Abigail Abuh held Jerry’s hand as they strolled into the empty waiting room of the Nephrology Unit of the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja.
“You know what, Son?” she asked almost like a statement and fell dejectedly into one of the metallic chairs just beside the exit door. Jerry sat, a bit uncomfortably, on the arm of the same chair but his comfort didn’t matter to him as much as what he was curious to hear her say.
“Most times I feel so terrible, I feel like I brought an innocent sweet lady into pain and anguish. I feel like a wicked person myself. But who can I blame? The medical people that didn’t sensitize us about genotype match well enough in our days? That didn’t clearly explain the dangerous risk in a marriage between two people with the sickle cell trait? Or our teachers that didn’t emphasize it in class? Can you see what our ignorance has caused my whole family? God knows I love my husband so much but Tonia’s situation hasn’t made us enjoy our whole life in the marriage because we are always moving from one crisis into another. We are always in need of who to stand strong for the other all the time. If only I could turn back the hands of time…” She took a deep breath and held it. She didn’t say these words all together like this, it took her so long to voice out the next word as though it got hooked in her throat as she tried so hard to fight back the ocean of tears welling up in her eyes.
“I am so sorry, please. Take it easy ma’am” Jerry tried to console her with his hand across her shoulders. Her pains were obvious and clearly written for everyone to read on the bare wall. The torture of sickle cell crisis, one may never be able to understand the depth unless it’s closely experienced. Jerry thought to do something. Anything that could put a permanent smile on the face of his mother’s best friend. He kept quiet as thoughts ran through his head and then
“But how does it happen?” was the only response he could come up with. He felt like slapping himself for asking such an insensitive question at this time, at a time where the poor woman obviously needs succour and not a question that’ll open up healing wounds, not anyone that’ll remind her of the pain she had seen in the entirety of her motherhood. But his words had gone out already and Tonia’s mum looked up at him with her puffy swollen questioning eyes before responding
“You mean Tonia?” she asked and Jerry nodded in the affirmative involuntarily. She swallowed…
“My daughter started becoming an inpatient in this hospital right from when she was barely one. Your mother thought she was just having weak immunity which was common among babies. That was before you all travelled down to Lagos.” she said, keeping her eyes fixed now on the ‘kidney function’ chart opposite her as though she was speaking from it. She narrated how severe the crisis could be so much that they would give up sometimes, how it usually begins with hand-foot syndrome, then severe pain on her abdominal regions, and how Tonia will roll over the whole floor of the house wailing out in pain. She cited examples on how she practically turned to a nurse during the emergency instances of the unpredictable crisis and the unsuccessful tales of the home remedy most of the times, thereby returning them back to spend weeks at the intensive care unit. That was aside the lots of drugs, opiods, analgesics, prophylactic antibiotics, immunisations and vaccines she took year in, year out.
“Her paediatrician, Dr Ijeoma, taught me how to do splenic palpations for her when pains spring up abruptly. Ijeoma was a consultant haematologist in this same hospital then and they were about a group of eight professionals, doctors, nurses, laboratory attendants alike- all managing my little baby. Tonia couldn’t just be any kid down the road, she couldn’t just join everyone to play around up until she transited to the adult care unit, where Dr Wale took over. She was barely fourteen then… Another ophthalmologist here too, Dr. Uba, told us that there was a lifelong risk of proliferative retinopathy as she aged and that her vision will start getting compromised by those vascular changes. He then said it will lead to retinal haemorrhage, increased intraocular pressure and all those medical jargons… So Tonia will always undergo eye test alongside other series of test during her hospital appointments” she concluded
Jerry wiped out the profuse sweat dripping from the back of his ear to his neck. He tried to steady himself but it seemed all his vasculatures were going through severe spasm. He closed his eyes and felt a surge run through him, the same feeling he got when Tonia walked him out of her room about a year ago. That experience was a bitter one for him. He looked at Tonia’s mum who seem to be shivering in this heated room as her chin bore her head in a dejected manner. Nothing seems to be bringing the succour they both needed right now.
“A moment please ma!” He said, rising up to his feet
Abigail rose her head up instantly. “Where are you going?”
“Right in there” he replied swiftly
“She has been in coma for the past ten hours, Son! There is nothing you can do in there right now” She said, sniffing
“I know… I’ll just… maybe… I’ll just…” he stammered as he quickly turned and walked towards the large passage that led into the wards, before his tears would drop.
Abigail watched him till he disappeared from her sight.
He gently opened the door to the private ward. His heart melted instantly as he saw his heartthrob lying lifelessly on the bed. A drip fixed to her left hand and an oxygen mask firmly placed on her face. He was nervous. His feet felt as though chained together to an immobile wall as he tried to drag them closer to the bed where Tonia lay.
“Beauty personified” he muttered underneath his breath as he ran his eyes from the crown of her hair to the sole of her foot. She looked as petite as always, even more fragile now than he had ever seen before. He knew they would still be a smile on her face, no matter how faint. She always smiles, smiling through it all. He felt a hush of wind blow over him almost lifting him from gait. Oh! How he wishes to embrace her warmly like those times he knew when hugging was their salutation. Those times they both dragged ice cream on the sandy streets of KSU. Another time she feigned faint on his bed and didn’t get up till he gave her mouth-to-mouth artificial respiration. She later said she was only messing with him. Memories of those moments flashed through his head as if he was reading them on the screen.
‘How could she have been a part of him this much…’ was a question he hasn’t been able to provide a satisfactory response to for almost a year now. He flipped the strands of her dark and long hair away from her clay-brown face, sighed and knelt in front of the bed before picking up her right hand and placing a passionate kiss on it
“Do you really have to walk down the same street?” He started slowly. When he said ‘walk’ his lips turned down at the ends to form an inverted ‘U’
She had been unconscious for over ten hours. Yes. There was no way she would hear him. But he will speak, regardless; the heart shouldn’t go unconscious,
“Is this a deliberate act on your part? You can’t hold my hand back anymore as we used to?
I remember everything…
I remember the touch of you.
The smell of your hair as you slept, deeply, in my arms
My life has been empty, Sunshine.
Like a book that left the shelf, I hear your footstep down the hall
My heart is full of pain. My whole being left desolate and cold, and, my love, I cannot live like this any inch longer
I have been watching you Tee, you have been my muse
I’ll watch you forever… I cannot watch you die Baby!” He struggled to voice out as pangs and disquietude almost blocked his airways.
“I cannot continue with this pain of loneliness in my life… Remember, I suffer. I grieved. Looked over your shoulders when you walked me out from you and from your life…
You have been fighting, Sunshine, please fight a little longer, for me, for us
I’ll do everything within my reach to make sure of that…
I truly and deeply love you, Tonia. I love you like my life depends on it…” Jerry broke all out and wept like a baby on Tonia’s hand.
Though my brain didn’t simulate it early enough, I saw when the figure walked in sluggishly into the room, it was as though a tree was moving. Then the figure touched my forehead and later on kissed the back of my palm. I felt the figure kneel in front of my bed before sounds started reaching my ears. The sounds came in bits into my brain and the words gradually arranged themselves to form meaningful statements. It felt like a nursery school pupil struggling hard to grab the basics of the English Language. I wanted to turn but the oxygen mask firmly placed on my nose prevented me and sharp pains ran through my spine to my chest anytime I joggled my senses. My whole body felt weak and numb within. Then I realised indeed, I am just about gaining consciousness.
The letters of the words started simulating slowly in my brain.
I recognise the voice. One, I heard consistently for some months last year. One I heard last thing before sleeping and first thing when I woke. I’ve missed this part of his voice a lot, the parts that breaks down in sober confession and I have been hoping, and maybe praying that I’ll hear it again.
His voice rushed acetylcholine into my muscles and I felt strength coming. My heart skipped turns and turns of beats as Jerry’s voice uttered deep emotions into it.
I suddenly felt like getting up and getting strong.
And for another time in a long while… I felt an impulsive desire to fight for life all over again.
Dr Wale dropped his eyeglasses on the table immediately the unfamiliar face walked into his office and took a seat before it was offered. They both stared at each other for a long while and the elderly man wondered how the fellow got past his secretary into the office without any alert from her.
“I know what it is” The fellow started with a voice that freaked the doctor out.
‘Was this fellow drunk?’ Dr Wale conversed within him as no indication pointed towards that direction. The fellow was dressed responsibly at least, or so he thought. He drew his table phone closer, perhaps he may need to call the security in soon enough but the fellow didn’t seem to bother about any of his actions.
“I also know how it is…” The fellow added, breaking the silence that was beginning to stretch for too long.
“How what is please?” Dr Wale asked quickly and at the same time running out of patience.
Frankly a big cloud of fear was beginning to grab him and he felt really uneasy. He couldn’t place what the fellow was saying, even when his matured brain tried to gather the pieces of the words together to make a sense out of it, the effort felt futile. The most amazing part is that the psychiatric ward was a bit distant from this side of the large hospital. ‘So then, how did this patient escape?’ He asked himself again
“You can use mine”. The fellow’s voice jolted him back from his thought once more.
“Use yours? Use what?” He asked, looking confused
“I can do away with one of my kidneys, right?” The fellow asked the question as though it was a finite statement.
“You?” Dr. Wale exclaimed, forgetting his mouth wide open.
To be continued…
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