That day changed the rest of my life. It gave me a vitality for life that I have never had before. Was it because I was in close proximity to death? Was it because I realized life is shorter than I thought before?
‘Oliver, examine that patient,’ Dr Tembo said expectantly as he always did when there was something for me to learn. Sinclair was by my side. He took the stethoscope that was on my neck and together we went. He was the first one to see the patient and I told him to be silent so that I too could see her then we compare our findings. My patient’s eyes were wide open. Inside them I could only see the reflection of myself and the light that I shone on them.Her hands and feet were cold, no pulse,no breathing, no heartbeat, pupils were unresponsive to light. The patient was dead and Sinclair agreed too.
The doctor looked at us, came and stood between us , held our shoulders and told us the patient is gone. I don’t know where she went to but she was in another world, racing down a tunnel that we only see in movies’ impression of death. The doctor requested me to write down my findings and certify her dead. This was something I never saw myself doing. Paradoxically, I knew at some point in time I will have to do it. I was in the middle of my last sentence when I looked up again to see whether she was really dead. She was terribly dead. There went my last sentence ‘…the patient was declared dead at 4.30pm.’ I signed and my doctor counter signed.
Dr Tembo looked at us again. This time I knew he had something serious to tell us. His eyes could no hide how serious the matter seemed. He took the fatherly role and told us,
‘ Before you die, make a difference in this world, let it be better than it would be without you. Never settle for less in life. Go for all you ever wish for. Whichever talent you have, use it fully to the point where you will stand boldly before God and tell him “ God you gave me a talent and look, there is none left.” You guys can be great, only make a decision and stick by it. God intended all men to be great but some chose mediocrity. We come unbidden into this world, you are lucky if you find a purpose beyond misery starvation and early death. I am glad I found a purpose and my purpose was to be a doctor.’
I was listening keenly, my heart beating fast. This was a rare kind of a doctor telling us rare kind of things. Sinclair was lost in the world of greatness he foresaw. A moment of silence ensued. The nurses had long left, their shift was over and others had not come in. I felt the words pierce my heart, challenging me to dare great things, to realize my potential and to go beyond my expectations. No one was talking, the silence was becoming noisy, there was no music, there was only a breeze, a gentle breeze and the grandeur of death.