One, Two, Three and Four!

One, Two, Three and Four!

“Steve! When did you get another headset?” my sister shrieked. She was going through my place like the NDLEA with a signed search warrant from the Supreme Court.

She was always like that. Each time she stopped by, it was an experience for me. “When did you get a [new] XYZ?” “Where is the old one?”. Most times, my response was “Leave me, jooor”. Don’t get it twisted, I love my sister. She’s 6 years older and we never really grew up together or had any protracted bonding time, but sibs we are. She’d do anything for me and I would do the same for her. She, due to the kind of work she does, had gotten me out of a few financial jams. I’m sure if we did the math, I’d still owe her some money, but what are elder sisters for, eh?

6 years is a lot of time between kids of my parents’ time. You can guess it was not by choice. It wasn’t child spacing or family planning. What it was was a plain misfortune. No, not of a spiritual kind either, though many thought it was and that my mum needed to seek spiritual help – the white, grey or black kind. This is Africa isn’t it?

Let me take you back a bit. My folks, like most folks from that era, have baby pictures of us hung on the walls of our residences. I grew up to find these up. Here’s the odd thing – I had one sibling but we had about 5 baby pictures up. This constantly boggled my mind as a child. Then one day, I found the words and timing to ask my mum about them. “Oh, this is so so and so she was born in 197x, he died at Y months old, this other one was born after him. She was Z months old when she died too….” was her response. I do not recall the details. I could call her to refresh my memory right now but I’d rather she forgot them too.

One time we moved, I made sure the pictures never came out of the packing boxes. I was done looking at the ones that we lost. Done lying to my friends who came to the house that all 5 babies up there were myself or my sister. You see, I’m a believer in letting the past stay where it belongs, there is enough in the now and ahead to occupy my mind and vying for my resources.

My folks are both AS. Though both learned and comfortable, they were rather unfortunate with the quality of healthcare they got. Not like it was substandard or something. The doctors just didn’t know much about the science of Sickle Cell back then. There was a dearth of knowledge as to why these babies were dying. In fact, my own condition was discovered at the age of 1. On my birthday, when I went into a crisis. The interesting thing about crises is they chose the most inopportune time to show up. I’ll share a few, but my sister is calling my name again.

“What is this? Old man, you bought a toy?” my sister asks, taking my practice drone out of its box.

“Please, put that down. It’s not a toy” I plead. “And why do you keep scattering my house? Later I will be looking for something and I won’t find it” I go on the offensive.

“As long as you are not married, its my house too!” she shoots back.

Please, how did we arrive at this point? I missed the logic.

I may miss the logic – she doesn’t care – but I didn’t miss the message. Its the same as always “Go *clap* And *clap* Marry! *clap*” Sometimes, she adds “you are getting old, see grey hair on your head” – that’s a lie, though, I don’t even look my age – good genes. But whatever she says, I ignore them. She’s just being a troublesome elder sister.

I recall getting an all expense paid trip to go to Cape Town and kick it with some folks. Someone I knew from school had given it to me just because. He was in those leagues right out of the University, I found him and made myself useful to his business. I happened to be there when he was discussing the invitation with another fella, I’m in my corner sitting and listening. Both of them had been on such trips before, they were both busy this period, so he says “Steve, abi you go go?”.

Did he just ask me that? “Hell, yeah!” I almost screamed. I mean, what was I doing that I couldn’t go? But I had to be smooth about it, so I go “Where, bro?”. He takes his time to explain to me and I say “Sure, why not?” when he is done.

Fast forward a few days, by some miracle, I get a visa in record time and fly a South African Airways flight to Jo’burg then hop on another to Cape Town. I don’t know any of these people, but they know I’m Chris’ guy from Nigeria. I  settled in and tried to make friends. Took a million pictures. I was to be there for 3 days. This was not long after the 2010 FIFA World Cup. I remember seeing some matches on TV back in Nigeria and wondering how it could look so cold.

It was cold! The jacket I had reluctantly taken from my cousin became my daily garb. I wore it 24 hours a day. I wore it to bed. Slowly, it began to dawn on me that I hadn’t prepared for this trip.

Let me break this down the way the YBNL Boss would do it, LOL! Stick with me. The way my body is designed, altitude is a challenge – one; Sitting still for long hours is a challenge – two; Extreme temperature is a challenge – three; Dehydration is a challenge – four. I had been at about 30,000 feet above the ground, sitting for a combined time of over 8 hours in economy seats, coming into the most bitter cold I had ever experienced (unprepared), having to live on the rationed water served in tiny cups on a plane. I will talk about these water rations on commercial flights one day! Very annoying! Anyways….

It was inevitable.

One night, I got back to my hotel room and I was feeling funny. The pain started crawling in from my lower back. I knew it was war. In a few minutes, I couldn’t walk. I had to crawl into the bath tub and began running scalding hot water over my body in hopes of arresting the pain. I got out and called the hotel reception. I needed more heat in my room. Someone came up to check my heater, it was on max already, but he did go back and brought me another heater. Because the heater had to be plugged in and the cable wasn’t long enough to get from the wall socket to the bed, I had to lie on the floor right next to the heater and wrap myself up in a blanket. I took some pain killers, but the pain only advanced. I was losing this war.

In the morning it got real bad. I was to begin preparations to leave for Nigeria but I ended up in a hospital. I had to be taken out of my hotel room on a wheel chair. I was writhing in pain. It was all over – my back, my knees, my neck, my chest. By now, I had informed my folks back home and someone in SA had called Chris. Here’s the thing about having a crisis, especially one that becomes a bloody inconvenience to everyone – you begin to feel like a burden, a failure, a blight. You sometimes wish you’d just die and save everyone the stress and money.

Luckily, Chris’ bookings – the one he passed to me had travel insurance. This small cost saved me a ton of money in healthcare bills. I was very grateful for this, because most times, a sufferer has a war ragging in his body, he may be literally dying but he has to pay those medical bills, he has to move the right amount to the right places to make it available for his care. Sometimes Always monies earmarked or already tied up in other things.

For me the Opportunity Cost of a crisis is the most painful part. Yes when the pain comes, it feels like I was run over by a 30 ton truck with a full load of granite. But when I think of the stuff I’d rather be doing instead of lying in a hospital bed or the stuff I’d rather do with the monies I spent on it each time; that, my friends, is the definition of painment.

Back to Cape Town in 2010. I lie on my bed swimming in IV fluids and pumped full with pain meds. The doctor comes and asks me how I’m feeling and if there is anything I need. She is white and quite nice. She is competent, I can tell from how she handles her cases. But with me, she was clueless. She had heard of Sickle Cell but didn’t know how to manage it. I laughed a sad laugh in my mind. “O fo ne!” I thought.

But if I were to die in a hospital bed in a nice hospital in Cape Town, it wasn’t a bad deal compared to the other options I had been faced with. I once had a crisis at a bus stop in the rain on Adeniyi Jones (Ikeja, Lagos) back when I was an undergrad. I was considering gently lying in the gutter and dying quietly in the slowing rain when an angel in the form of a smoker out for a smoke found me and rescued me. Please, who comes out in a drizzle to smoke? Miracle, eh?

“You are going to die due to this oyinbo’s ignorance” a voice said in my head. Then I began to wonder what it would cost to ship my body back home to my folks and how bad the whole thing would look for Chris.

“Do you have a doctor in Nigeria? How does he manage you, what does he administer?” she asked. I suddenly remembered Vincent!

Vincent was a friend from school. We’d become friends when he came with Mary (another Angel) to see me during one of my numerous admissions at the University Health Centre. He was a Pharmacy student and my go-to guy for all my medication related questions. I’m sure I made him learn a thing or two as he often had to research and ask others to answer my endless questions. This relationship had stayed on strong even after school.

“Yes, I do” I replied.

“Can you call him, I’d like to speak with him” she said. She stepped away to attend to the next patient, giving me time to get my doctor on the line.

I called Vince and gave him a low down “Guy. Na you be my doctor for Naija o. What I need is Normal Saline line with B.Co in it and Pent IV or something. The usual”. He said he’d help me out.

I called the doctor’s attention and put her on the phone with Vince. He introduced himself as my doctor (he was kuku my caregiver, God knows) and coached her. She also had never seen or heard of injecting Vitamin B Complex (or any other thing) into an IV fluid bag. I guess we taught her a few things for the 6 days I was there. *winks*

He also never stopped praying for me. God heard him, God heard my folks, God heard me.

Vince called me 4 days ago. His funded Debit Card had been declined at a Petrol Station, he needed fast cash on another card. I was in the middle of something, rushing from one client to another, but I stopped to make it happen for him.

My sister is calling my name again. I walk to the living room to find her looking up at a wall frame I had placed beside the wall aquarium since the last time she was here.

“Can I have this?” she asked.

I looked up at it:

Whatever is happening in your life now does not discount the reality of past answered prayers

– Andy Stanley



Based on a true story.

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