Standing in the middle of the road, totally oblivious of the blaring horns and screams, people moved on. A few stopped by to have a proper glance, a few shook their heads, a few cared enough to call the emergency, but majority just moved on. This sort of scene was becoming more and more familiar on a daily basis. People losing the plot in life. People getting scared and afraid to live. People wanting to put the cart before the horse.
I overheard a voice say “what a fine gentleman”. He was dressed in a navy blue blazer, burgundy cotton shirt, a pair of black loafers and a pair of well-tailored brown pants. He had an attaché case next to him and he stood in the middle of the road staring into the sky. People kept turning their heads into the skies. What was he looking at?
By this time, the sirens were blaring, paramedics were arriving, and the cops were coming in full speed. Was it another case of attempted suicide?
Othman was a Bath university graduate, an Eton graduate, an aeronautical engineer by profession. He studied at Bristol University and was a young man with prominence. Life had dealt a real blow to him. He had been married for eight years to Zainab. They wanted a child so badly. It was always a case of one miscarriage after the other. Finally it seemed like, God was smiling on them. This pregnancy stayed. Zai as she was fondly called by the husband, was delighted that this pregnancy had stayed. They had prayed the best they knew how to, been to the best clinic, seen the best gynecologist that was around and were looking forward to welcoming little Ethan to planet earth. They had prepared his room, painted it blue and posted lovely photos of babies crawling, singing, jumping and being happy, around the room. Excitement buzzed the air. Their parents in law were super excited and nothing mattered to Othman and Zai than Ethan’s arrival.
When Zai was rushed to the hospital; that packed bag, went with her. She was rushed to the theatre. Little Ethan was brought out. It was such a joy. He was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of the pediatric ward. Zai was being stabilized. Othman was confused – joy on one hand for the arrival of Ethan and worry over the wife’s condition on the other. Ethan was born with only testicles and no penis, a form of penile agenesis. What type of life would this be for Ethan? The doctors tried to explain this rare condition to him over and over and he could not hear anything. He could not process anything. He was just blank.
“Doctor, doctor, baby Ethan is ….” The nurse tried to explain.
Dr. Stuart shot off his seat and Othman dashed along. They went to the ward and they tried a few procedures on Ethan. Twenty five minutes later. Dr. Stuart had his hands over Othman’s shoulder, “we tried everything we could, we just couldn’t save him”.
It was like pouring ice water on Othman in a winter season. He froze.
Back at home, his biggest worry was how he would pass this message on to his dear wife. According to the custom of the Kanti tribe, the baby has to be buried within the next twelve hours. He would not have to be in attendance because as the father, you are supposed to be buried by your child and not you burying your child. He requested to see Ethan for the last time and wave him farewell. He took a photo of Ethan and said this will be for a memorial. Even if I had you for only three days, at least I was a father for three days.
Sleep vanished from him, solitude became his closest ally. Borsi, Chugga and Ret, were by his side and kept trying to play with him. It seemed like they sensed him and just let him be. They stayed quietly by his side.
“Honey but where is Ethan?” Zai asked.
“Ethan is fine. He is in the ICU and once you are well enough, you will see him” Othman said.
“But I need to see my child. He needs to eat. I need to breastfeed him.”
“Yes, I know. He is on some tubes at the moment. There was a little complication and the doctors said that everything will be fine”.
“But I need to see him, can’t I?”
“Of course you can. He is your son”.
This conversation played over and over in his head.
“Come on boys, let’s go make a cuppa.”
Once at the kitchen, he forgot what he went there for.
Chugga went over to the kettle spot and barked.
“Oh yeah,” he sighed.
He turned on the kettle and stood at the window staring into space.
“How do I tell her, he is gone? When I have not been able to even tell myself that he is no more. How do I do such? The doctors had told him that he had better tell her the truth but her pressure was high enough already and they wanted to bring the pressure down before the news could be broken to her.
In Peace ward of the General Hospital, she seemed to be sleeping, as he went on with the narration.
The medical team arrived and they wheeled her into the theatre. One hour later, Dr. Stuart and Dr. Steam walked with Othman into the office.
“What’s going on doc?” Othman queried.
It was unusual for two doctors to within the spate of two days accompany him to the doctor’s office. What is it, that could not be discussed where they were. Was he oversensitive, he wandered.
“Calm down. Othman. We have some not too good news for you. We lost her. Your wife. We are so sorry. We did everything we could.”
That same feeling came back of pouring cold water on him in a wintry day. He broke into perspiration.
What crime had he committed? What did he do wrong? He had prayed, he had taken all the doctor’s advice. Life had been one hell of a roller coaster from misfortune to another. What was the matter? He couldn’t handle it anymore.
The police were saying stuff that didn’t make sense to him. They were approaching him with caution, they got him. The paramedics examined him and put him in an ambulance. They couldn’t get him to say a word. Only that blank stare.
Having been in that state for five days, without any food, any water, except drip. The hospital was confused. They did not diagnose anything. Then from way down inside Othman, a voice whispered to him “you have not lost anything. All what you think you have lost, will be restored”.
That voice sounded familiar. He had heard it once or so in his life.
He turned over to the folks around him and declared “everything is going to be alright.”
The first time he had spoken since being admitted into hospital.
Uwem Mbot Umana©2018