It is a happy moment after getting the news that my sister in-labor has delivered. I and my mum drove down to Ibadan to visit her. Her ward is at the top of one of the 6-floor buildings. At the base, we smiled down to the lift. As we wait with others for the lift to come around and drop it occupant for us to step in, a man came up hurriedly … “you can’t go in there. The Lift cant takes you, we are still looking for a way to let out people inside as the elevator has jammed, no power to carry you unless you will wait for the elevator to rest”.
I was fascinated by his words. What I know is that when people get tucked in the elevator, it is an emergency. The only reason I wasn’t freaking out by the news was that the man was more concerned about us not getting in than the people there getting out. I looked at my mum, I wondered why she is still staying around as I know the problem should not be our problem since there is another way of getting to the top; the stairs. I saw the disappointment in her face as we turned for the stairs. She stayed at the base and inhaled heavily…The Hospital is about to tell me her story.
For months now I have been wanting to write about my experience at the UCH (University College Hospital, Ibadan) two months ago, but couldn’t find a way to start. Is it from my sister that just delivered that we went to visit? Will it be from my mum that we went together? Will it be from me or the hospital itself? If then how I get to start turned out to be not good enough, I only hope you get the message.
If you have not been to the UCH then you might not get the imagery I am hoping to paint with this write-up but yet this is not about the hospital, this is the story of the part of this country we do miss when we are distracted by entertainment on TV or the shenanigans of politics or sport. I am sure the same story can be told from different experiences of people walking this nation.
I wasn’t born in the UCH but that is where I opened my eyes into. The stairs, the smell, the smiling and hard faces of nurses who are to me ladies or women, the periodic appearance of doctors that I know to be men, the tall buildings and the large environment occupied by the hospital. My mum is a nurse, which should explain my relationship with the soul of the hospital. As a woman that schooled in Ibadan, and worked at UCH before We moved to Osun State after its creation, she also had many friends in the hospital. Her friends automatically are mini-mums to me, so I do jump around a lot. The Period at the moment will be between 1990-1993 where I just started schooling.
Visiting UCH 30 years after, nothing much has changed. And 30 years before then, UCH was being created, making the Hospital around 60 years old, let us remember according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2005 life expectancy in Nigeria was put at 48 years for males and 50 years for females. Meaning, if UCH were woman, she is already dead…funny.
In a few minutes I am already on the 2nd floor. I looked back and couldn’t find my mum. I traced my steps back to find her half the first-floor stairs waiting, smiling at me as I showed up again. I remember the old days where my mum drags me up the stairs as I try hard to catch up, I became sorry for her but much more sorry for myself how I thought a mother that has aged 30 years from the time in UCH will climb the stairs the same way, so I waited for her as she picked up again. It was at this moment that I got to look around to appreciate again the great hospital which as served the people of Nigeria, cured many and watched many passes away to great beyond (aka death). I paid attention to the staircase.
It is old. I see wear and tear on the stone marble floor of the cases. I wondered what rocks would have gone through from the human feet that have made it depressed like the sole of a shoe overused. The depression went down so much that the iron rod used as a skeleton for the stone also has experienced the same wear-out; bent out. My mind got off and took me back to the elevators, asking my brain to determine how tired the mechanisms must have been considering what time and use have done to the stones on the floor.
It took time, but we got to the maternity ward where my sister and the new baby were. She looks tired. Yes, she just delivered but I also know the mosquitoes that welcome us as we entered had a good part played. I asked her how she copes with the mosquitoes, she said: “stay awake and sleep later in the day”. In my mind, I am already getting mad about the situation in the hospital, but it seems she is not that bothered about the mosquito, even though she only has spent a few days there, I know she has seen more monsters that have put mosquitoes to what they literally are; ‘ants’. As touchy that I was, I wanted to know.
‘Sister, since you got here, have you gone down the floors?’, I asked her.
“No,” she replied. How can I go down, the lifts are not good and it’s painful moving down the stairs. Yesterday was a mother that came with her daughter to deliver her grandchild. She is an old woman. From time to time she has been sent to get drugs or other things for her daughter in-labor. At her first journey, she’s already tired, when it was up to six times she was sent all the way down, she refused to go again”.
“Why?”, I jumped in, “of course, she is exhausted and couldn’t go anymore. The nurses told her if she does not go, her daughter will die, she just sat down on the floor and started crying saying ‘I can’t go again’”
If I have not seen much in life, I have seen the hen that one of her numerous kids is about to die, and I can remember the pity. For a human mother, I can imagine, when you come in to get a grandchild but they told you you will lose even the daughter…
“wow, this is insane, cant the nurses help to get stuff for her…”
“NO, THEY WON’T! THEY ARE WICKED PEOPLE…”
“Nurses are not wicked people” mum interrupted, “they are just understaffed, too much on their hands and the life of others is equally important to them”.
It is not in many situations I feel connected to people, but here is my lil-sis that I used to wake to school, holding her hands tight and protecting her, now she is a lady grown into a big responsibility with natural protective and caring instinct of her own for her baby. Running from pillar to pole to get things done. I wonder if a mother that just delivered should go through all these. In a maternity ward where having male inside is frowned at, so her husband couldn’t help much. I want to do something but I can’t just as a stand transfixed; breathing pains in the air. Where does care start and stop for mothers in Nigeria health system? Pardon me if am just getting into the party but your long stay in it will not make a bad situation good. The experience makes human regeneration seem more like danger than a norm to me.
Mother left practicing nursing long ago, and since then raised in the ranks of academicians. As a lecturer with years of experience, her students are already bosses in hospitals, that explains how I stayed that long in the maternity ward. As a doctor nurse (Ph.D. holder), things get even tighter for her, the height in educational achievement has not lessened the stress.
We are on our way out after the visitation. I engaged her, trying to process my experience at UCH
“Mum, with all you complain of much workload, where are those students that you guys kept graduating in the Universities across the country?
‘It is the same happening in the universities’ she replied ‘low hands as the government can’t pay them. So many are still looking for jobs, or already in Canada living their essence’.
I couldn’t ask more so I won’t visibly be crying for my country in front of the hospital.
There is the story of a nation.