“Osaze, how far now?”
“I’m doing great, how are you?”
“Doing fine o, just going to catch some forty winks and be back for call at four.”
“Wow! You better get going, it’s already 2 pm. Thankfully, your place is not far like that or I would have suggested you just do a straight 24hours, no going home at all.”
“Chris, you are not a serious guy o. Do 24 hours? What do you think we do when we are on call? Isn’t it 24 hours already? Not a new thing, bro. Anyway, let me get going, so I don’t have issues with HOD. You know he likes pulling stunts. For all you know, he could show up at 4:05 and start screaming indiscipline when he doesn’t see the doctor on call. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Sure thing OZ, later.”
“We can’t put it out there just like that.”
“Then what on earth do we do? Leave him roaming the streets? We have a duty to the people of Lagos State.”
“Yes, I know we have a duty to protect the people, but for crying out loud, we don’t want to cause panic now, do we?”
“You really can’t be serious about keeping a lid on this. The man has run away. How he did that is beyond me. He escaped from the quarantine centre and in a bid to rush out of the gate, I was told he cut his leg against a metal jutting out of the gate. Do you know what that means?”
“No, but I’m sure you won’t hesitate to educate me.”
“It means that we have a highly infectious person out there, bleeding and capable of infecting fifty to hundred people every hour he is on the loose.”
“Do it then. Put it on all the major television stations and let the announcement be every fifteen minutes. NTA, Channels, AIT, Silverbird, all of them. The radio stations too, Wazobia, Blaze, Inspiration, every major one. But you must give them all one strict condition.”
“And what’s that?”
“The calmest broadcaster with the most soothing voice should announce it. We don’t want just anyone. This thing has the capacity to inject fear into people. Am I clear?”
“What on earth is wrong with this remote? You pay ARD dues and yet these guys can’t replace or at least repair a faulty remote. Ah chief, is that you? I didn’t realise you were on call today too. How’s O and G this evening?”
“Fine, my brother, fine. But those women can’t kill me o. I’m on Labour Ward posting this week and happen to be on call today too. I practically had to run from the labour ward, mehn! I told my house officer to monitor the remaining two patients. They are still in the first stage. If there’s any need, they’ll call me.”
Chuckle. “That’s O and G for you. Keeps you on your toes like nothing else can. How are preparations for your part two exams?”
“Well, I’m pushing it o. What’s showing on TV? You dey watch ball? I wan watch small news before I go to the reading room.”
“That’s what I was even saying before you walked in. The DSTV remote seems to have packed. I tried the battery and all but we are stuck on Super Sports until Doctor Edwin replaces it.”
“That’s the ARD official, right?”
“Nawa o, so till then, we are stuck here and it’s even golf they decided to show today. Hmm. Okay o, Doctor Osaze, you take care, let me go and open book small. You guys in A and E should have a calm call.”
“Thanks, chief. Calm call too.”
“Sister where is the patient?”
“He is the one on that stretcher over by the corner.”
“He came alone? The guy looks like he has been in a dogfight. And his right leg is dripping blood. Please sister, just bring up the tray so I can look at that wound. I’ll go talk to him now.”
Doctor strides over to patient.
“Oga, good evening. How are you?”
“Fine…fine, Sir. Please help me Sir, please Sir.”
“Okay, you are in the right place. We’ll help you. What happened?”
“I don’t know what happened. Please help me, Sir, just help me, please.”
“Oga we will help you, but what happened to you? Were you in an accident, or was it thieves, or did you fight with someone? What happened?”
“I don’t know what happened o.”
“See eh oga, there’s no way you can come in here and say you don’t know what happened to you. How did you get that deep gash on your right leg? Abi you don’t want to be attended to?”
“No, no, no, please attend to me Doctor, kai! Okay, but I don’t know how to explain to you, okay, I went to see my shop that I rented out to someone. You see eh, he is owing me 3 months’ rent. I went to ask for my money, but he sent thugs to fight me and throw me out. It was where they were beating me that I sustained this knife cut.”
“They were beating you?”
“And stabbed you with a knife?”
“And is that the knife wound on your leg?”
“Hmm. A knife?”
“Yes sir, true.”
“And they were beating you too.”
“So how did you escape from them?”
“Hei doctor abeg naa, I just managed to run. Please help me.
Attendant Nurse approaches.
“Thank you, sister. Can you pass the gloves please… Thank you. Uncap the Normal saline and cut the tip a bit… Thank you. Kai, sorry. Did the blood splash on you? Sorry about that. I didn’t realise the opening was that big.”
“It’s alright, doc. I’ll clean up once we are done. I think the blood splashed on you too.”
“Yes, my feet and arm. I’ll clean up shortly.”
“Sorry doctor, sorry nurse.”
“No problem oga. Okay, I think this will keep the bleeding at bay and I may have to add four or five stitches.”
“Thank you doctor.”
Doctor and nurse in an aside.
“Sister, what do you think? Did you hear our conversation? He said he was beaten and stabbed in the leg. Hmmm, I don’t believe it. I agree he looks quite scruffy but he doesn’t look like he has taken a beating, and that wound is definitely not a stab wound. It looks like something one can get from a jagged metal edge rather than a finer knife edge.”
“Yes, I see your point. You know what? I’ll just inform the compound matron about it. It may be nothing though, but if it’s a police case, I don’t want to be in admin problem.”
“Alright, you should do that, and on second thoughts, since we are done cleaning the wound, just give him his TT shot and dress the wound, there’ll be no need to suture. We’ll let it heal by secondary intention. It’s a dirty wound and I don’t want it breaking down in future. Meanwhile, I’ll prescribe the antibiotics cover he needs.”
“Okay, Doctor Osaze.”
“Let me have his folder please, I need to take a detailed history.”
He takes note: Mr. Basil Effiong, a thirty-six-year-old businessman who resides at 16 Makuro Road, Sonya, Surulere, Christian and Efik, presented with the complaints of injury to the right leg of six hours duration and fever of two hours.
Patient claims to have been involved in a six-man fight following a misunderstanding while he had gone to collect rent from his tenant. He claims to have been attacked, beaten and then stabbed in the right leg with a kitchen knife. He was . . .
Nurse Rachel was home now. Her shift finished at 7 am and she did her handing over without hitches. That Basil Effiong with the leg wound was observed over the night and was stable this morning except for a fever. His wound was already cleaned and dressed, his complaint of headache and joint pains were taken care of with Zerodol, although he didn’t seem to be much relieved. Maybe he did get a beating like he claimed after all. The fever was there when he presented, but they had put it to his body’s reaction to the stress of that deep right leg gash…and beating.
Rachel had just had her bath and seen her hurrying husband off to the front door, when she came back into the sitting room turned on the plasma TV, and selected Channels TV station to listen to the news. But then, she quickly turned down the volume of the set as the cue music threatened to deafen her. The music tapered off and the announcer’s serene face appeared as he started, his voice barely audible: “The Lagos State Ministry of Health has announced the sudden disappear…”
Rachel felt a chill. Surely, the air conditioner was turned on too high. She walked towards it, away from the television, and when she tried turning the AC from high-cool to cool, it let out a nasty croak. She changed her mind and turned it off altogether. She started to turn away, but noticed a biscuit wrapper tucked into the corner of the air conditioner. She picked it out and shook her head as she mumbled something about children giving her a headache. She walked back towards her seat as the announcer rounded off.
“Anyone with any useful information should call any of these numbers – 08144237894, 07034588756. The public is advised not to confront the said person or have any reason to panic, but to quietly call the relevant authority. You are still tuned in to Channels Television. News Track is up next. Don’t go away.”
Rachael had no clue what it was the announcer was talking about, but patiently waited for News Track to begin.
When the phone rang again for the eleventh time, Rachael woke up and realised, as she looked with blurred vision at the wall clock, that it was past 1 pm. She had slept off on the couch while watching TV. How long did she even listen to the news, ten minutes maybe? She stretched, cleaned the spittle that had seeped out the side of her face and looked at her phone. Eleven missed calls from Nurse Uju. Was something wrong? Her brain began to churn. She had just handed over to Uju this morning.
Rachael gave a start when the phone rang again. Uju’s name was still the Caller ID and Rachael answered. “Hello? Sister Uju, is everything okay?”
“Have you seen the announcement on the TV all morning?”
“It’s been on since yesterday evening, I think.”
“Okay, what is it about and what does it have to do with me?”
An uncomfortable silence followed.
“Uju? Are you there?”
“You mean you don’t know?”
“Know what? What is wrong, Uju?”
“That Basil, bed 4. He escaped from the quarantine centre yesterday early evening.”
“Quarantine centre? What quarantine centre?”
And then the sleep fog cleared. Ebola quarantine centre!
Rachael’s heart stopped.
The Fever… The joint pains… The darting of the eyes around like he half-expected people to come looking for him… The lie about thugs beating him up and stabbing him – Ebola!
The blood splash… Changing his soiled linen… The man reaching out with his blood-stained hands to grab her hand and say thank you after she dressed his wound – She was now a contact!
When her heart managed to restart again, she felt a cold rush followed by a hot flush. Thoughts flashed through her mind – her husband, her twin seven-year-old sons, Dr. Osaze. Everything turned black as Rachael slipped noiselessly onto a heap on the floor.
“Hello? Hello?” Uju’s voice resonated through the phone. “Sister Rachael, hello? Are you there?”
However, four hours earlier . . .
7:25 am: Patient is stable this morning, however, still complaining of headache and mild fever.
Patient was adequately counselled on need to do requested investigations, but refused, demanding to be discharged against medical advice. He has been informed of the implications of his decision.
I, Basil Effiong, after being counseled and fully aware of the implication, and ready to bear the consequences, sign to be discharged against medical advice this 10/10/2014.
7:40 am: Patient discharged against medical advice.
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