Death is not a Tragedy – ‘Tragedy is not dying but life that fails to fulfill its potential’
Gwaro closed the album and pushed it aside just when there was a loud knock on the bedroom door. Whoever it was shouldn’t have bothered to knock at all for she did not wait for a response. It was Maria, her daughter ‘mama why have you been crying?’ she was surprised there in the mirror in front of her she saw her face ;Yeah two lines on either side of her face her eyes were red too, she could not deny it was too obvious .
She looked at Maria, she had grown a great deal lately and she looked older than her 13 years .Her daughter was happy she would never crash her world. ‘Am okay my dear, ‘She lied,’ I had been cutting onions before I came here” It was a lie for an answer but still an answer to get her daughter away. She had been looking at the album that had her wedding photos and the short life that she and George had spent together .It was sad that George had gone to the grave early it felt like the other day when they had exchanged the vows, for richer or poor, in sickness and in health till death does us apart. Then soon after, their union was blessed and Maria was the first fruit of her womb, then Obed soon after, then Steve.
Maria and Obed grew like all other children. Steve was different though, he was born in the hospital alright but it was as if something was always amiss. At age three months his head started increasing in size it was growing faster than the other parts of the body. Naturally, they were alarmed. They took him to a dispensary, and so he was treated and discharged home on oral medication. This happens to all those of us who are poor. Society defines the type of food we eat the type of houses we live in, the means of transport we use and the even the type of services we get. When we get sick, because we cannot go to real hospitals with enough facilities, because we cannot pay the staggering amounts to get standard health care, because the sophisticated diagnostic tests are too expensive beyond our abilities and money power. We are misdiagnosed, our illnesses are never treated or are simply under treated and who should we blame? The doctors? Certainly not. I believe they do their best working tirelessly even when the returns are too little to write home about, sacrificing family time to be with patients even if to give hope only, constantly inhaling the air in under ventilated hospital wards even with knowledge that the Microbacteria that causes tuberculosis is airborne, risking lives staying close to psychiatric patients who have been labeled dangerous to the general public, performing surgeries and surgeries their only separation from the deadly virus being thin gloves that could give in any time, giving hope to others when they are ironically hopeless, being the bearers of sad news, trying to explain how they did their best to ungrateful relatives.
Once again my government failed in this. They built hospitals in the cities and in the villages, dispensaries, dispensaries that are ill equipped, understaffed and mismanaged. A dispensary with only five workers to serve a population of thousands of people with a pharmacy that is only equipped with anti-malaria even in non-malaria endemic areas.
My Steve was treated for malaria, while he had hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus, we waited for the drugs to work because we trusted the government even with our lives. But day after another, it got worse, even with the strict adherence to drugs. So for our poverty, we got the diagnosis after the first year of life when all the signs were evident. This is when I got to know that Steve would be a special child .That I would forever wait for him to achieve the developmental milestones, he had smiled at the age of two months, but he did not sit up at six months and I kept waiting for him to topple, to coo, to say ‘mama and baba’ but instead his head kept growing and growing I kept slipping in and out of the hospital and he kept taking drugs and drugs at 1 year and six months he went in for a surgery it was a difficult decision to reach I had no one to consult my relatives were tired already and it was six months after George had rested the eternal rest and so I was alone a widow at the age of 30 years with three children one who was special. I had a job as a matron in a school, lucky they understood my needs but my life was more than a struggle every time I prayed that my child may live that one time he may be like any of us; able to talk, to play to call me mum.
For nine years I sought a miracle but every time I glanced at my baby my faith declined. I knew it would somehow be forever thus for me that every year he would be admitted for about eight times and even so, the convulsions would never go away, not permanently, that every time he would be taking meningitis prophylaxis and almost for life even with the shunt in situ his head would remain unproportionately large. That his arms and legs would forever remain thin as cooking sticks .That he would never grow taller than his usual 80 cm and as long as he lived he would never ask, so his life would be but tragedy, for tragedy is not dying but life that fails to fulfill its potential.
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