It was neither the first nor the last time he would be getting such treatment, but he cared less.
He remembered his days as a student, a certain patient screamed when he came into his room to collect some samples. It was the first time he came close to the stench of racism. It smelt of nothing but ignorance.
The white lights that slapped against the walls gave the hallways of St. Mary’s hospital a saint-like and flawless look. The nurses and orderlies wheeled hospital beds and sick people on stretchers around to different parts of the hospital. People waited patiently in the waiting room to be attended to while they read the newspaper or listened to President Trump’s recent insight on increase in employment for African-Americans in the US. Some of the old people grunted while others busily turned to twitter for more updates.
‘Dr. Lota, you are needed at examination room two. Dr. Lota, your attention is needed at E2.’
The voice over the speaker pronounced his name in such a way that the ‘a’ was silent.
‘Ha choro m, they want me, mother. I have to go now. Jisike.’
He made his way down the corridor and straight to the examination room. He opened the door to join Dr. James (the MD of St. Mary’s Specialist hospital, New York) and Dr. Clement (the head of departments). They were in the middle of a meeting.
‘Madam….’ The doctor paused and nodded when Lota stepped into the room before he continued. ‘We are going to give your son the best among us to see that the cancer is put under control.’
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The wrinkles on her face and palms shrunk and her skin had turned much paler than her complexion. The old woman leaned against her husband for support. She shivered as though she lay on an ice bed. Lota tried as much as possible to follow, his mind was on other things –his journey back home to Nigeria in few day; he didn’t know why he had been called into a meeting while he was supposed to be packing his stuffs. A young man of thirty was on the bed in a hospital examination gown; his head was bent, showing discolouration on the flesh that covered his neck.
‘Who is the doctor that we have all been waiting for?’
It was the old man who asked this time around. The MD turned to Lota, and all eyes followed him. Lota could read the disgust on the faces of both the sick young man and his parents. Before they could say a word, the MD began while Lota walked forward to examine the young man:
‘This is Dr. Lota, he is from Nigeria and one of the best hands you can ever get in the whole of this side and Europe. We had to borrow him for some months before he goes back home. We are privileged to have him.’
Lota walked to the boy’s side of the bed. His parents kept a tight face. From a distance, there were pronounced discolouration on the outer layer of his skin; he might not live for too long. He gave a heavy sigh which descended and swept around the quiet cold room. He raised his hands to examine the growth on the boy’s back but the young man withdrew and slapped his hands away.
‘Please, don’t touch our son.’
The mother vehemently said. Both couple turned to the doctors and the man asked:
‘Dr. James, is there no other capable hand? There should be more experienced doctors under this roof?’
Dr. James readjusted his glasses and said:
‘But he is the best man for the job. Your son might die if he is not operated on, right, Dr. Lota?’
Everyone turned to get a response from Lota, but it was too late; he was gone.
‘What do you think you are doing?’
The award slipped and nearly crash-landed if not that he caught it with both hands. Lota turned and caught Dr. James smiling from ear to ear.
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‘I nearly caught you, didn’t I?’
Lota didn’t talk. He went back to clearing his shelf.
‘I think you are making a very big mistake. Don’t you think you have to reconsider?’
Lota didn’t say a word. He knew what the old man wanted but he already smelled his mother’s ofe-onugbo, all the way in Nigeria. He handed over a signed document to Dr. James who read the contract they earlier had with him. He would be on his way to Italy after spending some time at home. James saw that his colleague wasn’t ready to give in.
‘You know, there is this pride in every man which blinds him from getting whatever is due him. There is this pride that stops us from getting what we want or deserve, even when it could cost us our lives. I strongly believe that you are of a higher understanding, and have sworn to preserve human life at all cost. Today, you have to see to that obligation.’
For the first time, Lota turned and looked at his superior.
‘I owe no man anything. They can be all peacocks and take their son to hell. My flight leaves first thing tomorrow morning. No man has the right to make another feel less a man. No man.’
‘Look at your palms. Take a good look at your palms. Those lines are nothing but history, waiting to be made. Tomorrow must read about you. We don’t decide fate; fate decides us. I am not blind to the whims of the uncivilised, nobody can be.’
Lota packed the rest of his things, slung his bag on his shoulder, grabbed James hand for a quick shake and said:
‘See you in few years time.’
He left it and headed straight to the door. When he opened it, he was met by two old people; they looked helpless.
‘We are really sorry. I was stupid for saying what I said. Please, he is the only breath we breathe.’
Dr. James came along and joined them; he put one strong arm on Lota’s shoulder and pressed hard.
Written by Oluoma Udemezue.