Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Changing Clouds

So, I decided to try my hands on fiction this time around. This story was inspired by my last post on ‘Do you know your genotype’. It was published on bellanaija.com. You can read it on the site here. Please let me know what you think about it, honestly. Your criticisms are very much welcome…

The ancient city of Ibadan didn’t seem to notice the day my first son, Adewale, died. The city was as busy as ever. Cloudless skies hung blue above the city as people went about their business. In the compound beside the hospital where my son died, a couple was being joined in a very loud traditional wedding ceremony.
The sounds coming from their loudspeakers almost drowned the doctor’s voice when he came to tell Dele and I the news. When he said “I’m sorry”, it sounded like “I’m coming”, but he still stood there and I wondered what he meant. But when he said “He is dead”, the words rang clearly and my sorrow, heavier than my weight, fell together with a thud on the cold terrazzo floor. 
As we left the hospital hours later in the rickety station wagon, Baba Femi, our landlord was kind enough to lend us, I wondered why the people on the streets didn’t notice that my precious son had just departed this world. They just carried on as if nothing happened. One bright-eyed boy, about the same age as Adewale, thrust a loaf of bread in my face but quickly retrieved it when he saw the look on my face.
“Gbemisola, Gbemisola!” Dele called beside me. I turned to look at him. He hadn’t cried yet but I knew the tears hung heavy in his eyes and would fall soon. He preferred to cry when he was praying.
“Maybe we should take all the children to the mountain this time,” he said, turning to look at me briefly. “We need to cast out the familiar spirits that have been disturbing them.”

Dele hadn’t always been religious; in fact, he had been too proud to succumb to God when I first met him. As a school teacher, he felt he knew everything. Especially, more than the ‘preachers who prayed out loud for people and then begged for money’, that was the way  he described them.
I recalled what attracted him to me fifteen years ago. I had just completed my secondary school and was trying to make a decision between hair dressing and tailoring. ‘Fashion designing’, as is the popular term for it today. But after meeting Dele at a party, which I had snuck out to attend, all thoughts of fashion vanished. He had this aura of confidence around him and I hung on his every word.
He wanted me to be a nurse, and a nurse is what I became. Not that I went to any nursing school. Dele, with all his big words couldn’t afford to send me to school, and I was soon pregnant with Adewale. So between breastfeeding one child and getting pregnant for another, I learnt how to give injections at a local hospital and recommend Paracetamol and Chloroquine for a patient with malaria.
But when the children started falling sick and the doctors could not understand what was wrong with them, he listened to the preacher from the Apostolic church who rang his bell on the street every morning.
“Familiar spirits are disturbing your children,” the preacher said after praying rigorously for over an hour in our dingy one-room apartment. “You need to fast and pray on the mountain to chase them out.”
Dele and I took turns to go to the mountain to pray for them, but it seemed the longer we prayed, the more they fell sick. Sometimes they all fell sick at the same time and I wished dearly that I could take their pain, and they, my strength. My children were young, but they looked older than their ages. All four were frail, all four were slow, and I began to wonder if God had put a curse on me.
“We must pray harder.” Dele said beside me, his voice sounding very far away. “We must not relent.” He sounded just like the preacher with the loud bell.
And so five months after Adewale’s burial, we took our children, now three, to the mountain. We left Ibadan for the prayer mountain in Ede, Osun state the day Bolade turned 11, the month Adewale was to clock 14. Three-year old Janet was strapped to my back for most of the journey while seven-year Jide clung to his dad. The rain that poured on that fateful day in July 1990 seemed to be on a vengeance mission and the journey was most uncomfortable for us all.
By the time we got to there, all three of them were sick and didn’t have the strength to climb the mountain. We had to take shelter in a church at the foot of the mountain and I couldn’t decide which was more uncomfortable, the hard benches or the leaking roof.
“I’ll pray for all of you. It’s good that you are here. God will hear our prayers,” Dele said before he left, but his words did not sound reassuring.
Sometime in the middle of the night, as the sounds of many prayers floated down the mountain in different pitches, Bolade cried out of his sleep. “Mummy, my bone, hit my bone, shake my bone,” he cried, clutching his right leg in pain.
This was not the first time or the first child to do this. Dele and I took turns at night when any of them complained of this sort of pain. I couldn’t understand why they wanted us to tap their bone continuously or why they cried when we stopped. But it was what they wanted and we had to oblige. All trace of sleep evaporated as I kept vigil on Bolade’s leg.
When Dele came down from the mountain, he announced that he had a vision. We should leave Ibadan and relocate to Lagos. We had to leave the evil spirits behind and move to a new place.
We left for Lagos without returning to Ibadan and quickly found a single-room apartment in Mushin. Life was hard with all our money spent on rent and drugs, but we managed. For a few months, it seemed all was well, until Jide fell sick. This time around, we went to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), where he was admitted. After examining him and running some tests, the doctor said he wanted to run some tests on Dele, the other children, and I.
Dele replied the doctor quickly. “We don’t have HIV. We’ve already done the test and we are negative.”
The doctor, a young, round man just fresh from medical school replied Dele like he was talking to a child. “Do you know your genotype?”
The tests revealed that Dele and I were AS, carriers of Sickle Cell and our three children were SS, sicklers. After the doctor explained to us why our children were SS and the implications of it, I felt both angry and relieved. Angry that our ignorance was the cause of our children’s problems and relieved to finally know what was wrong with them.
But my relief did not last long. Jide developed more and more complications and ended up spending three months at the hospital. From one blood transfusion to another, one infection to another, he became so weak until he could take no more.
One Sunday evening, after my son’s body had been drained of all strength, he breathed his last. This time around, the clouds that hung above the city noticed and cried heavily with me.


stelzz said...

Hmm. very sad story. Ignorance does harm though. I believe if they had known sooner, it may not have prevented their marriage but at least they would know what the disease is and would have been able to better treat/care for their children. Good work

@ilola said...

This is why they say "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance".
Nice story, and one a lot of people can relate to

'Lara said...

Ignorance is what happened to our parents...madness is what I would say is affecting people who despite knowing their genotype still go ahead to get married and have children.

Myne Whitman said...

What a touching story! I think a lot of knowledge is key in the issue of Sickle cell.

Luciano said...

saw the post on BN............its a good story, its good to be informed. pls checkout my blog: http://lucianochinwe.blogspot.com/

Rhapsody B. said...

I think the hardest thing about death is that life goes on in spite of.

It is not a curse to not know, it is only a curse to know and pretend not to see, know or understand.

You did the best you could with what you knew. No one thinks about gynotype when they are dating, even with all the advancement in medicine people still don't think about gynotype. NO one says, woo he's cute, i wonder what's his gynotype.

It could not be easy on any level to bury your children. May the Lord strengthen and keep you always, may he bless your counterance so that you are able to endure all there is to come and whisper to your heart so that you can still be joyful.

Stay blessed.

enybees-hub said...

Very touching story and beautifully written. Very touching story and beautifully written.

Nia Charms said...


Linux and Life said...

when ignorance can be a bliss sometimes, it usually does more harm than good. At least that's fortunate for these parents to eventually know about the disease. And this article also makes me to think about the power of the supernaturals and religions. No matter what how advanced science can be, we still need hope and faith, and miracles will happen.

I'm from Vietnam btw, just accidentally found your blog and I like it a lot. Followed you to read more great articles of yours.

Toinlicious said...

Very nice story. On point and message gets across.
I wondered about the description of that doctor tho, how is did she know the doc is "just fresh from medical school". Maybe you should leave it at "young looking doctor"...my 2cents.

first time here and following. You can check out my blog too. http://toinlicious.blogspot.com

Nenyenwa said...

very touching story, I think it should be made routine to screen all newborns in Nigeria for hemoglobinopathies (including sickle cell).

MsJB said...

Great job! Very touching story indeed
Thanks for dropping by my blog :)

Okoawo BlueGate said...

What a wonderful and emotional piece! It's so touching. Ignorance often make us catch witches and wizzards.

Okoawo BlueGate said...

Wow! This is good.

Anonymous said...

Ooh was this on Bellanaija? Good story!