By Dr Lucianna
Surprise twist at accident scene
A certain man was driving from Nairobi to his rural home in the Mt. Kenya region. He was an off-duty doctor, if indeed the term exists. Nah! It doesn’t! My lecturer, Dr. Kodwavalla would agree, he used to say… the moment other guests realise you are a doctor, the party is over for you! It doesn’t matter that you are off-duty! The pre-millenials will remember him as Dr Yusuf Dawood of the surgeon’s diary in the ‘Daily Nation’. I personally experienced this phenomenon especially when I happened to attend an event with my sister. I think she was more excited by my achievement than I was! The moment she introduced me, ” this is my sister, Dr. K”, the fun was over for me. From then on it was “this headache” or “heavy menses” or “that kid with a poor appetite” or “somebody’s mother’s backache”. In other words… Doctor in the house! Hey! Come hither! Party over! And by the way, how is it that all those kids said to have a poor appetite are always overweight? Just asking…
Anyway, I digress. It was very early in the morning. This off-duty doctor knew he would make it home in time. He was travelling to take his mom to a doctor’s appointment about 25km away from her home. Mom was ready, all dressed up… headscarf in place… Breakfast was ready… I’m sure sweet potatoes were on the menu and I guess she was waiting to share it with him. Today was the day for her monthly check up. She had had it clearly marked on the calendar on her kitchen wall. Every important day was marked on that calendar.
The topography in the Mt. Kenya region is exciting, ‘beautiful’ does not begin to describe it. The road rises and falls and meanders. At the bottom of almost every valley is a river. Most of them big rivers, but even the tiny ones are forever flowing, they never dry up. Arrow-roots complete the picture in the valley. During our geography lessons we read about dry river beds and our young minds could not fathom. Wadi, what’s a wadi? A dry river bed? Then how was it a river? Rivers are rivers because they have flowing water, right? We only believed it because the teacher said it was so and teachers and text books didn’t lie! At least ours didn’t. The Mt. Kenya region has exciting views to the eye… yes, but it requires cautious driving. These are not the kind of roads where you test your speedometer, no, they are the kind of roads that test your brakes!
A few kilometres from home, as he went down one particularly steep decline, he beheld a chaotic scene at the bottom of the valley. Apparently a mini-bus full of people had gone off the road and plunged nose first into the river. He approached cautiously. Screams and shouts rent the air! Everybody was pulling and hauling in every imaginable direction. Kenyan volunteers at the scene of an accident sometimes cause more harm than good. They will pull in an attempt to free a trapped victim, in the process they will pull apart broken bones. They will tear muscles and nerves and rapture blood vessels. They will snap an already injured neck completely breaking it! They will carry a victim like a bag of potatoes! One person will grab the legs while another grabs the hands! Oh, the chaos at the scene of a rescue! Kenyans don’t know that they need to stabilise an injured neck before moving a victim, nor do they know that they need to stabilise a broken leg or arm. In ignorance, they will rush to rescue those screaming the loudest. They don’t know that the guy sitting quietly, staring at nothing, is probably the one most in need of attention. All this done with a lot of vigour and a lot love. This kindness kills a lot of victims who would otherwise have survived.
When our off-duty doctor got there he forgot that he was off duty. He even forgot that he had come over 100km to take his mother to see a doctor. Adrenaline pumping, he took charge. He started by assessing the situation and asigning tasks to the rescuers. He had the most severely injured patient carefully transferred to his car. He instructed them on who else to prioritise. He drove to the nearest hospital. One look at the the patient and the staff asked that he be taken to the bigger hospital which was about 20km away. They couldn’t deal with his injuries. Back into the doctor’s car the patient was put! Other casualties from the accident scene had started arriving. The good doctor drove as fast as the road could allow, up the inclines, down the declines and around the bends. By the time he got to the next hospital he was rather desperate because his patient appeared to be getting worse. He introduced himself as a doctor and started working on stabilising the patient. After the patient was settled he walked back to his car, arms hanging limply with fatigue and hunger, his shirt blood stained.
Back at home mom was wondering where her son had disappeared to. There had neen no communication whatsoever. It was the era when only the fabulously rich had mobile phones. Generation Z, do you copy? As the time crawled by, she was getting rather jittery with the sound of every passing car and wondering whether her son had gotten into some kind of mishap. One thing she knew for sure, he hadn’t forgotten his mom’s appointment, not him, no not him. What appeared like centuries later, she heard a car drive into the compound. Pretending not to be worried she calmly waited for an explanation as she warmed his lunch. It was by now way past lunch time. After he explained, she was relieved. She reassured him that helping the stranger was very much worth her skipped doctor’s appointment.
Fast forward, a few weeks later, the off-duty doctor learnt that, sadly, the stranger he had rescued didn’t make it. He also learnt that this stranger turned out to be a cousin on his mother’s side. Can you imagine the guilt that he would have had to live with had he left him to die by the road side?
This good doctor is my husband. As I write this, it’s his birthday. Doctari, enjoy the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!!!