by IfeOluwa Nihinlola
Part V of VIII: Vortex
We arrived at the hospital at midnight after I had vomited all the drugs I was given during the day, and my fever had reached an unbearable level. From the moment we crossed the threshold of the emergency ward, mother became a force of nature. She formed a vortex in the ward that drew everyone in the hospital out. Well, it was more like they were out of position and she pulled them into place. The man who was supposed to switch on the generator snapped into duty. The woman who was supposed to prepare the results of blood tests I submitted samples for in the day, pulled out a lamp to finally write out the results. The night nurse dressed in plain clothes was the worst hit of them all. It did not help that she spoke like one who had no idea what she was supposed to do.
Why are you in plain clothes? Where is your uniform? Are you just going to fold your hands and watch a patient whose temperature is above forty degrees? Do you know what that means? Where did you study? Who certified you to practice as a nurse?
She made phone calls. Went to look for consultants in the hospital she knew from decades ago working there as a nurse. She dragged out the doctors and shouted at them till there were two consultants and about three other doctors in the room trying to figure out what the cause of my fever was.
I thought she was doing too much, and told her as much. She just ignored me. She was not going to stop till they found out what was wrong with her son. Father said I should have understood that that was how she operated, how she got things done. That was on Saturday night. On Monday, she was required to travel to Benin for a conference. All of her force and fury were reduced to a voice in the phone, snapping people to attention.
When she was later called and told that I had been taken to ICU, she said she left the conference room and went to the toilet to pray. She of the bullish faith knew she wasn’t about lose a son, but she needed to check with God for reassurance. When she returned on Friday, all her force came back with her. Doctors were bombarded with questions until she was given full details of what had happened and was happening. I remember finding it remarkable that through all of that, she did not come to the hospital once looking sloppy. Even in the middle of the night. She would float in again at daylight, trailed by her mild perfume, and cause everyone to take positions again.
Once, while she was not in the ICU, two doctors came in and one of them started to mimic her, dramatizing how she had upended the hospital on the night of the emergency. For some reason, he felt he could do that while I and my friend were present and nothing would happen. He perhaps reckoned that there was none of the older people in sight. My friend left the bedside and walked towards him at the nurses’ table. He had never been one to keep his emotions in check and that was good, because I was angry but could do nothing about it. I didn’t even have the energy to display any anger in my countenance. He challenged the doctor, asking him what he thought he was doing, lecturing him on the conditions of the hospital that night that warranted all that. The doctor left the unit flustered.
Months after leaving the hospital, I still wonder what made the doctor so bold. I can understand him doing it to entertain his colleagues, because it’s easy to make fun of the misery of others. I can’t pretend that I’m a saint in that regard, but somehow, he thought we would have no choice but to watch him do it. Perhaps he didn’t think at all, but just did something he’d always done. After all, we were mere patients, and it was convenient and probably better for him to think of us that way. To strip us of some of our humanity so he could at least laugh and have fun at a job that would at some point threaten his own mental health too.
After I left the hospital and became well enough to receive occasional visitors in the house, mother became the designated narrator of the ordeal. She was also the one other relatives told of the horror they felt when they saw me at the hospital. Father wouldn’t even say the proper name of the illness. All he would say was: he had an infection.