These are the times when I have so much thoughts that they spill over to this place. This little corner that haboursharbors my fears, this space that carries my life’s elixir, this place of nightmares and dreams. This place of ones and zeros. Death smells like a coward, hides its face, celebrates its victory in clandestinityclandestinely and is a master of guerilla warfare.
The Ngong Road snakes its way to the other side of the horizon separating two buildings that pierces the Nairobi skyline. Each building stands aloof enjoying the tropical sun, they stare at each other in rage. One looks at the other condescendingly wondering why it had to be located next to it, this one is a concrete of sophistication, opulence and class. The other one looks rather emaciated, years of neglect have finally taken its toll. It struggles for life though, it is in an intensive care unit its life slowly fading away but it cannot let go for it is the hope of forty million people, the blood that flows in their vein. It will fight for her people. On one building the name shouts drowning the voice of the other.
The ten storey concrete with its faded walls that have seen pain, despair and hopelessness. Its broken lifts that have carried so many a weight that it had to rest. Its bulbs that lights not for there is nothing to be bright about. Its broken beds who as the lifts have refused to carry any more weight. Its rooms have adopted this strange behavior of always opening her doors and thus hosts more than enough guests.
On this side of Ngong Road you meet that ancient coward, at the entrance at the exit, at the corridors that ancient coward lurks everywhere. The other day he took away a young boy saying the boy had meningitis or the other day when he took away that lady whose beauty had withered away because of a malignancy. Yes that thing that eats you. That lady had spent her energies fighting this thing eating her and so she could no longer fight death. That coward. What about that time that he took Nyatikes brother because there was no space in the ICU so death got him a space, a dark, quiet, cold space unknown to many a man.
This dystopia has taught me how to be human, how to feel pain, how to share a laughter, how to smile and how to hope. Hope, that thing with feathers. To be human is not to live, to be human is to look for that treasure, that gift of life that we often ignore.
Muthoni was wasted, her hairline receded deeply into her head exposing her prominent forehead. Her cheekbones hanged rather threateningly and for a moment one would think they wanted to pierce out of her cheeks. Her eyes were unussualyunusually spheroid and layedlaid lazily in their sockets, they were empty, sad and stared right into nothingness. Her abdomen was grossly distenteddistended, here such an abdomen did not carry life unlike in Obstetrics and GynaecologyGynecology ward where such abdomens brought forth life. In one ward such aan abdomen was heralding the beginning of a life and in another ward it was a fight between this life and the next. Her almost lifeless body sank into the bed making it difficult to discern between the two. She gasped for air and groaned calmly as she held firmly to her rozarie rosary hoping against hope that the Umpire of fate would spare her sinful soul of this anguish.
A deep look into her eyes could tell the desire to live burnt furiously inside. They sang a song to all those who cared to listen that even in this despair she hoped that one day she would be back on her feet selling mboga at Kawangware bus stage, gossiping with other women about these young girls and their ‘sponsors’, evading ‘kanjo’, listening to her husband’s never ending beowlowing bellowing after having one too many and picking him up from the trenches lest the raging Nairobi waters carried her dear husband away. She longed for her children, to share in their sorrow and in their laughter. Was Omosh still chasing after her teenage daughter Wamboi? Muthoni longed to get back on her feet so that she would hit Omosh with a stick break those little legs that carried him to disturb her daughter. Njugush her naughty boy, Was he attending school?
‘She is in pain, we cannot leave her like that.’
‘But itsit’s already fifteen minutes to nine, the doctor on call will check on her.’
‘No, you get an infusion set, a urine bag and a cannula.’
I was exhausted. Eight hours later after had arrived in the ward and still no rest. The previous day had been admission day and as a result the ward had received an avalanche of patients. Dr Ogoti had been called in to assist with collection of specimens, inserting Intravenous lines and any other emergencies. I on the other hand was an apprentice thirsting for this ancient art. Dr Ogoti had patiently attended to each patient and answered my incessant questions without losing his temperance. Muthoni was our last patient already we had successfully inserted an intravenous line, an epic battle that was, I had met her in the clinic earlier on. Dr Ogoti had already made a quick a clinical judgementjudgment that she required an urgent ascitic tap to relieve her from the respiratory distress and pain she was in due to her distended abdomen. I did not see the urgency and felt guilty about it. I wondered why Dr Ogoti wanted to break his back doing so much yet this was for the doctor on call. Such times when exhaustion had set in and in a mad rush to learn so much in such a little time I would only look at the disease and forget about the patient. A grave mistake that was. As I gave Dr Ogoti the set he had ordered he looked at me and smiled, that look that stares deep into the soul.
‘As you learn medicine son you will realize our greatest motivation is the patient comfort and wellbeing nothing else.’
He hurriedly set up the tap meanwhile carefully teaching me the procedure. As the tap drained the ascitic fluid Muthoni gave out a sigh of relief and Dr Ogoti smiled warmly as he held his chin high. I smiled back in admiration looking at this colossus of a man. A hero he was and a hero he has always been. We stepped out of Muthoni’s room as the nurse was already preparing to start her night shift.
‘Ogoti you are still here?’ the nurse was puzzled.
‘When duty calls sister we obey.’ Dr Ogoti replied as they both burst out in uncontrolled laughter.
‘Before I forget sister kindly check on any patient who has no intravenous line or any emergency before I leave.’ Dr Ogoti reminded the nurse.
‘Go home Ogoti you are tired.’ The nurse affirmed.