the car down the driveway and into the road.
We drove in silence for a while. It was as if both of us were going over what we had just witnessed. My older brother, Tom Rida, 38, married father of two lying terribly ill in bed looking as if he was hovering in that place that is between life and death. The former rugby player and Police boxing team coach looked like a mosquito – weighing just 45Kg
Ian and Tom were old friends. They went to college together and after that they had joined the Police force working together for many years before Ian left to start his own business. Tom remained with the force and was now a well-respected senior officer dedicated to his profession. I could see the pain in Ian’s eyes at seeing his friend in that condition.
We were coming to the small round about near our home when Ian said “ Gosh Brenda – Let us pray that Tom pulls through.”
“Msscheeeeew!” I began, “If that silly idiot listens to the doctors and his wife and takes his medication he should make a full recovery. Then I will go round there and give him a few slaps, Nkt.”
“Why are you being so harsh, Brenda – the poor bloke is seriously ill.” Ian spoke gently not wanting to start an argument.
“Ian, please.” I said. “I am not being harsh. Consider for a moment what Tom has put his family through. Flo is at her wits’ end. Tom has been going on about his stupid tummy feeling rough for nearly two years now – but would he see a doctor? Would he seek advice? No sir, not our Tom. Eno and Andrews were his dawas and he switched from Viceroy to a more expensive brandy.”
“Flo begged him to go to the doctor many times when he complained about a pain in his gut or his loose stool but he kept shrugging her off. It was only because he nearly collapsed in the bathroom on Mashujaa day that Flo rushed him to the emergency room.”
Ian was quiet now as we turned into the entrance to our flats. He found a parking space and switched off the engine but he made no attempt to get out of the car. He looked at me and said, “So let me get this straight – are you saying that this whole thing could have been diagnosed earlier and saved Tom and Flo all this heartache?”
“Yes Ian, that is what makes me so angry. He’s your friend and even you had no idea” I could feel the tears welling so I took a deep breath and said, “So why is it that you guys find it so difficult to go and see a doctor when you feel poorly?”
Ian shook his head. “I can think of a thousand excuses but all of them are lousy. We are brought up to believe that it is not manly to cry and complain about pain – so when you have an ache here or a funny itch somewhere else, you say to yourself that it is temporary and will get better. If it gets a bit harsher you say Mimi ni mwanume nitavumilia. Before long you say nitazoea and people wonder why you started walking funny.
“Lack of time is sometimes used as an excuse – we are too busy and have no time to be sitting around in waiting rooms.”
“Some of us say that doctor’s are too expensive – meanwhile forgetting the true cost of serious illness. It is also a fact that men never discuss personal medical issues with their colleagues unless they already have a diagnosed condition. There is also fear of the unknown, Brenda. Most men are afraid that the doctor may find terrible things going on which they would rather not know about. It is easier to be an ostrich and hope that things will go away.”
We both got out of the car and headed for the flat. I felt much better now after our talk. Tom Rida was lucky to have someone like Flo. She had stood by him and nagged him and pushed him until he had sought medical help. Surely I would do the same for my Ian.
But what about all the other men out there who had nobody to nag and push and beg.
Men stop behaving like little boys and go see your doctor.