I've had a number of turning points in my life but two stand out as some of the most compelling.
During my internship at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), I came across varying degree of illnesses, thumping my previous encounters at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) by a wide margin.
On that rainy day, I'd gone to clerk a newly referred patient in readiness for the general ward rounds. I got to the Medical Outpatients department, bade salutations to the nurses on duty and sorted through the case notes in search of the one that bore the same name as the referral I had in my hands. I found it, located the patient's bed and made off to introduce myself.
Halfway through my chat, raucous cries for help rent the air and I surmised it was the usual standoff between nurses and belligerent relatives of different patients who were in the habit of violating the official visiting hours. On closer attention, I realized it was something else entirely, it was a medical emergency and relatives of a new patient were literally screaming their lungs out. And trust me, it was deafening. I concluded my clerking and made to wash my hands when I saw the body of a young man lain on the ground, with a doctor peering at what had become an immovable entity. Two young men stood nearby, his friends perhaps, with blood-shot eyes which were indicative of tearful exhaustion and there was an older person too, presumably his uncle or father, uttering incomprehensible words while charging back and forth. Yes, he prayed as he paced. Then, I asked the residing nurse what the case was and got an unexpected response - electrocution.
I took a cursory look at the lifeless body and felt a chill down my spine. He couldn't have been more than 25, very good-looking young man, red Adidas slippers, blue denim knickers, white shirt and a black long-sleeved sweater. I remember clearly. Then I thought to myself, this guy had parents, a girlfriend, an active bank account, dreams, and aspirations, hope. But all that had become void. Electrocution! Prior to his death, he'd been in good shape. He'd only gone to the market with his friends to buy a few things. He stood somewhere, held onto to something and boom! Thousands of electric volts took residence in his body and sent his soul on an impromptu journey.
Oh! Did I tell you that the patient I'd gone to clerk was had been diagnosed of Systemic Lupus Erymatosus? Well, you may need to read that up sometime.
Then there was another young boy, about 12 years old or so. My colleague had done the clerking in readiness for another general ward round. The diagnosis indicated Facial Rhabdomyosarcoma. Initially, I'd presumed it was a mole, an outgrowth of some sort. But I met the shocker of my life when I saw a fragile young man lay helplessly on his allotted bed, with such a misconfigured face you'd wonder if he had two heads. The tumor had become so excruciating that the boy had to be given painkillers every other hour. It was not only malignant; it had putrefied. Maggots and tiny creatures crawled all over it, eating away at whatever they could find.
On the other side of his face was a skin so immaculate you'd adjudge him to be one of the cutest boys alive if a photograph of that part had been taken. He knew he was in pains. He begged to lose an eye. He begged to have the tumor "cut away". I remember him say to us, "Doctor please I don't mind losing my eye, this pain is just too much. Please I beg you."
I stood there, blank, desolate, in awe of life and how it could be reduced to nothing within moments. His parents had been nursing the "injury" traditionally until people admonished them to seek expert intervention. But the tumor had grown from a benign mole to a malignant outgrowth. It had grown too powerful to be tamed at LASUTH and taming it was to gulp a heck load of money. All the mother did was smile at her boy while we reassured her that things would be fine. I met her on my way home about two days afterwards, asked how her child had been faring and she replied in Yórùbà saying everything was in God's hands.
The Hand of God.
He died two days later, with a smile on his face I heard.
I have seen many deaths, tears and anguish. But those two events replay in my head without notice. Oddly, they help me overcome life's challenges and setbacks. I don't know how but they radiate hope, respite and ultimately, inner peace.
Showers of Blessing, Showers of Death.
I will find The Hand of God.