ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1981 (Part Twenty-Three)
Josephine was embarrassed when I informed her that her white uniform was soaked with blood at the back.
She immediately opened the door and jumped into the bus. As she entered the bus, she realized that the seat from which she got up was already soaked in blood also. She became confused. She didn’t know whether to sit on the bloody seat, but as she hesitated, I gently led her down to the seat. Just as her uniform, the seat was already stained. No further damage could be done. What was most important at that point was her health.
“It’s that time of the month,” I said.
“No, it’s not,” she said. “I’m not supposed to be bleeding now. But I’ve been noticing some stains for a couple of months now. On and off. And I was using some women’s vitamins and iron tablets. I thought it was the emotional stress I have been going through, but this is a lot of blood on the seat.”
“You got quite a dose of injection last night too,” I said with a wink and a smile.
“But that’s not unusual either,” she said with a frown. Normally, she would find that sort of thing funny, but she was not smiling. Suddenly her face looked pale. “What’s unusual is the light-head I’m feeling now.” She looked tired. She glanced behind her, then said, “Hey, Moyo, please help me. There are some bottles of water in the boot. Could you get one for me? I feel really fatigued. I am very thirsty. My throat feels so dry.” I quickly jumped down from behind the steering wheel and dashed to the back of the Mitsubishi bus and opened the door.
An ambulance pulled up behind me, and the driver began to press the horn for me to move, indicating that I was blocking the way. Corporal Joe at the gate began to yell at me, “Mister man, you can’t park there. Move your bus.” There were a lot of things in the boot, and I didn’t see the bottles of water that she said were there.
As I was searching, Corporal Joe was running down from the gate, yelling, “I say move the bus. You are blocking the ambulance. Move it, move it, get going. That nor be car parking!”
I ignored him, and I found the bottles I was looking for under a pile of theatre spotlights and long rolls of cables and costumes. I grabbed one of them. Corporal Joe was by then standing next to me, yelling, “You nor dey hear word? I say move! Ambulance wan go inside hospital! Dem dey bring emergency and you come block road!”
I grabbed the bottle and ran to the driving seat.
What I found was a jarring surprise. Josephine had fallen from the seat, with her head resting on the window, and half of her body wedged between the seat and the dashboard. Her mouth was gaping wide. Her eyes were also open, but they stared lifelessly at nothing.
Corporal Joe was banging on the side of the door when he saw Josephine. He was stunned and jerked back.
“Josephina!” Corporal Joe said. “Nor be the same Josephina wey I see just now be this? Wettin happen?” The ambulance driver was pressing hard on the horns. The driver poked out his head from the bus, and shouted, “Why you go block road there? Get out of the way. Move!”
Corporal Joe ran to the other side of the door where Josephine slumped. He looked bewildered. “What happened to her?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “She said she was not feeling well and asked me to get her a bottle of water from the boot. And now this.”
“Go and get a stretcher, quick,” Corporal Joe commanded.
“From the emergency,” Corporal Joe yelled.
“Where?” I asked. “Where is the emergency?”
He looked at me as if I was mad to ask such a stupid question. Then he realized I didn’t know how the place functioned. He pointed at the building right in front, saying, “Inside that building. When you enter, turn left.”
The ambulance driver pressed the horns impatiently, screaming, “This na accident victims. You wan make dem die?”
“Okay, I will carry her inside,” Corporal Joe said, opening the door where Josephine was slumped. “Go and park the bus.” He lifted Josephine as if she was as light as a dead spider, slung her on his shoulder, saw the blood, and said, “She is bleeding.”
“I know,” I said.
He didn’t mind the blood. He shifted her to a balanced position on his shoulder and marched briskly inside the general ward.
I got behind the wheel and moved the car. Signs of NO PARKING were everywhere. I moved the car further down where there was some space, and I saw a series of RESERVED signs everywhere. I noticed that a number of the signs were written as RESEVED, with the R missing. Then I saw a larger sign reading “RESEVED. VIOLATOR WILL BE TOD.” Tod? I’m not Tod, I thought. I pulled behind that sign and parked the bus there. The space was enough for two large vehicles
I quickly jumped down and ran back toward the general ward. Corporal Joe had disappeared with Josephine into the vast general ward. I couldn’t find them. As I continued to walk from one place to another, unsure of where to look, I ran into Adolo, Josephine’s friend. She was just strolling in.
“Moyo,” Adolo said, smiling broadly. “What a surprise! What are you doing here?”
I told her the story. She asked me to follow her. The hospital was packed with people. She took me through several corridors, and finally, we moved away from the busy section of the ward and we entered a room with nobody in it. She asked me to sit there and wait. It looked like an examination room for patients. There was a high hospital bed with a green screen shielding it. There was also a round table with some magazines on top of it.
I picked one of the magazines and was looking it at without paying much attention to what was written in it. Everything looked blurry, even the pictures.
I sat there waiting for Adolo to return, but she seemed to have also disappeared. Occasionally, someone would poke in his or her head into the room, look at me like some laboratory specimen and leave without saying a word.
She was gone for hours. I was thirsty and hungry, but I dared not leave because I didn’t know where I was and didn’t want to lose Josephine and Adolo. I had gone through all the magazines on the table several times. At some point, I began to read the text and look closely at the pictures. They were all medical-related magazines and journals.
My stomach began to ache. I must have been sitting there for at least four hours. I rested my head in my hands, and must have fallen asleep.
Suddenly I felt a nudge on my shoulder and quickly sat up. It was Adolo.
“I found her,” she said. “It’s pretty bad. She is in the theater. She is having emergency surgery.”
“What!” I said. “She was fine this morning.”
“It’s pretty bad,” Adolo said. “Very bad.”
“What’s the matter with her?”
“Well,” Adolo said, “It’s confidential. But I will tell you so you can go and bring Papa Ru.”
“She had an ectopic pregnancy,” Adolo said.
“What’s an ectopic pregnancy,” I asked.
“Her pregnancy was stuck in the fallopian tube,” Adolo explained. “It’s life-threatening. They had to cut it to save her because the fallopian tube ruptured.”
“What does that mean?” I asked her.
“It’s complicated,” Adolo continued. “That’s a potentially fatal situation. She is lucky. She could have died if this crisis hadn’t happened right in the hospital.”
“Really?” I was flabbergasted.
“But she is also unlucky,” Adolo said.
“Why?” I was eager to know what was going on with as much details as possible.
“A woman has two fallopian tubes,” Adolo said. “If one ruptured, as Josephine’s did, she could still get pregnant from the other one.”
“Thank goodness,” I exclaimed, relieved.
“But in her case,” Adolo said, “The doctor said Josephine’s second fallopian tube was blocked. And sperm may not be able to travel through it.”
“You cannot be serious,” I said.
“I’m serious,” Adolo said. “The doctor is performing the second surgery on her. The first was to sew up the site of the rupture. He is now working on trying to unblock the second fallopian tube. It’s her only hope of having a child. If she is lucky”
TO BE CONTINUED