Veronica arrived the hospital the next day at 7am. She was to resume at 8am but she always got there earlier to be able to get some administrative work done before patients came in. Dr. Jike met her in her office and appealed to be allowed to leave early. He had a 2nd job where he spent the mornings. She rose to accompany him for a ward round so he could officially hand over to her.
“Was my cousin any trouble?,” she asked, pulling on her coat.
“You wouldn’t believe that Kasarachi stayed with him all day! She didn’t attend to any other patient. When the matron scolded her, she gave her a tongue-lashing in turn. That girl is something else,” he complained.
“See it this way; she kept him out of your hair. I hope his wound didn’t break down from all the making out?,” she laughed.
“Meeeeen! I don’t get it!”He rubbed his head in confusion.
Veronica patted his arm gently. “Not to worry. When you fall in love, no injury will be enough to stop you”
“You call that love? Dr. Veronica, that is not love”
They both laughed as they made for his room. Abel was in his bathroom when they let themselves in.
“Good morning, Abe. How was your night? ,” Veronica asked from his bedside.
“There were too many mosquitoes. You’ve let this place run down, cousin. When daddy was alive, it wasn’t like this,” he smirked.
“We just fumigated the environment last week,” she defended.
“Sure…. And I am Bill Gates,” he scoffed.
Veronica bit her lip.
“Please come so we can examine the sutures to see if you can go home today,” Dr. Jike requested.
“I will go home when I want to”
“Guy, you can afford a hotel room. Don’t give us more work,” Dr. Jike pleaded.
“What does that mean?,” he answered angrily.
“I’ll let you think about it. Obviously, you are fine”
Veronica steered her colleague away before tempers could flare.
“What’s with those boys?,” he asked once they were outside.
“They have lived in London all their adult lives and I’m sure they are still dealing with the loss of their dad. People grieve in various ways. Some lash out at others,” she explained.
“Thank you,” he mocked. “He is mourning by making out with his dad’s nurse while she is on duty? My sister, tell that to the birds.”
Veronica chuckled as she pushed open the door to Edet’s room.
“Helllllooooo!,” she called in a sing-song voice as they entered.
It was a tradition she had established over the 2 weeks he had spent in their care. She would call out hello and he would laugh and say hi in the same manner. When she heard nothing, she wondered if he was asleep. They approached his slender form lying in bed with his left leg still in the fixtures implanted during the surgery and elevated on a pillow. She reached out a hand to touch him and noticed that he was unnaturally still.
“Edet!,” she cried as she shook him.
There was no response. Dr. Jike examined him and began to do a cardiac massage while she connected the oxygen. She rang for the nurse as she ran to the emergency drawer to get adrenaline. The nurse had come in when she returned. She and Dr. Jike were frantically doing all they could to revive the boy. After 10 minutes, they conceeded defeat. Dr. Jike followed her to her office where she began to make calls: first to his mother, then to the office of the medical examiner to request an autopsy. She was baffled about his sudden death.
“What could have happened? ,” she kept asking her colleague.
“The boy was fine last night. He even played a game with me on my phone. I don’t know what happened, ” Dr. Jike replied.
“Let me check his drug chart. Are you sure that there was no error in the drugs he was given?”
“He was on the antibiotic and analgesics Dr. Adebayo prescribed. Bunmi is very experienced. She cannot make any mistake.”
“Did anyone bring food for him?”
“His mother brought something yesterday, at about 4pm. She did not spend the night because she had to go to work early today. Only Bunmi can tell us whether he ate the food or not.”
“Do you think they will make trouble? ”
“It is likely they will but since they don’t have money to engage a lawyer, I think it will not be blown out of proportion,” Dr. Jike reasoned.
“I really hope so. This is the sort of thing that could tarnish the image of a hospital and we are still trying to find our feet,” she worried.
“Take it easy. I believe it will blow over quickly,” he advised.
“Do you mind if I take off? I really need to be on the road now, ” he pleaded.
“Just make sure your notes are in order. I don’t want any confusion. And keep your phone by you,” she instructed.
“Yes, Chief!” He gave her a mock salute as he left.
Veronica made a call to her best friend, Toyin. “TY, I am in trouble,” she burst into tears.
“What’s going on?,” Toyin asked.
“That boy we operated on pro bono, just died.”
“I don’t know. He was fine yesterday. I walked into his room for a round and found him lifeless.”
Veronica sniffed as she went on to narrate the day’s events to the only person she trusted. Toyin was her classmate in medical school and confidante. She was now married with 2 children, a boy and a girl. Toyin had put her career on hold to have her children and now that the younger one was 2 years old, she left them in the care of her mother and went to America to further her studies. They hit it off from their first year on a day they had to submit assignments and found that neither of them had done it accurately. It was another classmate who pointed out that they had answered an imaginary question and not the one they were asked. They both wondered why they heard the same question and not what the others heard. Toyin went to the class representative and bought them time so they could do it over. From that day, they became inseparable.
“I smell big trouble. That must be why I have had a burden for you for the past week. I have not ceased to pray that God would cover you,” Toyin remarked.
“Where is He, then? This blessing that he gave me is about to turn to a curse,” Veronica lamented.
“O, come off it. He never said we would not have trials. In fact, trials come to make us strong.”
“Am I not already strong enough? Do you know what it means to be single at 28 in Nigeria? With all those well-wishers asking you when you are bringing home a man?,” she sniffed.
“That your bobo nko*? What’s his name, Buchi?,” Toyin asked.
“He is there. I don’t know what we are doing. This is our 3rd year and he cannot make a commitment. Even a visit is too expensive. Can you imagine that I have not seen him for 3 months?”
“I thought he lives in Abuja? Can’t he fly to Lagos?”
“He claims to be very busy. ”
“My sister, I would have advised you to go and see him but, he is the man. Let him come to you, abeg*! On to the issue at hand, let us pray that God will show us mercy, that his family will not accuse you of wrongdoing, and that it will end in peace.”
Both ladies bowed their heads to pray over the phone for mercy, favor, and wisdom. Just as they ended the call, Veronica heard a knock on her door. It was nurse Bunmi. She let her in and returned to her seat.
“Let’s go over the case together. When last did you see him alive? What did he eat yesterday? Which drugs did he receive? I want to know everything,” she ordered
. Bunmi had come with her notes. She consulted them as she replied. “I saw him at 8pm when I resumed my shift. He was watching a cartoon. I saw the flask of food his mother brought. He had finished the yam so I took it with me after checking how he was. That night, he had his drugs at 8.30pm.”
“Amoxicillin, Ibuprofen, Vitamin C, Renoc blood capsule, and Chimoral. I gave them to him myself and there was no error. The only other patient we had was a man who injured his thumb at a club and came in at 2am. Dr. Jike attended to him but he did not spend the night. Abel slept all night and didn’t give us any trouble. The last contact I had with the boy was at 3am when he called for me to assist him to ease himself.”
“Call the security men for me. I instructed them not to leave,” Veronica ordered.
“Yes, ma,” Bunmi replied and rose.
“Drop your notes let me go over them.”
“Alright, ma,” she said.
Veronica let her out and locked her office behind her. She wanted to talk to Abel. It was possible he had heard someone come in as his room was just beside Edet’s. Perhaps his friends had come to visit or Perez knew something. Her phone rang. It was Barr. Obi. She had called earlier but he didn’t answer.
“Good morning, sir,” she greeted.
“Good morning, doc. I hope everything is okay?,” he responded.
“I have a problem.”
“A boy we operated on 2 weeks ago passed last night. I rescued him after a hit and run accident and we treated him pro bono.”
“How did he die?”
“That is what puzzles me. He was fine yesterday. Infact, I was thinking of discharging him this week. He had no complications and the nurse said he took only the drugs prescribed for him by Dr. Adebayo.”
“Who are his parents?”
“I don’t know his father but his mother is a shop assistant. She had him out of wedlock.”
“Okay. What about an autopsy?”
“She has to give her consent first.”
“When that is done, we can decide on the next step. I really hope there is a perfect medical explanation for his death. This is not good at all. Nigeria is not a place where hospitals survive such accusations,” Barr. Obi stated.
“Sir, I want to interview some of my staff. Let me call you when I have more information, ” she said.
“Okay dear. I am here for you. Just give me a call, whenever.”
She ended the call. Her phone buzzed as a text flashed across the screen. She read it.
“What can separate us from the love of God? Trials? Tribulations? Life? Death? No way! In all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us and gave himself for us”
Veronica sighed and thanked God for friends like Toyin who knew what to say at every point. Bunmi and the security man, Momoh, knocked and she let them in. They stood before her, anxious to clear themselves of every wrongdoing. Momoh could smell a sack coming. He was already wondering how he was going to explain it to his wife.
“Momoh, we lost a patient who was already getting better. Can you explain?,” Veronica began.
“Doc, I dey gate O! I no near ward at all*,” he threw his hands over his head to demonstrate his innocence.
“Where is the visitors’ book? Did you let in any strange person?”
“No, ma” They were interrupted by a loud wail.
“Who is that?,” Veronica asked.
“I was going to tell you. Kemi, the ward maid, saw the boy’s mother outside and told her the news before I could stop her,” Bunmi said.
“What! I expressly said no one should speak to her before I had a chance to. What is this?”
Veronica was shaking with anger. She rose and opened her door to let Mayen in. Her wails were loud enough to raise the dead as she flung herself on the floor.
“What happened? What happened to my son who was playing when I left him? My son! My son! Edet O! The wicked have done it. My enemies have done it!”
Veronica watched her helplessly. Nurse Bunmi tried to console her but she pushed her away.
“Doctor, tell me what happened to my son. I want to hear it from you,” she cried.
“Please calm down…”
“Calm down? Do you have children? No. That is why you don’t know how it feels,” she made a hissing sound as she replied.
“I am so sorry about his death. You know we gave him the best of care,” Veronica reminded her.
“My son! Where is my son O!,” she continued with her wailing as if no one was speaking to her.
Veronica rose and walked over to her. She knelt by her and held both of her hands in hers.
“Mayen, I rescued your son who was hit by a cyclist and brought him here. We have treated and fed him at no cost to you for 2 weeks. Believe me when I say I am as pained by his death as you are. Please take heart. God is in control. Can you try to calm down? I want you to sign for us to do an autopsy so we can find out what went wrong ” she appealed solemnly.
Mayen sighed and stilled. Tears still coursed down her cheeks as she stared into empty space. Veronica signalled for Momoh to return to his post while she drafted a document for her to sign. After she signed, Bunmi led her away. She would want to spend a few more minutes with her son before he was taken to the mortuary. Veronica began to make arrangements for the transfer of his body to the mortuary while she finalized plans for an autopsy. She kept Barr. Obi informed on all that had gone down and he concluded that Mayen was probably going to accept her apology. The worst that could happen was that the autopsy would rule that one of the staff had administered some medication either in error or that he had had an anaphylactic reaction to something. They would cross that bridge when they got to it. The primary thing at the moment, was to monitor the flow of information so that a tainted version of the event did not spread. She called an emergency staff meeting. It was attended by the ward maid, the ambulance driver, the gate man, the lab scientist, Nurse Bunmi and the 2 nurses who had the morning shift. Dr. Sherry had the morning shift with her but she was running late. Matron Ngwanu was also yet to arrive. She usually worked from 8am to 4pm weekdays only.
“Good morning everyone,” she began. “We lost a patient who was last seen alive by Nurse Bunmi at 3 am when she went to assist him to ease himself. You all know that we have been treating him on our account. His mother has graciously agreed to wait for us to do our investigation to ascertain the cause of his death.”
The room was still.
“Now, what I need from you is simple,” she continued. “I need your loyalty. No blabbing of the mouth, especially you, Kemi. You had the guts to go and tell that poor woman her son was dead, despite my warning you all to let me inform her myself? Why did you not let her even enter? By the way, who else have you told?”
The woman she was addressing fixed a bewildered look on her face. Anyone just joining the meeting would be believe she had never passed on gossip in her 38 years of existence.
“Ma?,” she spread her hands out before her.
Veronica ignored her. “Do not call anyone to tell them what happened. Let the family not hear that their child is dead from outsiders. Please, maintain a professional conduct. Give our patients the best of care and direct all enquiries to me. Is that clear?,” she asked.
“Yes, Dr. Metu,” they chorused.
“That will be all.”
Her staff filed out solemnly. She heard her phone ringing and picked it up. It was Dr. Sherry.
“Chief, please I am in serious traffic. I don’t know when I will get there. Can you manage without me?,” she asked.
“It is 9.30am! Can I manage without you, so that you will go back home, right? We have a serious issue at hand. I suggest you find your way here, traffic or no traffic,” Veronica snapped.
Before she could get another word in, Veronica ended the call. She made a hissing sound as she called Dr. Adebayo. He was already aware of the death of Edet but she wanted to ask him what he thought could have happened. Over the phone, they ruled out all the possible causes of death. Save for an error in the administration of his drugs, there was no way he could have reacted to medication. His last meal was provided by his mother, he had received no other visitors, his body bore no signs of a violent death.
Another puzzle was the fact that he was slightly warm to touch when she examined him. That meant he had died shortly before she resumed at 7am. Nurse Bunmi claimed she had not entered his room all morning because she over- slept. Just before they sent for her, she was freshening up to do a round. She was as surprised as they were to find him dead. Dr. Adebayo warned her to keep an eye on Mayen. He advised her to keep in touch with her and continue to reassure her. It was his hope that she would not make any trouble for them, at least till they had concluded their inquest. Veronica ended the call when the nurse knocked to inform her that she had a patient. She had to pull herself together to attend to the living.
“Madam, good morning, ” she rose and greeted her with a smile.
“Good morning doc. How are you?,” the lady replied.
“I am fine. Did you come to review your laboratory results?”
“I have them here. Let me take a look.”
Sergeant Victor Ebiowei was lounging at an illegal checkpoint when his phone rang. It was Mayen. He ignored the call but the phone kept ringing. She called once in a while to beg for money and when he refused, as he often did, she would rain abuses on him, accusing him of abandoning her son and her. He did not feel he owed her anything. She had known he was married when they started their affair. If he promised to leave his wife, it was no fault of his that she fell cheaply for such a lie. How could be have known that she would keep this pregnancy after aborting 3 with no qualms?
Mayen had been a dark and voluptuous teen. They met when he became a frequent customer at a beer joint where she washed plates for a living. It took a few naira which she needed to pay for her SSCE to get her into his bed. She dreamed of going to the university, he dreamed of her big boobs. They strained against the tiny shirts she wore, begging to be freed. And he was very willing indeed, to set them free from captivity.
His wife found out about the affair and gave her the beating of her life. Mayen relocated with her son to her present accommodation and raised him on her earnings from odd jobs. Victor had 4 children from his wife and a daughter from an affair in Benin. His wife provided most of what the children needed from her income as a hairdresser. All he had to do was to show up. The arrangements suited him perfectly. It wasn’t as if he made enough to go round anyway.
When he couldn’t ignore the phone any longer, he answered the call, ready to snap at her. The words he heard stopped him.
“What did you say?,” he asked in shock.
“I say the boy don die*! Come sign make them fit carry am go mortuary,” Mayen said.
Victor was dumbfounded.
“How e die? No be last week you tell me say im dey hospital and dem dey treat am for free? Wetin come happen*?”
He moved away from his position by the road where he had been standing and leaned on the hood of their patrol van. Sweat cursed down his brow. No matter how irresponsible he had been, he could not expect her to handle the burial arrangements. Where was he going to get money to bury the boy? He did not own any property and he had just spent his salary on bets he had hoped would double his money. This was coming at a wrong time.
“Them say dem wan do test make dem know wetin kill am. The boy bin dey okay when I see am yesterday. How e take die for night, I no understand*,” she broke into tears.
“The doctor say im no know wetin kill am?*,” the wheels were turning in his mind.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Na dem kill the boy, now! How goat go siddon near yam say im no know who chop am?*,” he asked.
“That doctor don try for us. She even give me transport fare one day wey I no carry money for hand*,” she disagreed with him.
“I no wan make trouble.”
“You get money to bury am?”
“This na murder case. Just shut your mouth and do as I say. I go carry boys go arrest the doctor. When we shake am small dem go pay big money. E fit reach million O! We go share the money, you hear?,” he asked.
“My pikin die you dey talk to share money?,” she spat.
“No dull yasef! Those doctor dem get big money. God don use this boy bless us. Make we use this opportunity help ourself. I dey owe money and I know say you wan go school.”
He knew that she would be enraged by the idea initially, but she would see reason. There was no way she would not jump at the idea of being set up for life. She could start a business and the money would heal the pain of losing her son. Mayen was an orphan who had served all sorts of people all her life: the abusive, those who starved her, those who over-worked her and the ungrateful. The prospect of never being dependent on anyone for her upkeep was sure to appeal to her.
Over the next 2 days, he kept up his persuasion until she caved in. Edet was dead anyway. She didn’t see any harm in reaping from his death. The wealthy had taken advantage of her all her life. It was time for her to stand up for herself.
TO BE CONTINUED. I APOLOGISE FOR THE DELAY AS I HAD DIFFICULTY POSTING. CHEERS. PLS CLICK ON THE TITLE TO COMMENT