“This one story you must tell,” Prime tells me as I brief him about my weekend sojourns. Prime Time, as we all call him, is that friend I bother with stories of places I have visited and crazy people I have met. More so, he is like the MCA of his local joint called Mojos. His is a story saved for another day.
However, today is a story about a midwife; a male midwife in a small community hospital in the out-skirts of Taveta town. See, none of my teachers of English taught me how to refer to a male midwife so we will play along with midwife. Here is the story of Paul narrated in the words of our guest writer, WASIKE ODUORY OMOLLO.
The human mind is tailored to imagine that a midwife is a woman or should be. Degenerates imagine that male midwives live in a world of pussies. Paul is not a woman and neither does he own feminine characteristics. Having been brought up in a village, deep in Luo Nyanza he attended a day secondary school, not because his parents couldn’t afford a boarding school but because Paul was a hardhead. He could not cope up with life in a boarding school. He was as lazy as a lobster and as cunning. He abhorred the sound of a morning bell disrupting his sleep. He hated being supervised to study during preps times. Like you and I he hated running to class especially in the evening. However, unlike me he hated running for a cup of porridge very early in the morning especially the brawl around big bowls of hot porridge, I hated the brawl but I liked the porridge in equal measure.
Somehow after his 0 Levels, he secured himself a place in Kijabe Mission College where he trained as a midwife. Being in Kijabe meant you either do what the Romans do or quit. Here he saw the reality of the phrase, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Rules had to be followed. Professionalism was key. So poor Paul followed the flow like a sheep being led to the slaughterhouse.
It natured him professionally. He could handle any mother who came in with labor pains and perform his midwifery duties with excellent skills. Paul’s most thrilling moment was when he handed over a healthy child to its mother after delivery. Somehow his knackered personality went into thin air. To any mother in labour pain, Paul would give a re-assuring smile and say, “Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” This was a rebranded Paul, died and born again to a new self.
Here he is in Taita Taveta with a government employment to his name. As I was growing up, Taita Taveta to me sounded more of beautiful hills and a cool breeze from the ocean. Cleary I was geographically misinformed about the breeze especially. Paul was posted deep in the village. You could hardly hear a moving vehicle or motorbike.
Every morning the birds singing in the trees cheered him on. Somehow the villagers revered him as their black Messiah in regards to his top notch skills in baby deliveries. He was like the savior stork in the Stork City animation, delivering babies safely with their beaks.
The facility being a health centre was quite busy serving a many people who came in sick, weary and devoid of hope.
“I trained as a midwife and not what I am doing here,” he inwardly grumbled as he stitched a man who had chopped off his thumb.
“Asante mwanangu,” the man said as Paul smiled back holding a blood stained forceps in his right hand which was as well red due to the blood. He watched as the man disappeared to the pharmacy to get some drugs dispensed by a casual worker. He watched as the man grumbled away since he missed the pain relievers as well as antibiotics. Just like in most government hospitals, medicine was never enough.
7 o’clock, he flaps the register as he prepares to close the dispensary. He had just attended to a mother who came with a child with convulsions. I didn’t know what convulsion really meant. My layman’s understanding was a convulsion is when someone is having jerks as if dying. See, medicine was never my thing that’s why I landed in Political Science. I would sneak in law classes sometimes just to get a feel of defending mostly criminals.
My heart was in Political Science. I felt at home with it. My father though saw that as a joke. Like frcan pops, he wished I chose law. I lost count of the number of times he would say, “Sasa hiyo ni nini unasomea.” Explaining what political science was to my 65-year-old dad was like riding a horse in an ocean.
That aside, the child Paul had just attended to had foam flowing from his mouth. The little girl was shaking and rolling her eye balls. She looked about two-years-old. She was in a yellow t-shirt which had now turned brown. Her kinky hair was full of dust. Her pair of shorts stunk of urine. The stench could blow off your nose. Paul’s heart wrenched in pain. His stomach constricted with hopelessness since this was not his field. But the birds outside cheered him on.
“I swear I heard one of them say ‘Saviors do not run away from problems’. I swear it must have been the little kingfisher bird with a thin white feather patched on the tree right outside this window.” He looks adamantly at me and points at the tree.
“Anakufaaa! Anakufaa!” The mother was hysterical as she threw the child at Paul. Paul held the child. Her stench blew off his nose but he just couldn’t just let go of the baby. Suddenly, he could feel some paraffin. Had the child ingested paraffin! How? Why? Do babies know how to commit suicide? Just like you and me those questions ran through his mind.
“The child stained my white shirt. I had kept it clean so as to use it the following day. Omollo water is scarce here. It comes maybe once a week or even after three weeks because the government doesn’t seem to care.”
By now the contours on his face were deeper than before. His problems as a medic were deep.
He didn’t know what to do at first, being a professional he tried hard to be composed but he felt the burn out. He had worked from Monday and today was a Monday. Unlike his age mates in early thirties, he didn’t have weekends nor a girlfriend.
Finding his voice, he said, “Tutaweka dawa nyuma ipunguze mwoto” he said in his poor Swahili. He turned the child to lie on the side then opened an emergency tray only to remember he used the remaining drugs last week and drugs haven’t been re-stocked.
“The mother must have heard me curse.”
Paul cut a gauze and asked the mother to fetch some water in a jug back home using the old bicycle they came with. She then rushed back to fetch the water and he did what “they” called tepid sponging. The child was now calm. Her eyes were stable. In a blurry vision he saw the tears cascading down the mother’s cheeks. Perhaps tears of gratitude The Kingfisher bird was now silent.
He sat on the chair to document the case of the convulsing girl. Hardly had he trace his pen when a woman’s scream pieced the almost quieted night. Again! “s***!”
“Alijifungulia njiani, lakini nyumba ya mtoto haijatoka!”
Blood was trickling down her thighs behind her two women seemed to be in early sixties with a baby crying.
“Nyumba!” he marvelled.
He realized the placenta wasn’t out. Paul quickly looked for gloves in the store but could only one glove.
“Omollo, you don’t do a procedure with one glove like a teacher writing on the chalk board but in this case I had to.”
He expelled it out successfully and after a few checkups, he discharged both patients without adequate drugs but pain relievers. He then closed the consultation room and the clinic and sauntered to his cubicle in the teacher’s quarters.
“You know I share my room with bats.” He leads me to his cubicle and shows me one side of the ceiling which was collapsing infested with bats.
Every day he gets homes knackered. His only wish is better healthcare. If only his script could be re-postured… That night like many before, he didn’t even remember to remove his dusty shoes. He lay on his bed and mesmerized at two spiders; a male and female, mating at his collapsing ceiling.