Posts Tagged ‘accidents’

IN BETWEEN


In Between

The intrigues of being in the middle have always been with me, although I thought they had ended during my childhood and early teenage years. They came back to haunt me recently in a strange manner. I was born into a family of three children as the second child; I have an elder brother and a younger sister.  When we were children I felt the pain and frustration of being in the middle. My brother would return from school with tales of his new class and we would all listen with rapt attention. When it is my turn to recount my ordeal, I usually notice the attention waning gradually. Then the story usually ends-thankfully I guess for my parents- with “Oh, just do what Dele did when he was in that class”. I don’t blame my parents; I guess new stories just attract most humans more than repeated tales with a change in a few of the characters. They could recite the nuances of all the teachers now, their best clothes and even their favourite hairstyles. My mother especially tried to allow me air my stories happily by feigning audience but I always see the glint in her eyes when my brother starts to talk about the class that none of her children have attended before. While I feel neglected and ignored, my sister is right there with a mess for a lunch box, she only has stories of silly things she did with her friends during the break period. I guess they make for good entertainment too because my parents want to listen and the glint is back in my mum’s eye.

Classroom

I only sit and wonder at why she cannot grow up and stop talking about silly things. Then, I conjure ways to match my brother either in the act of storytelling or in doing something new for the first time. That is the life of the man in the middle; the one or those ahead seem too far away while the ones behind really need help. I want to bring my sister up to where I am whilst aiming for where my brother stands. It is like running forward with your face turned backward. However, I realised it is not always blissful for the guy ahead, he bears responsibilities. My brother was the only one who had the privilege of knowing why daddy would not come home the night he had an auto accident. I was too young to be told. My sister meanwhile was fast asleep. I was too old to sleep because I knew something was wrong but too young to be told what was wrong! Who said I did not want those responsibilities, but will I be able to handle them if given? I don’t know. It has always been that way. It is like a spectrum of drunken men, the guy ahead is clear-eyed, everybody depends on him and he is sure of himself. The man in the middle is tipsy while the last man is drunk. The tipsy man wants to behave like the clear-eyed fellow and he also seeks to help the drunken man. The first man will seek to help the last man because obviously he needs the help the most; he believes the second man can take care of himself. He should be able to anyway, if he concentrates on only one path but he is torn between two ways. When it is time to apportion blame the tipsy gets all the blame since he is liable to making mistakes and he is considered by all to be in his right mind. The drunken man is blameless; he is too influenced to be held accountable for his actions! The man in between always has the greatest dilemma.

Recently, on a mission for an international organisation to help curb the meningitis epidemic in northern Nigeria, I was paired with another doctor as part of a team. Richard is a European, we became friends quickly. We share certain interests and it also helped to work as friends. Habitually, our conversations revolved mostly around medicine, we compared the practice of the profession in our different countries of origin. He respects the knowledge of Nigerian doctors, their ability to manage patients without some investigations which he considered essential. However, he mentioned the disadvantages of this kind of practice which includes wrong diagnosis and increased resistance to drugs that are prescribed carelessly. He was quick to add anyway that Nigeria is better than many other countries. He mentioned some that don’t even have a healthcare system. “Nigeria does not need aid” he said, “She has enough doctors and abundant resources to provide proper healthcare for her citizens”. “Nigerian doctors do well in foreign countries thus they have no excuse for below par performance at home”. Richard obviously did not have enough facts to comment appropriately on Nigerian doctors but he was not condescending; it was professional conversation with candour. I imagined working in an environment with adequate facilities. I also wondered how people in the countries without healthcare have managed to stay alive. It was not difficult to identify the problem; Nigeria in the middle.

Farm

Today, we visited some settlements; they had earlier refused to be vaccinated. We were to find the reasons for their refusal and convince them about the importance of the vaccines. Our first stop was a little village of about two hundred inhabitants; they had a spokesman who could speak some English. They welcomed us without reservations. The spokesman explained immediately we asked that they were very grateful for the offer but they would not partake because they do not believe it will make any difference. His speech was garbled but we understood him perfectly. We tried to make a case for immunization but there was no common ground, they were adamant. The spokesman told us his story, he is a farmer, and not lazy he claims. He tills his land once the rains start; he plants enough crops for his family to eat. He has three wives and fifteen children, they help with the farm. The male children herd his cattle and sheep.  He has friends at the village square where they gather to play games and drink cuddled milk. The village is made up of families like his; they have a satisfied life, they do not want external influences like our vaccines to corrupt their children. The disease will only kill their children if God allows it.

I looked around him, children in tattered clothes struggling over our empty can of coke, lean women carrying gourds filled with water, definitely from far distances. Signs of poverty surrounded him but he did not know it! I told him the correct order would have been for him to get an education, start mechanised agriculture, build silos and barns then he would have food in and out of season. He could feed his family, sell more for good money and drink cuddled milk all day. He looked at me and laughed, his teeth were stained yellowish brown with kola nut. He asked my age, I observed him before answering; he should be about five years older than me. I told him my age, “Are you married?” he asked immediately, “No” I replied. He laughed again, longer this time. I cringed, who should be laughing at whom? He recovered “you can chase after the books forever” he said “but you will eventually have to do the necessary things”; he closed with a little more laughter. I felt stupid, why not? I was laughed at, but this man does not reason like me, we are different. The things I consider important are trivial to him and vice versa. I wanted to continue the dialogue when Richard nudged me “we should go” he said. We bid our hosts farewell, we shook hands and waved long enough to reduce the friction.

On our way, we conversed about the encounter. I admitted I made a mistake trying to solve a century’s problem in a minute. Richard told me to calm down; “the man does not feel any pain about his situation”, he explained “because he does not know any better, he is so innocent”. How could he not know it? I think some things just feel better. Then I realised that he was better than me. I know my situation, I know it can be better but I cannot make it better! He does not know so he does not need to make it better. Moreover, unlike me he feels no pain. I feel the pain for my own circumstances and also for his too. I want to work in a perfect hospital and I also want to turn a subsistent farmer to a plantation owner, even against his wish. The farmer thinks I’m too ambitious. Richard thinks his innocence is beautiful. If I decide to revert and become like the farmer I will be seen as complacent. Can I even replenish my ignorance? I have to stand where I belong. It is my life, my burden and my identity; to be the man in between – for now.

AN ACCIDENT ON SATURDAY


Our hospital is a big tertiary centre located next to a busy major road. The road links two

major commercial towns and serves as an indispensible trade route; all forms of vehicles ply the road twenty fours every day. Commercial and private vehicles of all shapes and sizes race continually at speed the envy of formula one drivers. Expectedly, many end up at our hospital with different forms of road traffic injuries and we had a special trauma dedicated to catering for victims of these road mishaps. However, these accidents have seasons; usually weekdays and during the nights. Not weekends, almost never weekends.

Last Saturday, I was on call in the afternoon when I heard footsteps and the familiar sounds of confusion, the sounds of human anxiety rushing into the emergency room. I knew the porters would have rushed to meet the incoming party with trolleys and the nurses would soon start calling for the doctor. I thought in my head, maybe a drunken brawl, maybe a dying diabetic or an incompliant hypertensive but not an accident – not weekends. I looked up and saw policemen, about eight of them in full fatigues, gun totting, obviously enraged and  the smell of nicotine and ganja pervaded the room immediately; implausible diffusion. Right behind them was a ninth one, on the trolley, bruised and in pain. Finally, the unbelievable, an accident on Saturday, a different kind from the look of things. We got to work; the policeman had sustained a fracture to the right leg and minor injuries to other parts of the body. He had been knocked down by a private vehicle, a lone driver who did not want to stop at the checkpoint. While we were attending to their colleague, the other policemen were busy shouting orders into their radios and cell phones, dictating the plate number and describing the vehicle of the runaway driver. They turned on the frenzy in the room, cursing and stamping their feet, swearing in turns – they will surely kill the runaway driver once they find him.

Thirty minutes later, I heard sounds again, this time the sounds of human anguish. The incoming party was led by policemen again equal in description to the ones that came in earlier. On the trolley behind them was the man in anguish, middle aged, bruised and bloodied – the runaway driver. He had been beaten and battered, he was still being beaten on the trolley. As he was being wheeled in, the first set of policemen were having a go at him with limbs and guns. The new set of policemen also became angrier at the site of their colleague with his broken leg.

“Please, please can everybody wait outside?” I had to step in and exercise my authority.

“Doctor, Doctor please wait, let me break his head, let me break his own leg too” they kept trying to increase my workload! While some were moving out, others were still inflicting pain on the runaway driver.

Eventually, they moved out but continued the frenzied phone calls which brought new sets of policemen to the emergency room at five minute intervals. With every new set comes new pain and more injury for the runaway driver. It was becoming uncontrollable; the nurses started asking me for a solution. I was confused, I should call the police, but they were already all over the place trying to kill my patient.

Then, the runaway driver started to convulse; great jerky motions shaking his entire body fiercely. Suddenly, there was increased activity in the room, we, the hospital staff rushed to his side trying to control the convulsions, the policemen in the room ran out instantly probably out of fear. Outside, they resumed more charged phone calls. They started holding a meeting, discussing and arguing at the same time, they seemed to be in disagreement over something and later, an agreement. After some minutes, four of them came into the room; obviously representatives from the consensus of the meeting.

“Doctor, we want to take our friend” the spokesman, a burly and intimidating figure told me.

“Which one?”

“That bastard no be our friend, na you no allow us kill am. Na the policeman we dey talk.” I think pidgin is his language for expressing anger.

“Where are you taking him to with a fracture, his X-rays just got in. He will need a cast and maybe surgery.” I was trying to explain the situation to them.

“Doctor, no worry. We go take am.” He insisted. “Abeg, come write everything wey you wan write. We dey go.”

While I was trying to stand my ground, I was aware of the amount of guns on the premises, the urgency of the assembled men in uniforms and the lingering smell of stimulants.

I went to the injured policeman and asked him “your friends want to take you away, do you agree?”

“Yes doctor, please release me quickly.”

“You will sign that you discharged yourself against medical advice”

“Doctor, bring the book quickly, abeg. Please.”

While we were still discussing, the runaway driver convulsed again. This time, noisier and more violent; spilling frothy saliva from his mouth. We rushed to him again, I was about to sedate him when I saw him wink.

“Did I see him wink?” I asked myself. When people convulse, they don’t wink!

I withheld my needle, he stopped spontaneously. Meanwhile, the agitation on the part of the policemen had doubled; they had already started wheeling their injured colleague outside. I had to run after them to sign the discharge against medical advice form. They disappeared in a jiffy making screeching sounds with their departing vehicles. Peace returned to the hospital, we all got a moment of respite.

Five minutes after they left, the runaway driver sat up on his bed and coughed, the type of cough that says “I’m here.” He caught our attention and we all went to his bedside.

“Where did you learn to convulse like that?” I asked him.

“Doctor, I had to do something o. If not those people for kill me.” We all busted into laughter, he had truly saved himself from the helpless situation.

Everybody congratulated him for a job well done; it seemed more like we were congratulating him for hitting the policeman than for the convulsions. We gathered round and listened to his story, nobody condemned him for the terrible thing he had done. He did what we all wanted to do but have all been too civilised and well behaved to do. At that moment, by my patient’s bedside with the nurses and porters, everybody shared their different experiences of police brutality. We were bonded in the common hatred of the lawless who have become the law.

Finally, an accident on Saturday; a different kind though.