When I regained consciousness, I found myself lying in the middle of the road with a lot of passer-by (or more like spectators) gathered all around me. I wondered what was i doing there drawing such large crowd, when it dawned on me that I was the cause of a serious traffic jam that was building up around the t-junction of the roads in the middle of which I was lying sprawled.
The babble of the crowd finally penetrated my still muddled senses nudging me fully conscious. It was then that I felt a trickle that was gradually developing into a steady flow of warm liquid rushing down my face from my forehead. I stretched an arm to feel the warm liquid and it came away covered in blood. At that exact moment, panic set in bringing an end to the rush of adrenalin that has initially kept me immune to the pain that was now slowly spreading across my whole body. It seemed as if a valve of pain had just been unplugged somewhere and the whole painful emotion was suddenly flung upon me. My whole body ached at every angle most especially my forehead which was at that moment pounding ferociously with blood gushing out. I espied a glance downwards at my formerly neatly pressed gray suit and lilac camisole and took in the new sight of blood stained clothing. Every trace of adrenaline now lost, tears flowed freely down my cheeks in pain.
The babble of the gathered crowd gradually began to trickle into my senses and to make sense. Amid the babble, I began to discern a word here, a phrase there. There had been an accident. An okada (Nigerian pidgin for a motorcycle) accident and I was the sole casualty. Typically, the culprit had speedily zoomed off on sighting his bloodied handwork lying sprawled in the middle of the road. But already, good Samaritans at the scene of the accident were set in motion cleaning me up and carrying me off the accident scene. As I was being carried off, a dizzying feeling began to wash over me and I began to drift into a faint. The last thought I could remember at that moment was that what would become of my face now for I was certain that I would be ghastly disfigured as a result of the cut on my forehead. Despairing, I was swept into a swoon.
That was how I found myself in ward 38.
When I woke up again, I found myself in a 6 bed room ward called ward 38. My not fully conscious sight slowly swept across the room, registering my surrounding and its occupants. Ward 38 was a large, rectangular shaped room with three single hospital beds lying on opposite ends of the room, across a walk through divide i.e. three beds were lying on each end of the spacious room with heads to the wall. Five of the six beds were occupied by patients in different stages of illness. I was one of them. An acrid smell of rot and illness filled the room mixed with a tinge of disinfectant smell.
My first waking thoughts were filled with the last of my memory just before my swooning. What was to become of my face? Would I be disfigured at this young age to face a life time as an ugly woman? I gave little though to the fact that my bodily pains had subsided and that the fact that I could move my limbs freely indicated that I had not sustained any serious bodily injury apart from the gash on my forehead. All my thoughts were focused on my supposed facial disfigurement so much that I forgot to give thanks for my surviving the accident in a near perfect state. But this was before I met my ward mates.
Let me introduce you to them.
Lying on the bed to my immediate left was a woman in her late 40’s, I am not sure what exactly plagued her, but she was so stringed up in tubes and pipes that they seemed to be a part of her person. Some of them were taking fluid from her body, while others bringing fluid into her. She was lying prostrate and immobile on her back and seemed to be far gone from the land of the living. She obviously could not help herself and was at the mercy of the nurses and relatives for every assistance.
Situated on the bed to my extreme left was Chioma who couldn’t have been more than 31/32 years of age. She had her left leg, which was swollen to elephantiasis proportions stringed up with a rope. I gathered she had been in that position for about a week prior to my arrival at the room. I also gathered that her discomfiture was the result of an okada accident similar to mine. However, unlike mine, while I was thrown from the okada, and another bike in full speed lightly bashed my head and zoomed off, hers was the result of being thrown from an okada and her left leg was then smashed by an oncoming trailer. Every slight movement was torture for her so much that I, even though just an onlooker, suffered with her in silence. I cried when ever she cried out in pain. Because her pain was so obvious and heartfelt, one could not help but cry with her. That was the most we could do, cry with her. Neither pain killer nor sedition could ease her sufferings. I happen to overhear the doctor’s verdict on her condition; ‘if she will ever walk again, it will be in six months time (with crutches) and then possibly fully (in a year time)’. Chioma was the prayer warrior of the room. Every morning and evening, whenever she had a little respite from her pains, in addition to praying for her the inmates of ward 38, her family, friends and everybody else she could think of, she vehemently rebuked the doctor’s predictions of her condition in prayers.
Meet Mummy Tosin
Mummy Tosin was lying on the bed, across the divide, opposite Chioma’s bed. She looked to be in her late 40’s early 50’s. But she could have been younger if the ravages of illness have not taken its toll on her. I needed no one to diagnose her illness to me. The sight of her told it all. She was hooked up to oxygen for breathing. Lying on her back in bed, her chest was laid bare. She did not even bother to cover up her nudity with a brassier, because (maybe it was her thinking, I cannot know) there was little or nothing to hide. One of her breast had been surgically removed, obviously to stem the spread of the ravaging cancer virus in her body.
Grandma was lying on the other side of the room, opposite Anita bed and to the left of mummy Tosin’s bed. The name grandma suggests her age. She was obviously aged, but nonetheless ravaged with illness which was no respecter of persons. I could not guess her illness because the symptoms were varied. Her clean shaven head would suggest to anyone radiation/chemotherapy treatment for terminal cancer, but that was before I saw her monstrously swollen right arm which was for the most part hidden under her bed’s coverlet. The arm was so swollen I could have sworn it was bigger than the width of her trunk. I could also see that her pain was equally intense that it seemed to have robbed her of her voice. Only a soundless moan escaped her occasionally parted lips. What her voice couldn’t produce in pain, her visage produced in grotesque twists and wrinkles of endured pain.
Then a thought suddenly occurred to me. Why was I placed in ward 38? Was ward 38 a kind of last stop for the terminally ill? Looking all around me, I could see people in various stages of terminal illness. And then I was still awaiting the results of a CT scan carried out on my brain because of my head on collision with the okada and subsequent 5 minutes black out. It has been over 24 hours now since the scan was carried out and still no news of the scan result. Or were the doctors telling me the truth? Was there something terminally wrong hence their refusal to divulge the news of the scan to me? Only time will tell. For the time being as I patiently awaited the result, I turned inwards i.e. I went within me to that secret place where only me and my God had access to and like Chioma, I began vehemently to beseech him in prayers.
NB: Although the experience, a real and recent one which happened to the author, all names and numbers used here are fictitious.
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