An African Child's Story

An African Child's Story

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January 1994, I was only 7 years old. It was a cold, dry typical African morning. The tension in the hospital waiting room was almost palpable. The only sounds I could hear over the shrieking of the harmattan wind was of my mother and aunts sobbing. We had all rushed to the local hospital to visit an uncle who collapsed at his home while preparing for work. Uncle Padosa and my father had a close friendship that even predated my parents' marriage and he was my dad's lawyer. I could see my Dad's effort to keep a bold face as he admonished my mother in our native tongue to stop wailing and to console her younger siblings. Her sisters were so upset that their big brother was brought to the hospital, they were very sure the right thing to do was to ship him off to a witch-doctor who would heal the 'spiritual attack'. My father in his usual authoritative manner would not hear of it. He had pretended to agree with them but once his friend was put in his car, he obstinately drove to the hospital.

We followed suit in my mother's car. I watched quietly trying not to get noticed. My Uncle Padosa was my role model, he was always dressed in impeccable white shirts, large bow ties and black trousers. He was the only one I knew who could talk back at my dad and I had even overheard my dad once say he would go to him for advice about a controversy he had over a government contract. So Uncle Padosa was even smarter than daddy? I must be like him is what I always thought but now my role model was lying helplessly some where in this hospital Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement at the door and everyone looked up at the figure that walked into the room. He was a well dressed man with a very cultured manner, he had a stethoscope hanging over his neck. He was Dr. Tompu Nzaghi. He greeted the adults courteously and even gave me a curt nod. I watched as he explained what had happened and I could see my dad nod in agreement with relief. He described what I now know was a syncope due to carotid sinus syndrome. This occurred while my uncle was knotting his tie that morning. My aunt agreed that he was indecisive about which tie to wear as he had a lunch appointment with the governor that day.

My mother and aunts seemed to hang on every word the doctor spoke and at the end of his speech, only my dad had questions to ask. He gently offered clarifications. My aunts broke into a dramatic dance and I sat there wondering how one person could inspire so much awe and yet be so humble. On our way out into the cold morning, I heard my mom say thanks to my dad for making the decision to go to the doctor as she was sure the witch-doctor would have cut him up and administered herbs and probably recommended spiritual cleansing procedures. I got into my dad's car with my uncle for the trip home and I said "daddy, I know what I want to be when I grow up".

About the Author

Zulu Okoligwe

Location: Lagos, Nigeria

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