12 Days of Christmas Day 2
Hello Yarners, if you’re reading this it means we did it! – we absolufreaking!! unlocked Day 2 of the “12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS“ (smiling and shaking my head at myself) Congrats people! It’s time to sit back and enjoy Banky as he plays Santa.
P.S: Look out for “The Task” after the story – It holds the key to unlocking Day 3.
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Patience has never been one of my virtues. In the whirlwind that is my daily lifestyle, I cherish speed; indeed, I thrive on getting things done at breakneck pace. Life is too short to take things with a civil-service mentality.
I have been waiting my turn at the waiting room of the company’s approved hospital. Medical tests were the final round of tests I had to pass for me to be employed at the uber cool Zenith Oil Plc. I am currently a senior executive at Pegasus Oil Services, a company that dealt in diesel and petrol supplies to companies. Zenith Oil was a major player in the downstream sector, not a glorified delivery outfit like ours. So, when a long-term friend of mine had dropped my CV with the Talent Manager at Zenith, I prayed something came out of it. And it did. Three written tests and two oral interviews later, I was considered good enough for the mega company. Only the medicals remained. 45 minutes after my vitals had been taken, I was still waiting.
“Mr Yomi Allison, please make your way to the laboratory,” the voice boomed across the room from a hidden speaker.
I hissed as I got to my feet. I trudged down the tiled corridor, past several marked doors until I got to one that bore ‘LABORATORY’.
I knocked and entered.
Seated on a high stool against a long marble work station filled with all kinds of tubes and colourful looking liquids, was a whippet thin lady, with eye glasses so thick her eyes seemed to pop out at me.
“Please have your seat,” she said in a surprisingly baritone voice that caught me looking around as if to confirm my hearing.
“Excuse me?” I said, unsure of where the voice was coming from.
“I said, please have your seat.” She stated again in that gruff, very masculine voice.
“God must have slept off on this one,” I said to myself. I took a head-to-toe analysis of her: oval face, heavy bossom, slim waist, flat ass and legs so long they almost touched the floor from the tall stool she sat on. I pictured her looking like a letter P in reverse when she stands. And then that voice. Everything didn’t just fit.
“Please roll up your sleeves,” she commanded. “Could you please clench your fists?” I did as instructed and several lines of vein, like tributaries of the River Niger, popped out all over my hand. She drew out a rubber tube, tied it around my wrist, reached for cotton wool already soaked in methylated spirits, wiped out the most prominent vein and stuck in the needle. Then she pulled the plunger and I watched as my blood was being sucked out of me. It took like forever as she continued pulling until the length of the syringe was full. I had never seen anyone draw that much blood for tests.
“Ordinary tests? Abi dem wan test pass HIV ni? Abi she dey sell the thing sef?” I whispered to myself as she loosened the tube and applied cotton wool on the vein, prodding me to hold it in place. I watched as she shared the blood into three glass tubes and labeled them. She then wrote on the case file they had opened for me and handed it over to me.
“When you get out the door, go straight down to the right. The door facing the corridor is the Radiology department, give this to them, they know what to do.” She said, her eyes staring deep at me like they were going to drill through my consciousness.
I took the file and followed her directions. I knocked at the white door labeled “RADIOLOGY” and pushed the door open. Sitting at a corner, the day’s newspaper spread out in front of him was a fat, bald man, who looked better seated than he did standing. When he stood up, he reminded me of Danny DeVito. I tried not to chuckle.
“Do they deliberately pick out their staff here?” I muttered to myself.
“Good morning, Mr Allison, right?” he asked, looking at the computer screen in front of him.
“Yes please,” I answered.
“Ok. Please get into that room, you will find a wardrobe filled with robes. Pull off your shirts and singlets and put on one of those. I’ll be waiting for you here.”
I did as told and was soon out.
The x-ray machine was already stirring to life and he was placing the films in place when I got out.
“Ok, watch the way I do, and try to do same thing. Ok?”
He demonstrated how I was to stand: neck held in place by padded metal, arms locked behind, chest puffed out flat against the cold metal surface.
I did as instructed and he got behind the machine.
I was out of there in 5 minutes with another instruction to proceed to the Ophthalmologist’s.
“Was I signing for Manchester United?” I asked myself as I buttoned my shirt in the x-ray room. “All these medicals fun kini? I might as well call paparazzi and do it the way footballers do!”
The Ophthalmologist was as cold as a deep freezer.
A lanky man, with grey hairs that screamed experience, he simply took the file from me, and motioned me to an angle of the room. Without looking up from the file, he asked me to look straight down and read the letters on an illuminated post a few yards away.
I read all clearly till the fourth line. He asked that I closed one eye and try, I did, same result. The second eye, same result. He scribbled something down and sent me to a nurse two doors from him.
“I hope it all ends here,” I asked the nurse immediately I sat down.
“Yes it does. This won’t take much of your time.”
She picked out a smaller, pre-filled injection and injected me just below the elbow, on my forearm. He then drew a circle around the point of injection and gave instructions that I should not touch nor scratch the place for the next three days. After three days, I would come back to the hospital for her to check it.
I looked at the circle, it looked ominous like the white circle Nollywood Dibias drew around their eyes.
“Thank God I wore long sleeve shirt, abi how I for explain this circle to my Oga for office now?”
The weeks passed and I didn’t hear from Zenith Oil. I had gone back to the hospital after three days and the circle had been measured and was told all was well. So I naturally expected a call from the HR confirming I passed. But, no calls came.
And Christmas loomed. I had planned to resign at Pegasus and spend Christmas with my girlfriend before resuming at Zenith on the 2nd of January. It would be a befitting start to the New Year. At 34, Lagos has shown me the bad and the ugly. Now so close to getting some good, finally, the devil has conspired with the hospital to deny me.
My mind wandered across many possibilities.
Could I be HIV positive? Ah! I remembered the olosho I took home few weeks before the tests. The sex had been so good we ran out of condoms and I was too drunk to care. Could she have infected me?
“Ah, dear God, let this not be my portion. I promise to be good if you will just make this pass over me,” I whispered.
I tried to ignore the thoughts but it won’t go away. Gradually, my colleagues began to notice. I had stopped eating lunch and was losing weight. Beer became my best friend. I drank at odd hours: 2AM, 12 noon. I didn’t care. After all, the end has come.
Then out of the blues, one Wednesday evening, I got the call.
“Mr Allison, this is Adigun Adebayo speaking from Zenith Oil.”
My heart did a pirouette.
“Oh yes. Good afternoon Mr Adigun.” I answered, hoping my slamming heart doesn’t pack up on me.
“Could you please come in to our office tomorrow to see the Chief Human Resource Officer?”
“Yes, yes. What time please?”
“I’ll be there.”
I was at Zenith Oil 25 minutes before 10. At the stroke of ten, I was ushered into the CHRO’s office.
The office was tiny but tidy. The CHRO, a middle aged woman with silvery grey hairs sat behind a crescent-shaped desk. She smiled broadly and stood up to shake my hands.
“Hi Mr Allison. Your medicals just came back. Please sit.” She offered one of two seats. “But there is a problem, Mr Allison, your test results shows you have Chronic Hepatitis B.”
My heart stopped. And at the same moment, my head began to spin.
“Hepa what?” I asked, scarcely believing the whisper my voice had become.
“Hepatitis B. But it’s alright. I know people who have the infection and are still leading very good lives. You need to get treated. This won’t stop us from employing you. The doctors have assured us that the virus poses no risk in the everyday activities associated with work. But for your own wellbeing and your liver, you need to visit a gastroenterologist as soon as possible.” She concluded with a wry smile.
“But how? I, er, I…”
She raised her hand to shush me. “This is not the time and place to wonder how it came to be. My husband is a pharmacist and he told me the sooner you get treated, the better. So…” she reached for her drawer and produced a call card, “that’s Dr Akin Mabogunje, he’s a consultant gastroenterologist. Book an appointment with him. Let me know how it goes. Ok?”
“Good. So when are you resuming?”
I visited Dr Mabogunje that evening.
His clinic lay on the fourth floor of a shiny skyscraper on the Lagos Island.
Immaculately dressed in a starched white shirt and black pants on a pair of loafers, he looked younger than I expected. A rough guess put his age at less than 40.
“Good evening Dr.”
“Good evening, Mr Allison. Please sit.”
He went around to his desk, unclasped his glasses from where it hung from his neck and studied me.
I told him everything. He listened without any interruption. When I was done, he cleared his throat.
“First, we need to check your liver for any damage. Then we know if we can start treatment or not. Many carriers do not need treatment but those who do, science has availed us of better ways of treating the virus. But before all these, I must congratulate you.”
“Congratulate me?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes, congratulate you. 9 out of every 10 adult born before the 90s have at one time or the other had hepatitis B. But the liver is a miracle organ; it fights the virus and repairs itself. Cut the liver into two and in the right environment, it will grow back to a full, healthy one. So for many people, their liver fights it off. But for a few, and that few runs into tens of millions, the virus hides in the liver and the liver continually fights it until it can no more and it then damages the liver. I congratulate you because 90% of those who move around with the virus never get to know until their liver begins to pack up. Usually at that stage, there is no hope and we just do palliative.” He paused to clear his throat.
I listened raptly as my life was compressed into a few words.
“So what level am i?”
“We need to conduct a liver function test to know.” He turned around in his swivel and made a call. A Nurse soon walks in and he gives her instructions I could not hear. My mind had wandered.
Christmas was nine days away. I had planned a vacation. I have a new, better job but with it came a deadly pronouncement. What kind of life is this?
“Please come with me, Mr Allison,” I heard the nurse say.
I followed the nurse to my fate, to a declaration that will determine how my New Year will turn out.
Author’s Note: Many live with Hep B but do not know. Focus is on HIV but the scourge of Hep B and its cousins is alarming. Get tested today. If negative, get vaccinated and if positive, see a gastroenterologist for immediate treatment. According to nohep.org, there’s a 3% chance of cure for those who start treatment early.
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