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FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE (Luke)

FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE

LUKE

1983

Daniel clung to the banister and groggily climbed up the stairs, his little head swaying from right to left. He had never had this much alcohol to drink in his life before. He had had a few shots of palm wine at the presidential villa when he suffered a mild case of conjunctivitis and his grandfather had told him it was good for his eyes. From that moment on, his father had been giving him little sips from his brandy, but nothing like today when he had downed almost half a glass of the burning liquid he had found in the kitchen. Now, he was sleepy and he was going to climb up to his room to give into nature’s dizzy spell. He knew his mother would be angry at him when she got back from church but she would pour out her anger on his father instead for allowing him drink.

He crawled up the stairs and the first thing he saw was the children’s sitting room with its large open glass doors that led to the balcony and for the drunk little boy, his bedroom seemed too far away at that moment. The sitting room welcomed him gladly and he staggered into a blast of cool air that hit his face and made him feel tingly, clearing  his dizzy spell momentarily. With a few more steps, the five year old walked to the balcony and stood before the railing and in no time, still standing, he rested his head and drifted off to sleep. The last sounds he heard were the voices of his father and his soldier colleagues doing their usual Sunday alcohol get-together downstairs.

Now last month, Luke and Emem had gotten into one of their violent fights in which Emem went into her usual fit of throwing things at Luke. It started in this sitting room. She had hurled a heavy encyclopedia at him, he moved backwards to the balcony to dodge it and in the process, fell backwards, slipped on one of the twins’ toys on the floor and hit his back on the railing. They ended their fight that night and each went to their separate bedrooms but none of them knew that Luke’s fall had made the old, rusted rails loose and the moment their little boy rested his weight on them, they gave way and he fell to the concrete floor beneath.

36 Hours Later

Dressed in casual clothes and accompanied by Jamila and a plain clothes bodyguard, Igwe followed a nurse to the private wing of the Head Trauma Center in West Virginia, USA, where Daniel was hospitalized. When he entered the room and Emem saw him, she rushed into his arms and broke into tears. Luke was sitting in a corner, Daniel’s twin on his lap, deep in sleep.

“It’s okay, Emmy. Daniel will be fine,” Jamila assured her and offered to take the sleeping child from his father but Luke held tight. He hardly noticed the presence of anyone else in the room; his eyes were bloodshot and distant. Occasionally, he would turn to his favorite son and stare at his frail body lying on the hospital bed, his arm over his toy robot but with no sign of life in him. The faint regular sounds coming from the EKG and a respiratory machine were the only assurance that the tiny heart was still alive. Luke feared that any minute now and it would all be silent. Then the world will blame him and tell him it was his fault his wife spent the whole of Sundays praying in church; if he was a better husband and father, she wouldn’t need God. They would also tell him it was his fault he had chosen Daniel as his favorite, pushing David to his mother; if he had loved both boys equally, not separating them, they both would have been under their mother’s protective radar and none of this would have occurred. They would blame him for leaving his glass of brandy unattended in the kitchen and say it was his fault the boy learnt to drink alcohol. Yeah, Luke knew very well what would happen. For the rest of his miserable life, the people that lived in that perfect world in his head that reality could not catch up to, would say the death of Daniel was all his fault.

“I’ll get the doctor,” said the nurse who brought Igwe in and she walked out. With his arm still around Emem, Igwe walked to Daniel and slipped his forefinger through his open palm and mumbled a prayer, then he looked at Luke who was not there with them and sighed. Overnight he had turned into a shadow of the man he used to be.

A doctor walked in, followed by another and a third. Emem went back to her seat beside her son and Igwe turned to the practitioners. The first doctor gave him a handshake, “Mr. President.”

Igwe nodded a brief greeting in return and acknowledged the other doctors.

“I am Doctor Steven O’Grady,” the first introduced, “and these are my colleagues, Doctors Scott Coleman and Wendy White.”

“Can we do this outside?” Igwe said walking out and they followed him to the hallway.

“Mr. President, my colleagues and I sympathize–”

“Get on with what you have to say,” Igwe cut him off.

O’Grady adjusted his glasses and began, “your grandson suffered from multiple fractures in his arms and legs–”

Igwe interrupted again, “I already know that. I want to hear about his open head trauma.”

“Yeah…he suffered severe open head trauma from the fall that–”

“Why are you referring to him in past tense?”

O’Grady became uncomfortable as he cleared his throat and continued, “I’m sorry sir.”

“Is he going to make it?” Igwe asked.

“I…am afraid not, sir. Daniel is…brain dead. I’m…sorry, Mr. President.”

Igwe crossed his arms and leaned on the wall beside him, looking straight into O’Grady’s eyes, making him even more uneasy. “So you’re saying there is no electrical activity and no clinical evidence of brain function?”

“Yes, sir. We did everything but it seemed apart from the insult of the initial trauma, he suffered from secondary brain injury maybe through transit…”

Wendy White cut in, “the doctors back in Nigeria did a great job or it could have been worse than this.”

“How are you sure he is brain dead? Is he not the one I see lying on the bed in there?”

O’Grady replied, “there are certain tests we ran which proved a complete absence of brain function—an absolutely flat electroencephalogram–”

“But he is still breathing!”

“Mr. President, to state or pronounce a person brain dead in the United States is a severe medical and legal process, usually requiring neurological exams by two independent doctors, hence the presence of my colleagues. The procedure entails scrupulous examinations to establish if the patient is really brain dead or is in a coma.”

“Just how sure are you that he’s not going to make it?”

White stepped in again, “Mr. President, sir…all you and your family can do right now is spend time with him.”

Igwe took a step closer towards O’Grady, piercing his eyes with his. The doctor tried to hold his gaze but failed and looked down. Something about the man’s eyes scared him deeply.

“And if I am not satisfied with your drawn conclusions and I decide to take him elsewhere, would it be a waste of my time and my resources?”

“This hospital is the best head trauma center in the world. Yes sir, yeah, it would be a waste.”

Igwe rested a warning hand on his shoulder for four long seconds. “For the sake of your reputation, pray to God that you are right.”

He walked back inside.

A Day Later

A second bed was brought into the room for David and placed beside Daniel’s the night before. If Luke ever thought any of his sons was going to spend time in the hospital, it had to be David who was born with Chronic Lung Disease. Daniel also had his own health issues but he overcame them in the first two months and grew to be a normal baby while his twin was near death his whole first year. It was during this time, Luke bonded with Daniel and changed his name to Leonel, meaning ‘young lion’ for to him he won where his brother lost. Now, he wasn’t so sure; the picture looked utterly hopeless. Both boys were bedridden and the doctors had told him this morning that if David didn’t get better by the next day, they might have to transfer him to another hospital for specialist care. His recovery depended on his brother’s a great deal. Luke understood this; he was a twin himself. So different from his sister, Jamila in so many ways especially in ethical matters, yet there was a bond between them that made him feel her heart millions of miles away.

Luke shifted his eyes to his wife and wondered how she was bearing up. The twenty-two year old who was more woman than most her age was resting on a couch by one of the windows, her eyes to the ceiling and lips moving in prayer. He loved her immensely but would never tell her lest it got to her head. Truth was he was madly in love with her and would turn the world away in an instant just to be with her for all of his life. He knew he had his guilty pleasure with his long-standing mistress who also had a son for him but Emem would always be the One. No one knew her like he did. To them, they saw a girl filling in shoes too big for her; to him, she was all woman if she could take him and his crazy all in and not lose herself in the process. Beauty became her so easily that he wanted desperately to tell the world what he felt each time he looked at her. She had this dimple on her left cheek that deepened whenever she smiled and he would just forget his name and become lost. Or was it her graceful fingers that God created and fell in love with so much he just had to take away her voice so the world could see his handwork? How about her lips that hardly ever moved yet spoke volumes every time he felt them between his?

A shiver passed through Emem and she was forced to open her eyes and look in the direction of the door and she saw Luke staring her way. He noticed her looking back at him and pulled himself away from his brief succor to the reality before him.

“The American Catholic people, and a whole bunch of religious zealots are standing outside in prayers and are going to be there all day and the next until they pull the plug.”

Slowly Emem sat up, and looked at him with a question in her eyes.

“May we speak outside?” he asked and she picked her crucifix and followed him out. He gently led her to the wall beside the window and she peeped in on her boys. “Em, Leo…Daniel is brain dead, meaning he is dead without that machine in there. The doctors are waiting for your word.”

She shook her head vigorously and turned away but he blocked her with his arm.

“He is dead. Read my lips, Emem. Dead. You have to come to terms with the reality of the situation.”

She shook her head again.

“There are people outside who have better things to do with their lives and who I would not have putting their white American noses into my personal affairs. Do you hear? So I want you to tell the doctor that he can just end my son’s misery or I swear that I will enter there and do it myself.”

She held him tightly, begging him with her eyes and noticed that he was in tears.

“Give me one more day,” she said, her lips moving. “Just today, and you can do anything after that.”

“One more day for what? For God to step in and do magic?” He forced her head to the window to look at their sons once more. “Do you need a sign from heaven before you can see that God has abandoned us?”

She tried to move away from him but he pushed her back.

“Emem, he is gone.” His lips trembled fiercely, “please, let him go. I can’t…I can’t stand him like this. I blame myself and forever will but please, lessen the pain for me.”

Still mouthing her words, she hit him in the chest, pushing backwards, “Daniel will live!”

He shook his head in tears, drew her back and rested his weight on her. “Please, please hold me. Please,” he sobbed. She put her arms around him and as he felt her hands gently caress his back, he held her tight for strength.

 

To be continued. . .

 

similar posts–> for better for worse (Emem)

for better for worse (Evelyn)

Makayla’s True Story (what i never told anyone) by Sally

The amazing story of miraculous recovery and healing of Makayla continues. i’m aware that some of you never got to reading the second page because of technical difficulties and i apologize for that. If you are one of such people, please scroll down and click on page 2 for the concluding part of the story.

I want to tag this category What I Never Told Anyone. I’m leaving it open for anyone who has a true life experience to share. This is a forum for open and honest conversation and I would be glad if you’re bold enough to talk about your life as I am about to do. Of course, if you choose not to reveal your identity, it is okay.

MAKAYLA’S STORY

I struggled with the choice of whether to share my story or not. I struggled for months. At a point when I was going through what I was going through, I was very certain I would share it but later down the road, I wasn’t really sure I wanted to let this part of my life out. However, lately, people have been asking me questions on Facebook and I just felt it would be best if I told my story or rather my baby’s story.

Makayla was born on the 5th of July 2011. I didn’t have a hard labor because the doctor made things easy for me and Owen (my husband) was there the whole time. She came at exactly 6am that day and after excruciating pushing, I was finally relieved to be free of her. I can remember clearly how the doctor lifter her in the air to pass her to the nurse when my eyes caught something unusual on the lower part of her back. I thought maybe I wasn’t seeing clearly but I focused my eyes again and sure enough there was something like an extra skin or so (like a growth) in that area. Immediately my smile drained but I was not so cheerless because she was very beautiful. However, I couldn’t ask the doctor what it was for fear of what he might tell me, so Owen did and his reply was that it was nothing that couldn’t be handled.

I left the hospital less than two hours later but with a letter from the doctor referring us to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). He emphasized the urgency and told us that the earlier they treated her, the better. Up until that moment, none of us knew how serious the case was going to be. Two days later, my mother-in-law accompanied Makayla and I to Luth to Children’s Emergency and there began my journey of shock. It started with a boy brought in burnt from head to toe in a domestic fire which claimed his mother and almost his sister. The boy was just eight months old.

The attending doctor saw us and started asking me routine questions about my pregnancy if I drank alcohol or took hard or prescription drugs and all that, and I answered him (still I was oblivious about what was happening). Then he took Makayla’s blood for some tests and told us we were going to be put on admission because she was going to be in surgery the next day. I didn’t like this. I hated hospitals. I really hated hospitals. We were given space in a crowded room where I could sit and watch her while the doctors did their rounds. I think I must have been sleeping when the first set of doctors came. I answered routine questions politely and then one of them, Doctor Ojo said, “madam, do you know what is wrong with your baby?” and I answered that I knew she had Spina Bifida according to what my doctor had written in the letter. Prior to this, I had not Googled it. I was too tired. Then, the doctor began breaking it down in layman’s terms for me, “Spina Bifida is congenital disease that occurs in babies in the first month of conception. Something happens and the spinal cord does not close up properly and that is why you see that thing on your baby’s back. We are going to do a surgical repair on that area and you can go home in a few days.”

I was happy to hear that but if any of you know me well, you would know that I didn’t let things just go like that. I asked how this disease could affect her and he looked at me (for he was kind) and thought I was too young to tell me the truth and then he asked for my husband. Owen was at work. I told him to tell me whatever, that I could take it.

“Spina Bifida does damage to the spinal cord and this affects the lower part of the baby’s body. She might not be able to walk and may have to use a wheelchair all her life. she won’t also be able to control her bowel and bladder movement and it may also affect her brain.”

He finished and I was staring at him blankly. He tapped me gently, told his other junior doctors to take notes and walked away. I sat down dazedly and it didn’t take long for reality to bite and I began to cry. Owen came and I told him and my mother-in-law what the doctor said and though they did their best to reassure me that everything will be fine, I wasn’t seeing any light at the end of the tunnel.

Surgery was slated for the next day and the dawn of light on a bright morning filled me with hope and that was what took me through the day. The surgery was successful and we were led to the post surgery ward. We walked in and were offered bed. The nurses were kind at first until they laid down their rules.

  1. The mother is not provided sleeping space. She would sit beside the baby during her whole stay in the hospital. Should she get tired and desire to lie down, she can do so in the visitor’s room. Her baby would be looked after y the nurses (big lie).
  2. The mother must be up as early as 4am to bathe herself and the baby and clean her corner (was this secondary school?).
  3. Visiting hours are from 5.30 to 6.30pm (ridiculous!).
  4. Mothers are not allowed to eat around their babies for hygienic reasons (understandable but I broke the rules so many times).
  5. And they added many more other rules that I can’t remember now.

I hated the place instantly and I asked what it would cost to get a private ward. I would find out later that deposit alone cost over a hundred grand and one week’s stay could amount up to half a million. I had no option than to manage. What I thought was going to be a few days’ stay turned out to almost three months. These were the factors that prolonged our stay.

  1. 1.       A Nurse’s Carelessness

Four days after the surgery, the doctors were doing their morning rounds and discovered that Makayla was healing nicely and ordered a particular nurse to apply fresh dressing. If I knew then what I know now, I would have stopped her when she was disinfecting that wound. She dipped the cotton wool in saline water and rubbed Makayla’s skin like she was rubbing a footballer’s knee. I cringed at what she was doing but I thought it was normal. The next day, the doctors returned, opened the place and what we all saw shocked us. The stitches had loosened and there was a gaping hole so large I could even see her spinal cord. They blamed me for allowing feaces  come in contact with the area. I said nothing to defend myself because I was scared that if I told the truth, I would have to face the wrath of the nurses who cared for my baby day and night. That wound kept us in the hospital for over two months as they applied honey and dressed it twice daily.

  1. 2.       A Weird Infection

Makayla, one strange night started coughing. I thought she was cold because the windows were constantly open but by the next morning, she could hardly stay awake, milk spilled from the side of her lips each time she fed because she was too weak to swallow and her skin turned ashen. The neurosurgeons who were in charge of her case wrote a letter inviting the pediatrics to come check on her but it took two full days for them to show. At this point my chubby Makayla was now reduced to a skinny fragile soul and she was dying. Tests were run and nothing was found to be the problem. All I had was prayers from home because at that point I could not go past “Dear Lord…” Five days later, she recovered but the strange illness that made her cry five nights without stopping had left her with a coarse voice.

  1. 3.       Hydrocephalus

While Makaya was recovering from the first surgery, she developed hydrocephalus which is common with 80% cases of spina bifida. Hydrocephalus is simply a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain enlarging the head and sometimes causes brain damage. Each day, the doctors came with a measuring tape to measure the circumference of her head and slowly, they discovered it was increasing. The only solution to this was brain surgery. I remember fighting that decision and praying strongly against it but God wanted it that way. I gave into his will and on the 19th of September, she went for her second surgery. We were told she had a 50/50 chance at success with that procedure and may have to come back to have a shunt placed in her brain which would drain the excess fluid and distribute it around the body as needed. By this time, I was the second longest staying mother of a patient in that ward and even the nurses jokingly begged me to go home. I had watched people come and go and seen their babies get better. I prayed each day that God free me from the place.

THE PAIN WE WENT THROUGH

  • Medical Procedures

Words cannot describe the turmoil people go through in hospitals. if you have not gone through it, you will never understand. It is a lot different for a helpless, little baby who has to daily take drugs intravenously, drugs I was told by the doctors that made adults cry when infused into their veins and in addition had to probed and checked with hardly any sleep. There were vital signs check every six hours or so and don’t get me started on the needles. I remember one time before her CT scan, Makayla was laid out on the bed and the doctors were searching for just one vein to insert a catheter and it took one whole hour until I begged them to stop.

  • The Nurses

Granted, there are angels amongst them but seriously, some of them are nurses from hell! One of them actually told me, when trying to explain to me how to minimize the use of diapers, that I would (in her words) ‘waste my money on babies like this’. I was in utter shock and cried for a long time and when I shared it with my doctor who is also a consultant at LUTH, he urged me to report her to SERVICOM. Like I said, you don’t report the one that takes care of you. It is like a cabal in there. You look for their trouble, they get diabolical. But I am not always known for my long-suffering and so I gave a good mouth bashing to one of them who told me my faith in God didn’t count for anything and that the doctors were pampering me with lies. What she was implying was that Makayla would not get better because in her experience, cases like this turn out for the worse. I didn’t stop at giving her my mind, I had Owen threaten the entire nursing unit of that ward with a report to SERVICOM and it worked like magic. The senior CNOs came kissing my ass the next morning and right up until I left, they handled me like royalty. They knew Nurse ‘Hellga’ as we called her had gone too far. Yes, most of the nurses in our public hospitals in Nigeria are very mean and uncaring. Yes, I said it! Quote me anywhere! They have no human feelings whatsoever and they’d rather have you die to prove their point than see you better.

  • My Own Health

I had just given birth. All the customary care a first time mother was supposed to have was alas something I couldn’t experience. For my whole duration I sat and slept on a plastic chair in that hospital that when I finally left the hospital, my bum was flat. I’m still trying to get it back to shape (lol). At some point, the nurses picking on me, exchanged my chair for a wooden chair and I went mad. Yeah you would too if you hardly slept at night or day. I fell ill so many times I was past caring. My face was filled with post-birth eczema and my sister joked that I looked like a soldier’s uniform. I was emaciated and didn’t have the appetite for food. Peppersoups and hefty meals my mom prepared for me where shared amongst the other women in the ward. I hardly went on after the first two spoons. I developed not only skin infections but vaginal ones due to the poor state of the toilets. My mental facilities were really messed up. Somewhere along the line. It was understandable. Every mother there went through it.

  • Financial Stress

Government hospitals are a lot cheaper than private ones but when you get to stay for an extended period, you accumulate a whooping bill. Thank God for my parents who supported us the whole time. I don’t know how we would have been able to handle the repeated CT scans and numerous blood tests and all.

  • Owen’s Own Stress

Each day, he left the office and came to see me for just one hour and braced the traffic for about four hours or so to Lekki. Each day, he spent money on drugs and tests and transportation. I never saw him cry because he was my strength but I knew he was going through hell.

Now, to the good part. This one I won’t forget easily at all.

Continue reading Makayla’s True Story (what i never told anyone) by Sally