Bush Doctor in the City. Vol. 21
The Bush Doctor had taken to reading in the evenings before it got dark. The late afternoon rounds had been done and nothing exciting was going on. He had been reading for thirty minutes when the hurried sounds of footsteps towards his door made him say aloud, ‘what could it be this time’.
‘You have a VIP patient. The Witch Doctor’s daughter’ said the Bush Nurse.
He followed his nurse back to the ward. The new patient was pregnant and distressed.
He examined her quickly and said, ‘I am afraid, you cannot go back to the city. I need to operate now’.
‘Oh no. Not in this dump. No way. I would have my baby with my specialist in the city. Moreover, if my husband hears I came here, he will kill me’ the Witch Doctor’s daughter said.
The Bush Doctor knew her husband; a volatile army major who loved his beer. Most of the well to do city folk were wary of coming to the Bush for fear of being kidnapped for a ransom. The old militia leader had suddenly disappeared with all the cash and the new leader, a really angry youth, had unleashed a reign of terror. He was known as ‘cash and bury’, for he sometimes shot dead his hostages but still demanded payment for collection of corpses for burial. He horrified the whole Bush and City when he announced that ‘ dead hostages represented savings on food expenses, and the clients of dead hostages always paid up quickly before the corpse began to rot’.
The Witch Doctor has complained about the ban his son in law had placed on his daughter visiting his Bush shrine on a few occasions during his night time visits to the Bush Doctor.
‘No one of those militia boys is bold enough to come near my house’ he had boasted, beating his chest as he spoke.
The Bush Doctor prevailed and the operation was about to start. The two end legs of the operating table were raised on stones to effect a head down position. This tipped the baby away from the cervix thereby relieving pressure on the prolapsed umbilical cord.
He had been blunt, ‘ you will end up in the City with a dead baby if you leave now’ he had warned. That utterance had the Witch Doctor’s wife screaming out, ‘God forbid!’
He explained that at 38 weeks old the baby was ready to be delivered. The waters have broken and more importantly, the umbilical cord had prolapsed through the cervix into the vagina. The Witch Doctor was hurriedly summoned. Both parents insisted on watching the Caesarean section but the Bush Doctor would only allow one of them in, so the Witch Doctor’s wife took the only seat.
The Bush Doctor worked very fast. He gave intravenous Metoclopramide to aid the emptying of the stomach and hence avoid the dreaded Mendelson syndrome which occurs when vomit finds its way into the lungs. Diazepam was given to relax the patient.
The Bush Nurse passed a urinary catheter and put up a drip of Normal saline to inflate the bladder. This also helped to put the baby away from the umbilical cord.
‘One rule for some’ said the Bush Nurse.
‘The ancestral spirits forbade it. An eagle was perched on a palm tree the morning I gave birth to her’ said the Witch Doctor’s wife.
‘Where were ancestral spirits when I needed them?’ said the Bush nurse with a sigh. The Bush doctor was keeping out of this female circumcision riddle.
‘With due respect, the ancestors are against albinos’ said the Witch Doctor’s wife.
The Bush Doctor saw a flash of fire spread across his nurse’s face for a few second before she laughed and made a face at the old woman now almost blinded by her cataracts.
The Bush auxillary nurse was to assist during an operation for the first time. Two auxillaries had been trained by the French volunteer Doctor before her sudden departure but the Bush Nurse got rid of the female auxillary. She didn’t like the way the Bush Doctor’s eyes gazed on her waist line every time she walked past.
‘Hope you washed your hands like I taught you?’ the Bush Doctor asked as he painted the mountainous abdomen with iodine.
‘Yes sir’ came the reply.
The Bush Doctor started to incise the skin across the lower abdomen, where he had infiltrated with local anaesthesia a few minutes before.
‘I am down to peritoneum. This baby must not drown in Ketamine’ he said
‘Say when’ said the Bush Nurse.
A wall gecko scuttled across the roof and stopped directly over the operative field.
‘I don’t want that ulgy thing falling into the wound, kill it’ said the Bush Doctor to his assistant.
‘In my family, we are forbidden to kill these animals’ said the Bush auxillary.
‘Then I suggest you take off those gloves and go find another job!’ screamed the Bush Doctor making his patient jump. The wall gecko was dead in a few seconds.
‘When!’ said the Bush Doctor to his nurse. As she injected in the Ketamine, the Bush Doctor moved like lightening. Through the peritoneum, then through the womb and next thing the baby was out. The assistant by now was on the floor having passed out in shock and the Bush Nurse ran over to cut the cord. The baby screamed and a cheer rose out side.
‘We have company, please give the Ergotamine now’ said the Bush Doctor as he began to stitch the womb shut.
‘With which hand?’ said the Bush Nurse holding up the baby.
‘Drop the baby for a second would you. I need this womb contracted. Its bleeding!’
A big head appeared through the door. ‘Boy or girl?’ he asked.
‘Boy’ replied the Bush Nurse. The major disappeared. Celebratory machine gun fired followed.
‘I am so proud. My daughter is such a great woman. Do you know she has built an estate for the white oil workers in the city. She even supplies them with cars for hire. All down to the powerful Juju my husband made’ said the Witch Doctor’s wife.
As he put in the final stitches to the abdominal wound, the Bush Doctor began to ramble. He did that when there was something particularly difficult to say. He spoke out loud of how the Caesarean section was the way of entry into the world of great men. Great men like Julius Caesar and Robert the Second of Scotland. He spoke of how the great Ugandan Witch Doctors had been performing Caesarian sections long before the white man arrived in Africa with a mortality rate close to zero for mother and child; a feat witnessed by RW Felkin in 1879. The Witch Doctor’s wife swelled with pride and rocked from side to side smiling. The Bush Doctor looked at his Nurse for help.
‘Madam, we have bad news. The baby..er .. his complexion..’ her voice trailed off. The noise of soldiers celebrating outside intensified.
‘Don’t tell me its albino!’ screamed the Witch Doctor’s wife.
‘Worse ma. The baby is White’ said the Bush Nurse.
Before the news could settle in there was an almighty bang. The room shook. The Bush auxillary nurse on the floor jumped up and ran out screaming ‘earthquake, earthquake!’
The operating room suddenly was full of soldiers screaming ‘evacuate! We are under mortar attack from the militia! Cash and bury is coming!’
They carried the patient and the baby off. In five minutes the Bush Hospital was devoid of staff, patients or visitors.
No such excitement for the Bush Doctor in the City.10-7-07. 9.30am. 30year old lady comes in complaining of being stressed, having headaches, poor sleep, anxious and having a flushed face.
‘Is it the menopause?’ she asked.
‘Probably not’ I say. ‘Do you drink or smoke? I inquire’
‘No, I just drink 20 cups of coffee a day. Hardly a vice’ she says.
‘Caffeine can give you headaches and nervousness’ I say.
I think of the cancer causing chemical acrylamide which is contained in coffee. How some researchers gave poor laboratory animals ton loads of this wicked chemical and how the poor animals developed Cancer. Too much of a good thing might harm anybody. Who is to say small doses in humans is dangerous? Fried chips and crisps also contain acrylamide.
‘Why don’t you cut down on coffee and lets see what happens’ I say.
I feel a song coming on. Brasil defeated Ghana, 3-0 on the 27-6-06 at the World Cup. Reason for defeat? Must be the coffee says Osibisa!10-07-98. 9.30am (Travelled back in time to a London hospital where I am a junior doctor in obstetrics). I go to see a new- born. Dad’s cradles baby with pride and mum’s exhausted.
I examined baby and leave. Dad catches up with me on the corridor. I felt a thank you coming up.
‘Please, can you tell me how I can go about getting a DNA test. I don’t think that baby is mine’ he whispered. I am still in shock!