Photo Credit: Seun James Taiwo
Models: Ottaz Emasoga, Chuks Nonso
I couldn’t exactly tell whose figure I saw in my dream that night; however, I remember being woken by an emergency call from the hospital. With heavy eyes and whacked muscles, I struggled out of bed, un-cuddling my wife in her heavy-snoring state; then rushed out of our bedroom without the usual soft peck on her forehead. As I drove, I knew I had to accelerate through the express bridge leading to the hospital as fast as I could regardless of my drowsy state. ‘I could as well get there on time to save a life,’ I muttered to myself severally. But I noticed my eyes weren’t getting clearer, the more I fought to stay awake on wheel the more the horrible sleep drew deeper. Then I saw these bright hues of red and yellow reflections from my headlights slowly turn snow-white. For a moment, the cloud of white snow was all over my car, in a total submergence. Strangely, there appeared the same figure I saw in my dream, I could tell some clues in his much visible façade this time. He was stretching his hands to help me out of a filthy pit. I initially did not realize I was in a trance. Soon as I did realize I was out of trance, I found myself rolled off the express bridge; I had lost control of the wheel that night. The last thing I remembered before going into shock was my car landing in a narrow canal. The shock had swallowed the agonies of such a ghastly crash. By the time I came out of shock, I was already in the Accident and Emergency unit, about to be wheeled into the theatre suite for urgent surgery. Bathed in my own blood, I screamed painfully like a woman in labour. I couldn’t tell exactly where the pains were coming from, but it was as if I should go back into shock, better still I felt I should just die. To my greatest disbelieve I heard the same man I saw in my dream shouting at the casualty officer to wheel me into the theatre. Violently he yelled at the doctor on call ‘This man is a doctor! You must not let him die.’ Then, I realized I had just been helped by this man; he had showed out of my dream to rescue me from the crash site and brought me to the hospital.
By the way, my name is DR. Alfred Olufemi Sunday; a fellow of the West African College of Physicians, and this was how I first met the man in my dream. Some ten years back, I was a young intern at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital. I was fresh and green, but not without this great passion to be a successful practitioner despite my inexperience. I thought experience would come with time and thus strived with each of my duty to execute it well. My mother used to tell me as a medical student, ‘what so ever is worth doing at all is worth giving the best shot.’ She taught me not to give up on anything, not to even talk of the patients I would be managing. Soon after graduation I got employed and behold, adhering to my mother’s words soon paid off. I was cherished by my registrars and consultants for my diligence. Everyone knew something was different about me, including the patients I managed. They preferred to interact with their Dr. Sunny. Sunny was a popular nickname they themselves gave me.
At my last rotation as an intern, I met this man; he was one of the patients I clerked and presented at the Male medical ward. But beyond that, he was a victim of a terminal illness: an intractable lung disease that was ripping off his breathing organs, without cause and without remedy. All what my senior colleagues had diagnosed of him were preceded by the word ‘query’. At first he was managed at the Male Medical ward, but later the Intensive Care Unit became his abode of treatment. Each time he shed a feather to talk to me, I had feared for his failing state; he was no longer eating through the mouth while altering a word was like expending thousands of kilocalories of energy. Sometimes I thought I would lose a friend in the next minute; oh yes, good friends were what we became. But written all over him were lost hopes. I once over heard him tell his family members to give up on him. His own condition was more of scourging incapacitation than physical pains. One morning after reviewing him, I held his hands and prayed with him, but suddenly, he withdrew his hands. Then spoke weakly, ‘Dr. Sunny, I want to die.’ Anybody there that day would not disagree with his seemingly hopeless state. Euthanasia was a choice for him; ‘Merciful death’, he thought would end his sufferings. He said he had made up his mind and only needed a consent-form from my consultant. My green medical head quivered in grief; I couldn’t allow this man to go. Besides, I had never believed in Mercy Killing. I saw Euthanasia as another form of suicide or worse, a medicated homicide! But I thought he needed to put up some fights against his desire to die, knowing he had lost the tiniest fervor for life.
Internal Medicine was my last posting as an intern, thus, for the few weeks left to spend managing this man, I tried everything possible to help him keep fighting. Each morning, it became a cause of duty to pray with him, and at any point he wished to die, I had encouraged a tinge of hope out of him. Medically, it was only a matter of time before he gives in to such degree of incapacitation. Thus, deep inside me, I-in-reality knew I would lose him sooner than I expected. But could I be blamed? Doctors are just another set of ordinary beings. I concluded my internship program on the 5th of November, while I couldn’t garner the gut to visit my dying friend at the ICU; I had left without a goodbye. I had to move on, I told myself as I prepared for my next course in life: the National Youth Service Corp. That was the last I knew of him before the night of the crash. And after rescuing me that night, I discovered my patient eventually made it. Not only winning the battle for his life, he has also won a lucrative niche in his career; against all odds, my friend became a successful multi-million Naira entrepreneur. After my surgery, I was moved to a private ward to recuperate. The next day when my wife rushed down to the hospital, she met my friend and he introduced himself to her. He was full of gratitude and tears as he narrated how we met to my wife. He encouraged her to be strong and told my wife I would make it for he had made it through worse times. Before he left, he paid my hospital bills and left me a small piece of paper, written inside was:
‘What If Death Never Came? Live Doctor, like you helped me to live. I owe you my life as Death never came, See you soon my Dr. Sunny.’
Today, I can’t wait to return home to my family after three months of a slow recovery phase at the hospital. I had rushed out of my home to save a life that night, but the reverse was the situation when it was my life that had to battle for a stay. ‘Here we live in a world, where everything happens for a reason; a cause beyond the ordinary human comprehension’. I told myself. I feel each and every moment you refuse to die, you only add to the contents of your success story. Who knows what tomorrow holds? As cruel as tribulations are, they are only a fleeting model of trials, they would eventually pass and become past stories. “For me as a physician, I pledge my allegiance to saving and only saving life, and as I practice my profession with conscience and dignity I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, hence would not by any means or under any threat practice the euphemized evil termed ‘mercy killing!’.