Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Living With A Stammer - What It Feels Like

Stammering or stuttering is a speech problem characterised by hesitancy (as words are stuck and won’t just come out), long pauses in speech, prolongation of certain words and repetitions. It mostly starts in childhood during speech development, but it could start in adulthood as well. Stammerers make up about 1% of adult population worldwide.

Ever wondered what life was like for those who stammer? Well, imagine yourself in their shoes. From personal experience, here are some of the challenges you are very likely to face daily.

1.   Tension every time you meet a new person. Nodding and smiling as they introduce themselves, but in your mind you are praying, ‘please don’t ask my name’. Worse still with round table introductions. You get a panic attack as it nears your turn. Unfortunately, there is no way of getting around that. If you decide it is time to use the loo, when you are back, you become the centre of focus.

2.   Being the one that sits still and listens to every other person in a conversation, meanwhile having valid arguments and contributions you just cannot utter. Being mistaken for an introvert. If only they really knew you.

3.   Substituting words mid-sentence and not completing your line of thoughts. Saying only as little as would permit. Coming across as having poor vocabulary. Then people tell you, "you don’t really stutter. I could hardly tell". Well, this is why.

4.   Hoping and praying you get skipped when chapters are being assigned for public reading during  a literature class or Bible study. Yet feeling bad when you are skipped.

5.   Appearing incompetent despite knowing your stuff in toto because of a stutter that strips you of your confidence.

6.   Not being able to say ‘thank you’ when you should. Appearing ungrateful or queer when you rather say, "God bless you" or "Gracias".

7.   When exchanging phone numbers, asking for people’s phones so you can type your number rather than calling it out. No you are not intrusive. You are just a stammerer.

8.   Talking over the phone and the person at the other end says, "can you please repeat what you said, your line is very poor". Well, except you can come up with alternative words, that line will remain poor.

9.   Choosing a less vocally demanding occupation like IT, research, writing despite having a flare for say theatre, stand up comedy, teaching, radio/tv presenting or marketing or if you happen to be in a vocally challenging career, everyday's work is a battle to conquer.

10.   Being accustomed to feelings of embarrassment, self pity, helplessness, anxiety, anger, frustration or social phobia.

I hope with these few scenarios you can understand a little about what stammerers go through and how we feel everyday and have more empathy. 

How Can You Help A Stammerer? 

Let’s start by how you cannot.

You don’t help when you take your eyes off me during our conversation. You only make me feel you are embarrassed by my stammer which makes it worse for me.

You may be tempted to finish my sentence, but that does not change the fact that I must complete it myself as I cannot just hang there. Besides it could come across like I am wasting your time. Then I might want to speed up which makes it all worse. So don’t.

I know there are various options to help stammerers including speech therapy, feedback devices and apps. If you are a stammerer and have tried any of these, please share your experience in the comment section below. Did it work for you? I have tried a phone app that uses delayed auditory feedback (DAF), it didn't help. I am looking at trying speech therapy now. Would appreciate recommendations for any good ones in Norfolk. I have gone months without a stammer and then suddenly relapse. It's very frustrating. I want a permanent solution.

Isaiah 32:4b -  "and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear". This is what I believe.

Radiant ~ May 2019

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Nigerian Doctor: 8 things you should know before coming to practise inthe UK

In my previous post, we talked about certain benefits a Nigerian Doctor could gain from coming to practise in the UK. As doctors continue to leave Nigeria in droves, it is important they get some information lest while building castles in the air, they're shocked by the reality of life in the UK. Dear Nigerian doctor and any intending migrant, here are some facts you must know before coming to the UK.

1.    The salary advertised, though quite attractive is your gross salary. Meaning, it includes your portion and the Government's portion. There will be tax, national insurance and pension deductions before you get your net pay. Also, NHS usually advertises a range. You are more likely to be started on the lowest scale except you have proof of extra relevant qualification and/or experience which you must bargain for.

2.    You cannot run away from tax. The higher you earn, the more income tax you pay. Apart from tax on your income, you also pay tax when you buy a car, buy or rent a house. Don’t worry, you will see what your tax is being used for e.g National Health Service, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, housing benefits, mental health services, drug and alcohol services, etc... just that you may not jump for joy. Take it that you are contributing to a better society.

3.    Nothing is free. You don't enjoy 24-hour power supply at no cost. You pay for electricity, gas, WiFi, phone, TV, water, parking, etc. When you are invited to hang out with your friends, please go with your wallet. This is not Nigeria where the host buys all the drinks. Here you take care of yourself. 

4.    It is a serious offence to drive without a driver's licence or beyond the specified speed limit even if you're the Lewis Hamilton of Nigeria. You will need to unlearn some of your driving habits (e.g the unnecessary use of car horn) and take on new ones to be considered fit for the road. You could drive with an international driving licence but it has a one year validity. In the end, you still have to go through a driving school, get used to the road rules and right-hand drive and pass your driving tests.

5.   Car insurance is compulsory. You must have at least a third party cover. Your car insurance quote could be costlier than the price of your car. You cannot drive someone's car unless you are listed as an additional driver in their insurance policy. Similarly, if someone else were to drive your car, they must be covered by your insurance.

6.    You thought Nigeria’s weather was too hot? Wait till you detest the opposite so much you start longing for home. It is here you understand what it means to say that the basic needs of man are food, shelter and clothing. I never understood how clothing made the list until I came to the UK.

7.    Be prepared for a culture shock. You don’t address a man and a woman automatically as man and wife, it’s them and their partner as it is very common for couples to dwell together unmarried. Do not be surprised to see two adults kissing in public. There may be lifestyles that are in conflict with your beliefs - the kind you didn’t have to deal with back home. 

8.    Complaints and litigation are more common here than in Nigeria. Make sure you have a professional indemnity cover wherever you practise. Protect yourself. Use chaperones for private examinations. Document properly. You will be taught all about empathy and interpersonal skills during your PLAB 2 course. Learn it and stick with it. 

Here are some myths to debunk from your brain:

WiFi is not free. It is just widely accessible. Having access to WiFi might not make you smarter. You are more likely to spend it on Netflix. Having 24-hr power might not make you more productive. After the first day, you get used to it.

So while you might be making plans to leave your country, think about what you are going to encounter at the other end of the river.

Are you in the UK, please share in the comment section, your greatest shock or what you wish you had known before coming.

Radiant ~ April 2019

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Happy Mothers’ Day

She is my mother
My one and only
Hands that held my bum
Lips that licked my face
Breasts that filled my gut

Crying to God
‘Bout my future
Leading the way
Lest I mistep 

Mothers’ heart



Radiant ~ March 2019

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Nigerian Doctor: Why you might want to practise in the United Kingdom

The exodus of Nigerian doctors to the UK and other developed countries has become a matter of international concern. Last year, it was estimated that an average of 12 doctors emigrate from Nigeria to practise in the UK every week. Worse still, according to the General Medical Council, UK, 750 doctors in Nigeria enrolled to take the PLAB 1 exam which held on 14th March 2019. PLAB is the 2-part entrance exam into UK medical practice for international medical graduates. Among the many reasons doctors leave for the UK, here are a few statements I've heard from doctors.

I needed to feed my family.
Who no like better tin? (here for the goodies)
I wasn't getting into Residency.
Everything is wrong with Nigeria.

People have different motivations in life. Some want to be rich. Some want to be influential. Some are driven by passion. Some want to serve. Some pursue happiness. Some are driven by a sense of purpose or calling. Still some have no drive - they will take whatever life offers. From the statements above you can guess each person’s motivation.

While I am not advocating for doctors to leave Nigeria, here are some arguable benefits to consider the option of practising medicine in the UK.

1.  Better practice

Here in UK, you get to practise Medicine as you read in your textbook. Besides there are national guidelines for every condition. The practice of Medicine is easier here in the UK because of technology. Money is not a hindering factor as most people have access to universal healthcare by the tax-funded national health service. If someone needs a CT scan, you go ahead and organise one without checking their pocket. We do proper investigations to identify the root cause of ailments. Also regular research and audits mean that recommendations get updated based on best evidence. Better practice leads to better results which leads to more fulfilment and less frustration.

2.  Proper training

In Nigeria, a post-NYSC (one year compulsory national youth service) doctor working in a private hospital is expected to function as a general practitioner (GP) without any further training aside from medical school and housemanship or probably, his trial and error exploits during NYSC. Here a GP  trainee goes through at least 3 years of post-housemanship training rotating between hospital departments and the health centre, being supervised by seniors, taking 2 exams before emerging as a GP. Roles are clearly spelt out. Even those not in training posts know their limits. You are not allowed to attempt procedures you have not been properly trained for. And you are never alone. There is always a more experienced person to call on. If not physically available, their advice can be sought over the phone. Proper training leads to more confidence and less guilty conscience from causing harm. 

3. Comfortable remuneration

This is one of the major reasons many Nigerian doctors leave. We were promised a comfortable lifestyle when signing up for this career or so society made us assume. However, reality shows that there are many struggling doctors living in Nigeria who work very long tedious hours to keep body and soul together.  While the UK is not the most lucrative country for doctors to work in, it still affords you a fairly comfortable lifestyle. There is a high demand for doctors in the UK. I have not seen anyone who failed to find a job after passing PLAB.

Let’s talk about my experience

When I was in Nigeria I hated Medicine. I felt we inflicted more pain on people in attempt to alleviate suffering. The practice was crude. We lacked quality control. To get blood for 5 tests, I would poke my patient at least twice. Many illnesses were treated blindly. No wonder many diagnoses came down to malaria or typhoid, the latter mainly patient-driven. Patients were either too poor to afford treatment or/and unwilling to pay for them. Finance for healthcare was and still is mainly out of patients' pockets. Even health insurance, for the few that had it, was a scam. I was always haunted by fear from my ignorance and lack of confidence. I applied for 4 training jobs, took their exams but never got listed. There was not much support or training opportunity in the private sector where I worked. I wasn’t complaining about my pay. It was just enough for a single girl's basic needs. I didn't need a car as I lived in the hospital. But I was frustrated as a doctor because I wasn't improving my knowledge or skills.

Frustrated, I sought a way out of clinical medicine. By God's grace, I got a full tuition scholarship into a Masters programme in Public Health at the University of Nottingham in 2016. During my study I applied for Public Health jobs in Nigeria but got no response from any. I saw an opportunity here to face my fears and build my confidence as a doctor while reforming my thinking about clinical medicine. So I jumped on it.

For me, my biggest motivation to practise in the UK was the opportunity to learn the proper way of doing things and build my confidence as a doctor. How can we improve the system when we are so used to improvising that at times we forget things could be done better. Also, I considered that I would stand a greater chance in future of making a change in the Nigerian Public Health sector having gone through both systems. Since I started working in the UK, I have become much more confident because I have more knowledge and experience. I love what I do now which is training to be a general practitioner.

I am by no means calling on Nigerian doctors to evacuate Nigeria. I am only pointing out some reasons you might want to consider when weighing your pros. At the end of the day it boils down to what drives you as an individual. It is unfortunate that Nigeria is haemorrhaging on doctors at a critical rate. But I cannot blame people seeking more knowledge and experience of Medicine. The questions needing answers are: What are the people in power doing to improve the health service, retain doctors and attract those abroad? And how many overseas Nigerian doctors are willing to return to make impact after gaining superior knowledge and skills from developed countries?  

Have you left or are considering leaving Nigeria or have rejected the idea, please tell us your experience in the comment section below. Thanks.

Radiant ~ March 2019

Sunday, 17 March 2019

My UK Driving Practical Test Experience

My driving practical lessons started in October last year. It cost £31/hr. I had almost 20 lessons of 2 hrs each. I only just passed this month after 2 failed attempts in between.

The first time I knew I had failed. It was on a dual carriage way. I had been told the route to take but discovered late that I was to be on the right hand lane and I was almost approaching the roundabout. So I started indicating right to join the right lane. There was a van coming in full speed, not budging. I panicked that I was almost at the roundabout and thought if I started making way into the lane he would slow down for me. That was when my examiner did an emergency stop. The car would have crashed in on me, had he not stopped me. So I wasn't surprised to hear after the test, "unfortunately, you have not passed this time". I still cried though, being my lachrymose self.

The second one took me by surprise. I thought I was good. The examiner avoided the dual carriage way which made things easy. I went through the narrow country roads on national speed limit. I thought to myself, "this examiner is really taking it easy on me. We even had some small talk, asking about my work and if I had to go back to work that day. I thought I had done well, until I heard the bombshell. "Unfortunately... (At first I thought, why unfortunately? maybe she wants to scare me like in Who Wants To Be a Millionaire where they tell you, 'I'm sorry but that was the right answer' so as to get you to cringe initially). But this wasn't Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. "Unfortunately, you did not pass this time". I couldn't believe it. She took me round the easiest route. We even chatted. How could it be? What did I do wrong? Well, apparently, early on in the test, say 5 mins into my independent driving, I had run on 40 mph on a road with a limit of 30 mph. That was where my test ended. The rest was just to pass time. No wonder she took me through an easy route. And the small talk? Maybe she didn't want me to see her as wicked. This time I didn't cry. I was too shocked to cry. I was dumbfounded. It was very painful though. Maybe tears clouded my eyes, but I doubt they dropped.

As fate would have it, my instructor told me she could no longer take me. Reason being she was no longer going to be teaching Automatic but solely Manual. So she passed me on to someone else. At first, I felt rejected. I couldn't believe the excuse. I thought, maybe my failures were not good for her resume. But guess what? That change was exactly what I needed.

It wasn't easy. My first lesson with the new instructor was spent understanding the new car and getting used to the hypersensitive brakes. I had very short time to my next test. I was having to unlearn some methods and imbibing new methods. For example, when it came to roundabouts having 3 lanes on approach. My first instructor had taught me to always use the right hand lane when going to the 3rd exit. Which meant after the 2nd exit, I had to move into the middle lane in order to go into the 3rd exit and be on the left hand lane. My new instructor would rather I approached the roundabout in the middle lane and continue on that lane into the 3rd exit. I also had to learn new maneuver techniques and reference points. For forward bay parking, one used side mirrors for reference, the other used the inner door handle. After two lessons with the new guy, I was afraid I wouldn't pass again. I started thinking of swapping the date, except that it was too late. 

The D-day came. The same lady examiner who failed me in my 2nd test was going to examine me. This time, I made sure to avoid any chitchat. I refused to smile too much. We are here for business, I thought. We passed through a route I had rehearsed with my instructor just that morning and another I did the night before. I failed my "Show me" question because although I knew how to wash my back windscreen in the previous car I used, I had no time to learn that with this new car. My bay parking maneuver wasn't perfect. At least I was in the bay, even though too much to the right. I had no clues to whether i had passsed. I could only hope I passed. Glad was I when I heard her say, "Congratulations. You've passed the test." Surprisingly, I wasn't so excited. My instructor was even happier than I was, saying, "we did it, Chidiogo". All I could do was smile and praise God in my heart. I just needed to pass this time.

My advice to you if you are just starting out learning to drive is this:

1. You need a teacher that will make you better and ensure you pass your test not the one that will make you feel good about yourself.

2. You need a teacher that will tell you the truth as it is, if it means telling you. "You are not ready for this test, you need at least 6 more hours".  Not the one that will say, "I think you are okay. Just a couple more lessons you will be good".

3. You need a teacher that cannot overlook your flaws. One that stops you right there, points it out, corrects it and makes sure you get it right before proceeding to something else. Not the one that will simply say, "be careful next time".

I wish you luck as you learn. Please tell me your experiences in the comment section below. Ciao

Radiant ~ March 2019