Nkili (not her real name) shares what she saw this year. Read on.
All I remember about January are my desperate attempts to make up academically for time lost and grades I let slip in 2012. I guess I did not do enough because March came and I failed the Pathology and Pharmacology exam I sat for in February. I have been told I am supposed to learn some kind of lesson from having to re write that exam, I have been told I will be a better person for it, I have been told failure is character building and what not but I still do not know.
People talk. That was what the month of March was about. You fail exam in this medical school and all of a sudden everything you do is calibrated with that failure.
“This one is still carrying dreadlocks up and down, she will not go and read”
“This one is still following man up and down. She has re sit o”
“All her clique members passed. It is not fair, why did they not carry her along when they were going to read?”
“Even her brother, the black sheep of her family passed this exam once. I wonder why she now went to fail. I heard her mommy was crying”
The whispers were loud enough, the types designed to travel to the ears of the one being whispered about. I never really thought much of the effect of this kind of talk till I was on the receiving end. There was even no strength to be angry. I just learnt to laugh and shake my head about most of it.
April came with nothing to look forward to. Oh yes, I had a resit to prepare for. Staying awake long enough to read was the wahala. I tried the conventional coffee, and then I tried all the stay awake concoctions. Nothing worked. It was like life had become too much and I could not bear to stay awake. Is it when I am driving? I’d just pullover, recline my chair and sleep. Mid conversation? Fall asleep inside my plate of rice and wake up with pepper in my eyes? Sleep, everywhere and anywhere. At a point I thought it was narcolepsy. Whatever, I just wanted to sleep.
The swallowing thing started again in May. It had come and gone on its own the year before and the year before that but this time it was unbearable. I could not even swallow spit without pain. I went to see the doctor, he said it is probably acid reflux. “Take gestid and omeprazole”. I bought the drugs, swallowed them in tears.
Two weeks later, after 2 bottles of gestid and 2 satchets of omeprazole, I am back in the doctor’s office. “Excuse me sir, it is worse”
He says “Ah you have to do a barium swallow then, let us see what is there”. He is talking something about acid and scaring and healing and narrowing but I really am not interested. I just want to eat without crying. I tell my parents, they say “I reject it in Jesus name. Do not let the doctors give you sickness that is not yours. Pray and it will go. You are not doing anything swallow”
I was angry. I cannot eat and you are telling me reject in Jesus name? What exactly are you rejecting? I said nothing, went back to school to face my books. You need to be looking at an ordinary bowl of garri that you cannot eat to realize how underrated food is. I had to stop eating in public. Weird to be eating and crying, then when people ask why I am crying, I end up saying something stupid like the food is too sweet, giving fuel to the rumors of my madness.
Then the phone call came. My elder sister had collapsed during a ward round in UCH. I was worried; I am the one that faints when mosquito bites me, my sister is strong. My parents started the whole talk of prayers and Jesus again. I was tired and angry. They have seven healthy children. None of us have ever spent a night in the hospital or given them cause to worry about our health so they had just gone and taken all that good health for granted.
May came; I was still sleeping like I was being paid to sleep, drinking all sorts to stay awake. Crying and eating. Trying to read for my resit exams. My sister was getting sicker. Calling home, crying, telling us she could not do her work because she was always tired. I thought she was exaggerating (as usual). My mother started sending soup and stew to her in Ibadan. Prayers intensified. She collapsed again. This time my father said “bring my daughter home”
She came home. I cried. My mother cried. My sister was thin and white. And she had these black spots all over her body. Oya, rush rush to the hospital. Do this test, do that test. Doctors where asking why we let it get this bad. I said “Ask your patient, is she not a doctor? Should she not know better” Patient said “I was trusting Jesus to heal me”
This Jesus again. Where is he when everybody is trusting him? Is that what he does? He makes you trust him then he fails to show up?
They said it was Rheumatoid Arthritis.
June brought with it my re-sit examination. Still do not know how I read for and passed that exam. I cut my hair in June. The hair refused to comb and it was annoying me. I sat on the floor and put my scissors inside. When people asked why, I told them it was mid-life crisis and they all laughed. My sister got sicker, she was refusing her medications. Doctors make the worst patients. She could not walk. Joints swollen. She could not even clench or extend her fingers. Her hair fell off in patches, as in no hair areas in front, at the back. We had to cut the whole thing off. She cried. I told her it was just hair and it would grow back, that it could have been her breast. She told me to get out.
July, my sister had to go to a Lagos to see a specialist. Another round of tests. It wasn’t rheumatoid Arthritis. It was SLE. Systemic Lupus Erythematosis. No cure. It can attack any system, this time it attacked the joints making it look like Rheumatoid arthritis. No cure. Take your medications. Pray it doesn’t attack the heart or the kidneys because then….
I was tireder.
August came with my family trying to adjust. We prayed more. Even me, I prayed more. Begged Jesus, made deals. My sister is the most annoying person in this life but God please. I love her like that you know? If not for me then for my mother. Just do it somehow. Last week of August, my mom comes to wake me up at about 4am. “Your daddy cannot move his right leg”
September, still in the hospital. He cannot move his right leg and hand. My mother changes to this wounded tiger before my very eyes. Fighting everybody. Hurling accusations. “This one is responsible, that one did this. Your uncle said he is going to buy your daddy a wheelchair, I told him I will break his head with it”
Old people fighting, father crying. Then you have to be the mature one.
School resumes, no money to pay school fees for the children. We could not access my dad’s account. My mother had cleared hers to pay bills. Health care is so expensive in this country. Education too. I had no idea their fees cost so much. What do they even teach them in these schools? How to pout?
October, younger sister left for law school. I miss her. Did I mention that she finished university as best graduating student? Dad was back home. Physiotherapy. He was starting to move little by little. Elder sister had started taking her drugs (along with Jesus); she was getting and looking better.
November. I started looking for my period. No, I am not pregnant.
I was helping a doctor set line for a baby with RVD. Somehow, the needle pricked me. A little but it did. I laughed so hard. What is this life? Rushed to lab, did test. They gave me some kind drugs. Hay, those drugs? They made me so sick, I stared wondering if HIV was so bad. Repeated the test weekly, so far still negative.
One doctor told me to help him do some typing in exchange for signatures. I agreed and foolishly followed him to his office. I had to beg and cry my way out of the office. He has the biggest hands I have ever seen. He kept on saying “But why did you follow me here? You knew what I really wanted”
I did not. I thought you wanted me to type.
December, did one hormone profile test like that. So expensive. I am not ovulating. Need to correct that if I want kids. Have not gone back to see the doctor. If I tell my mom now, they will say I should pray.
I am tired.
My sister and dad are still alive. They have travelled out to see the oyibo doctors. It could have been worse.
I apologize for how disjointed this is, that is just how it is in my head. My friends think I am deliberately pushing them away. Just too tired to put words together. Except on twitter.
I thank God for life. My family is complete.
No words here