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‘Consciously and consistently strive to make your patients feel that they matter. Then you will realize that you matter too- and the exploding galaxies and dying suns will, for a moment, be eclipsed.’²
My eyes trailed the lady, as she walked in.
She couldn’t have been a day over 24.
The sadness in her eyes bestowed upon her an ancient look; give her a headgear and her face would be mature enough to grace a woman twice her age. On closer observation, her eyes held an additional component; guilt. Something else, there was. I couldn’t place it.
The sound of determined steps behind her, reflexively forced my eyes away from the ancient-young woman to the elderly woman in the doorway, cradling a boy. He couldn’t be less than 2 now, could he?
Although the Paediatric Clinic could not always boast of laughing children with a glint of mischief in each set of mostly brown or blue eyes- pale or not, at the very least, it could always beat its chest with assuredness of one thing; there would be crying children.
Children with shrill voices that were capable of shattering whatever was left of the serenity of the prevailing atmosphere, propelling the doctor with abrupt determination, aimed at discovering the patho-physiologies of these lads and lasses.
Determination and vigor that was probably lost in the hallway that morning from failed attempts at neonatal resuscitation.
The boy in question was not crying.
He simply had a stare.
Empty space, he was staring into, with ardent focus.
Now this; is epic, I reasoned.
Curiosity, once again, played another reflexive trick on me. Rather than medical knowledge, it was Mr. Curiosity that pushed my feet forward till I was inches behind the Paediatric Resident.
This is an exception, rather than the norm; I should state.
As the women sat down, mirror-like expressions of anguish registered on their faces. The older, I noticed, had an additional tinge of anger whilst the younger had an added bout of fear. I called the combinations ‘anguange’ and ‘angufeare’. Still, I couldn’t help but be curious about the circumstances that had necessitated our chance meeting.
‘Mama, ki lo se omo yin?’ the Senior Registrar asked, his face a mask of tired care.
‘O se aisan ni’
‘Lati igba wo?’ he asked again.
‘O ti to ose kan’
This part of the conversation was not new to me. The doctor would ask for the duration of the illness and the patient (or caregiver) would under-estimate. After being jolted back to reality, the truth would subsequently resurface. We had crossed that bridge, in this instant.
The older woman was the mother of the child’s father.
The young lady wasn’t married to the man; but they had fallen in love over books to be read, and made a baby.
The child had been made to visit several places since the onset of his illness a month ago.
Quacks; for quackery was now a stand-alone trade.
Traditionalists; who I suspect, were an offshoot of the elderly woman’s assertion, probably enabled by certain cohorts; and had nothing to do with the ancient-young lady.
And finally, a medical doctor who had referred him to our facility.
He had lost certain functions over the past weeks; and now he was unable to see, talk or walk.
This was the source of ‘anguange’, ‘angufeare’ and guilt.
Each person felt at fault in some unique, intertwined, subconscious way.
The voice of the soon to be Consultant Paediatrician brought me out of my juxtaposition.
The diagnosis was made: Cerebral Palsy.
Prognosis was poor, and hope of full recovery at most; faint.
I watched, as the lady broke into sobs.
I prayed in my heart.
Days into treatment, the child began to cry.
Those shrill tears that remind you of the reality of migraine.
Then, he began to sit up, eat and then, cry some more.
The lady had little sleep.
I knew because I saw her every day on ward rounds and some days on the ward’s corridor. She had grown even leaner and yet, I couldn’t miss those eyes. Oh, those eyes!
The burden of guilt was fading and a glimmer of hope was replacing her anguish. There was no longer ‘angufeare’!
‘The boy may never fully recover, but let us remain hopeful’; the words of the paediatrician on the last ward round before discharging the child home.
The lady walked into the paediatric clinic again, today.
This time, there was absolutely no fear in her eyes.
I searched again.
I was curious because what I saw was even beyond hope. This time, I could recognize joy in her eyes.
In characteristic manner, I name it ‘Johope’.
Nothing short of a miracle.
Tiny pitter-patter of feet make me look down in astonishment.
The boy could walk.
The boy, could walk!
Tiny reminders, that miracles happen.
That the universe, in co-operation with God, grants second chances.
That joy, shouldn’t be ephemeral.
This story was excerpted from Seven-And-A-Half – Memoir Of A Nigerian Medical Student by Dr. Oyepeju Abioye. Please click on the button below to buy yours from Okadabooks.
About the Author:
Oyepeju Abioye is a doctor by day and a writer by night. She is an observer and a documenter of life as it occurs in her environment, believing that every moment of our lives heralds an amazing story. Her pen is her most prized possession. When she isn’t saving lives or writing, you’d find her buried in a Ted Dekker novel (her forever crush!)
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