”Incoming!!” Dr Ihuoma shouted walking briskly behind the stretchers pushed by the paramedics. She was a little lady whose figure denied her age. At thirty five, she was minute at five feet two. She was the trauma powerhouse at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and she was the only one the older members of department trusted to be in charge. She had such a great relationship with her superiors and they felt like her knowledge and maturity was absolutely beyond her years. She’d been married for two years and her marriage was the epitome of what love should be like, at least from the outside. She loved her job and stuck her neck out for her patients. Although, she’d gone to university in Nigeria, she’d gotten qualifications from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom as a trauma surgeon and now she’d returned to her motherland to do what she loved. As she worked to reanimate the patient, a few patients and some of her colleagues watched her enraptured. She was swift and very intellectually fit and her experience was boundless for someone who’d been practicing for under ten years. As she shouted orders, everyone was electrified and moving in sync with her and it was a beautiful, albeit scary performance and by the end, they had been successful- their patient was conscious and getting prepped for surgery.
By lunchtime, Ihuoma was unusually knackered. She was having lunch with her good friend Belema who worked in oncology. Belema was talking about a young man who had pancreatic cancer. She was depressed as was normal whenever she treated people with diseases which as she put it were” too old for them”. She was picking at her packed jollof rice until she eventually gave up and closed the flask.
”Ihuoma, this guy is barely twenty! He’s so young! And you know the odds of beating pancreatic cancer are so slim! I cannot understand how someone so young got pancreatic cancer!! It’s almost impossible!”
Ihuoma desperately wanted to yawn, but she controlled herself. She was exhausted but Belema would never forgive her for seeming bored with this discussion. She knew it was rare to see pancreatic cancer in patients less than forty years old, but today, right now, she just needed a nap to clear her head. She also wanted to call her husband. Belema had changed topics now and was asking her about the woman who brought them grade one hollandaise. The woman lived near Ihuoma and Belema needed her to pass the payment to the woman. Ihuoma nodded and followed Belema to the oncology department. While they were in her office, an intern came to borrow Belema because she said Andrew’s parents were here and needed to discuss some things with her.
”Andrew is the pancreatic cancer boy” Belema told her friend ”Do you want to see him?” she asked.
”Well, if he wouldn’t mind, I guess” Ihuoma replied hesitantly.
They walked to Andrew’s room. Ihuoma felt herself stop in her tracks. She knew this person! Or he resembled someone she knew! Maybe his parents?
”Hi Andrew!” Belema said with a smile. ”How’s it going? How do you feel today?”
”So so” He said with a weak smile.
Cachexia. Ihuoma noted. Baldness, he’d been doing chemo. Wow. So young and so handsome even on his sick bed. He was dark and he had a beautiful straight nose. She smiled at him and then looked at his parents. They were a totally different picture. Very attractive, but very fair, yellow even. Well, that’s genetics for you she thought. Belema was telling them soberly that their son may not have much time left and Ihuoma felt her throat catch. Hmph. She was very tired today, her hormones must be playing ping pong inside her.
As they left the ward, Ihuoma couldn’t resist saying;
”He looks so different from his parents!”
”Oh, he’s adopted.” Belema said looking at his chart as though the information was written there.
”Ohhh. Interesting” Ihuoma was nodding. ”There’s something oddly familiar about him though, not sure what it is”.
Belema said something about people having look alikes and shortly after Ihuoma was in her office working on charts and yawning like it was a contest how wide she could open her mouth. Then it hit her; Kofi! Kofi, her first love, that’s who Andrew looked like. She bit her lip. Well, people looked alike. Then to confirm, she called Belema.
”Bels, what’s Andrew’s DOB abeg?” she asked.
”March 16th, why?” she said after a pause.
”Is that his adoption date or real DOB?” Ihuoma asked.
”Real, his adopted parents adopted him from the his birth family, I think” Belema said.
After the call ended, Ihuoma was shaking. It couldn’t be. Kofi’s child died.Their teenage love child died. She’d had him just after Kofi died in that ghastly accident. She felt a migraine coming on as she struggled to breathe. Her heart and her body knew the truth, the truth she did not want to accept. She remembered her mother coming in after she’d just held her baby in her arms and saying
”My baby, I’m sorry, he didn’t make it”
She’d cried. Tears for Kofi. For her. For their love and it’s product. It made sense now. She’d wanted to be home to care for their baby after he’d been born and her parents wanted her to write the scholarship exams the next year. They were poor and she was their ticket out. No, she was getting ahead of herself here. She was not sure of anything yet. But she knew.
She left the hospital to have a showdown with her parents in their new house, which she had bought them;
”Ihuu.. We did it for you! Look at you, all you’ve achieved! He would’ve held you down” Her mother was saying.
”How could you??! You said he died!! You showed me another baby’s body!! You’re cruel! It was my choice to make and now he’s dying! Of cancer!!” She cried.
After she’d stormed out of the house, she went back to see Andrew. She couldn’t tell him. Leave him in a confused mess of feelings right before he died. But she would be there, when no one was there and she would care for him as much as she could. It would be her way of assuaging her guilt and pain for being so foolish and gullible. For failing Kofi and their love. This John Doe that she’d have never seen or known if she had not followed Belema was not just John Doe or Andrew, he was her child. Kofi had wanted them to call him Kwame. Their love child.
Andrew had died before she got back.