Dear Doctor, I am African. Not 'Knock-Kneed'.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Image result for black female patient rolling eye

Before I (finally) moved to obodo-oyibo, I had often heard/read stories of people of colour, complaining about wrong or inadequate treatment at the hands of medical professionals.

From misdiagnosis, to lack of any diagnosis. Often stemming from inadequate medical exposure on things related to persons of colour (and some would even argue, systemic racism)

I often treated them as just that; mere stories. After all, were the gods of medicine in the West not what we used to taunt our tropical doctors on their inefficiencies??

Grey's Anatomy did an excellent job in schooling me that doctors in North America were little higher than mere gods. Close to infallible even.


In the time since I moved however, I have had my own personal experiences, which have made me begin to personally understand these complaints of people of colour, and be actively involved in whatever round of treatment I am given.

From flat out arguing with a doctor that the Zika virus was more of a South American phenomenon in recent times, so that there was no need to quarantine me for it, due to a return trip from Nigeria. (Good ole Lady Google settled that argument).

To repeatedly explaining to another good natured doctor, that at 200 pounds and size 10, I was in the best form ever that my 6-foot self had been or could ever be.

I worked out 5-6 times a week, swam, walked, danced. Ate clean. Watched my cholesterol intake. Drank my lemon water. Minded my business. It was not my fault that the 'world' BMI standards surely failed to take into cognisance the density of African bones, in prescribing my BMI as "overweight".


My most recent run-in with the medical profession however left me the most gobsmacked.

It brought me to the initial "aha!" it is either we are in dire need of more persons of colour in the medical profession, or more medical professionals who are more widely travelled, have dealt with a wider demographic of humans and thus, possess a better balanced understanding of the applicability of their craft to people of demographics other than of Caucasian heritage.

(Phew! That was a mouthful)


I had gone in to see the doctor for chronic knee pain, resulting from University-basketball injuries that were ignored, and had years later, began to taunt me.

I explained this history to the doctor, told him of my prior scans even, and the recommended courses of treatment I had received over time, which my then budding career at never afforded me the opportunity to explore. Age now demanded I considered them.

After routine questions, this kind gentleman asked me to stand up, looked at my legs, then looked at me.

"Ma'm, the thing is you feel the pain more because you're knock-kneed, so..."

Whaaaaaat! Everything else flew out of the window.

"I am what??"

"Oh, knock-kneed. This means..." he proceeded to define it.

"I know what knock-kneed means".

Heck, I knew knock-knees since reading Elechi Amadi's the Concubine in primary five, and perpetually smiling at the knock-kneed Wodu Wakiri's comedic story-arch, in the otherwise tragic classic.

At that early age, I'd checked the meaning of "knock-knees", and understood it was what some derogatorily (and wrongly) referred to as 'K-Leg'.

Not that being knock-kneed is a negative label, worthy of rending one's clothes in dire mourning. But I had had enough tort legal exposure in medical negligence cases, to understand that just one 'erroneous' misdiagnosis in your medical treatment could send you on a medical lifetime journey of tears.

"Doctor, I am many, many things. But I am NOT knock-kneed".

He stood up, and showed me how his thighs/legs did not join together at the knees, unlike mine, which lacked the European "see through" all Victoria's Secret models easily boast of.


This fine, lanky gentleman, who could be no more than a size 1.5 (UK), both his legs together not as large as my one leg.

He was comparing his physical Anatomy to mine, in order to convince me that my mother had birthed me with a condition which stayed undiscovered for a huge part of a half century. Just as Christopher Columbus "discovered" America, surely, he had discovered I was knock-kneed.

El Oh El.

I knew it would sound childish to tell him of all the secondary school accolades I won for "Miss straight legs". So I tried to explained to him in the calmest detail the phenomenon known as Anambra Thighs.

The Anambra women of South East Nigeria, in Africa, are not only known for their tall height and big build. They are renowned for their thick thighs, which is where all the fat in their body play monopoly. So that your typical Anambra woman may boast of a six-pac size 8 upper body, yet, be stuck with size 12 pants and skirts.

Because: Thighs.

While we could not boast of the hips of our Imo counterparts, we remained unbeaten in the South-East (and I daresay, the whole Nigeria) for 'ukwu-turkey'.

Come rain, come shine. Even if I became a size 0 tomorrow, those thighs had sworn no retreat, no surrender.

And I love every inch of them. I love the banging body God blessed me with. The identity with which I had been gifted, not just as an African woman, but a constant reminder of my proud Anambra heritage.

I'd be darned if I'd let uncle doctor condemn me to a condition I did not have, because I was the first Anambra woman he had met. And I told him this, in the clearest of terms.

Suffice to note that the pitch he had prepared for a pair of $450 per-foot compression shoes to 'assist' with the 'knock-knees' was an epic fail, as I insisted on seeing his superior, who simply provided the necessary referral that I come in for in the first place. 


Now, this post is not to ridicule or reduce the good work my sisters and brothers in the medical profession do. However, just like in my profession - the legal profession - there is always need for a professional to apply restraint in 'blanket' approaches to every matter, and deal with each on the merits of their own. That knock-kneed persons have their legs joined at the knees, does not equal that everyone whose legs come together close to the knees is knock-kneed.

The demographic heritage of a person is rather vital in the provision of professional services to any person.

That you have limited exposure to predominantly a particular demographic is not a negative reflection on your professional capabilities. It just requires more open-mindedness and perhaps a little more of conscious exposure (research even) in dealing with members of a different demographic.

It also requires actually listening to and understanding your clients' history, rather than mansplaining & Caucasiansplaining their issues away.

My lunch-time discourse the next day about this with other colleagues of colour reaffirmed that it was not "all in my head", as they recounted their own experiences, and how now they held fast to their doctors of Pakistan, South African and Caribbean heritage, due to poor treatment with prior 'traditional' doctors they had visited.

But this does little for the diversity we all are trying so hard to promote, does it??

My take away from all this is that it is not just enough for more people of colour to be in the medical profession. If persons of colour stick to persons of colour, we perpetuate systemic polarisation in the society.

Rather, there is the need for our medical (and other) professionals to be more in tune with the fast changing demographic of our society, and align their services to be better suited for case by case application, rather than holding every demographic ransom to European standards.

Maybe this may require changing some textbook theories. Maybe it may require conferences at national and international levels, and a much wider discourse. Or maybe even it may require moving us all to Mars, and blowing the trumpet on Earth.

I don't have all the answers.

All I know is that next time, please pause and conduct proper research, before you wrongly declare a well-rounded, full-figured, body-bangin' woman of African heritage as 'knock-kneed'.



GIF-credit: (Original photo from the Real Housewives of Atlanta)

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. 😂😂😂😂 They better not mess with an Anambra queen. Knock knee kor. I hope your knees are better now. I learnt a new word too "Caucasiansplaining"... 😂😂