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Nursing is not about money, but saving lives — Maryam Musa

In 1984, through a government scholarship, Maryam Musa got her certificate from the National Community Health Practice Examination Board, School of Health Technology, Kankiya in…

In 1984, through a government scholarship, Maryam Musa got her certificate from the National Community Health Practice Examination Board, School of Health Technology, Kankiya in Kaduna State. Since then, Maryam has used the unique skills she acquired and her passion to help as many people as she can; tending to anyone that comes her way.

Tucked in a small corner of the Down Quarters community in Kaduna South is a small uncompleted building where Maryam, popularly called Maman Gwari, attends to pregnant women, among others, in a community she has lived in for over 20 years.

The 58-year-old retired but not tired nurse hopes to complete the building of her clinic when she collects her entitlement, which has remained unpaid five years after her retirement.

“I use the drugs from the chemist I run to treat my patients. I charge very little because I have become part and parcel of this community. When they are unable to pay, I treat them on credit,” she said while attending to a patient in her house.

Maryam had just attended to a woman in labour in her small maternity room located within the premises of her home in Down Quarters community when she met with the Daily Trust correspondent for this interview.

After lighting a local stove in her uncompleted house, Maryam, a mother of four, went from attending to patients to answering questions put across to her by our correspondent.

She said: “My patients come from various parts of the state, including Narayi, Mando and Kabala West just so that I treat them, they say. I am patient and I don’t charge them a lot. For me, the joy is in knowing that I have made an impact by treating them in their time of need,” she said.

“Also, there are some young girls I treat who, for fear of being ‘judged’, do not want to go to the Primary Healthcare Centre in the community, but rather come to my house to deliver. I have no choice but to take them in because the whole aim is to save lives.

“I came to Down Quarter in 2000 when I was transferred from Kabala West and it is where I retired five years ago. l have spent 22 years in this community, so the people have become more like my family since my children no longer live with me.

“I was able to buy this small piece of land and build the house and proposed clinic three years to my retirement. I participated in monthly contributions at the office and that is what I used to build what you see here. I finished just one side of the house, pending when government pays me my retirement entitlement, which I intend to use to complete the building.”

There are many cases of nurses harassing their patients, so nurses like Maryam Musa have stepped in to give their patients support and aid their speedy delivery and recovery.

She says her motivation and strength come from the fact that she is helping women start new beginnings with the birth of their babies, having practised for over 35 years.

Sorting through her documents in search of her practising licence, with a big smile on her face, Maryam joked with her patients who had lined up patiently waiting for her to attend to them. 

Daily Trust reports that Maryam’s story is one that gives hope and strength, especially for many that have lost hope in the attitude of Nigerian nurses towards their patients. At 58, she still has dreams of opening a clinic where she can take care of patients who are in dire need of her services.

In 1999, Maryam Musa was promoted to the rank of Chief Health Assistant, a position she retired at. But still determined to make more impact, she applied for a licence to practise as a community health practitioner, which she has been doing for over five years.

She said in July 2019, she requested the payment of her retirement benefits from Stigma Pension through the Kaduna State Primary Health Care Development Agency but it is yet to see the light of day.

“In the course of my work, sometimes during delivery when the placenta does not come out, they call me and I always find a way of bringing it out.

“When I was working, especially during night duty, I used to deliver between 20 and 22 babies in a week. It has been a rewarding journey and I thank God for his mercy on my life and for giving me the opportunity to serve humanity.

“There are challenges but not much. The major one is the character of the nurses and, sometimes, the patients.

“There is need for a reorientation for nurses so that they know how to handle their patients because when women are in labour, they lose their senses and behave differently, so you as a nurse should understand and help her the best way you can.

“I have not encountered many problems with my patients because, wherever I am transferred to, they always want me back because of my attitude and I am always lucky with my patients.

“Sometimes, when they collect delivery and the placenta does not come out, l will be called to help with the situation and with the help of God, l put on hand gloves and bring it out using my hand, or if the baby is having difficulty coming out l also help in bringing it out.

“I recall when l was working with the health care at Air force, there was a nurse that always talked about me and if we were on night duty and a patient came, I would wake them up, telling them that we have work; and most likely we will not sleep till morning.

“It is only God that has helped me through my career because I have seen different types of babies and if you see some babies, you will want to run away.”

She advised new nurses to shift their attention from looking for money to taking care of their patients, saying, “Nursing is not about making money, but about saving lives. That is why we encourage them to work hard and not put their focus on the money aspect.

“If you help somebody, the blessing that God will give to you is more than the money you will collect. That is why you see people praying for me; assuming I was doing a bad thing, nobody will even come near me.

“If I refuse to treat people, it will be seen as if I am being proud because I know how to do the work. So whether you have money or not to pay me, l will help you. 

“My daughter advised me to secure a loan to complete my building, but I am still waiting on God to touch the government so that they pay me my benefits,” she said.

Godiya Sani, a member of the community who has delivered two babies in Maryam Musa’s makeshift clinic, said, “Maman Gwari has a good heart. When I came for my first delivery, she told me I took too long to come and my baby eventually died.

“She advised me that next time I am in labour I should not stay at home for too long, and during my next delivery, she delivered my baby without any complications.

“When you are in labour, she guides and advises you on what to do and she is very patient.”

Also speaking, Aisha Abubakar who had her baby four months ago said, “Maman Gwari is a lifesaver and a blessing to our community. When I am having my babies, I prefer to come to Maman Gwari’s place because she knows how to calm me down and assist me to have a smooth delivery, unlike in the PHC where the nurses will be harassing you.”

“Whatever time you call on Maman Gwari, she is always ready to render her support. At times, we will come to her house after midnight, but she will still attend to us with patience and concern,” she added.

She appealed to the government and well-meaning Nigerians to support Maryam Musa in completing her building so that she can continue to render her expert services to members of the Down Quarters community and beyond. 

From Maryam Ahmadu-Suka & Edward Ojile, Kaduna