For Not Pitying Me…

They tell you they’ll treat you like everyone else.

They tell you that your disability doesn’t really matter.

They’ll make it look as if it’s really not a problem.

But you see, it always becomes a problem. Always.

There have been all kinds of stories. From “I wish we could eat at a place without drawing so much attention to us,” to “I’m not so sure the guys will feel comfortable around you,” to “I really don’t know how I’ll introduce a one-legged woman to my father.” Even with the girls, there’s been “you know our ‘hanging out’ is usually swim-time – it would be awkward to invite you when it’s so obvious you can’t swim.” (Never mind that I actually had learnt to swim with my leg and stump!)

Of course it hurt. And it hurt more because I’d lost the leg because of something too stupid to say. It didn’t help either that I was not a quiet or subdued person. But frankly, what made it worse was the pity. They tell you they’re fine with you, but their eyes tell a different story.

With time, I’d learnt to have what I called ‘superficial fun’. I could meet up with colleagues and acquaintances and have a good time. Shallow talk, drinks, and then goodbyes. It worked well. No inner circle, just mum. No actual friends, mainly co-workers.

When I started the firm, I knew that a lot of the favours I got were because people pitied me and didn’t expect that it would amount to anything (Although I know you strongly disagree) – but look at us now!

I remember one of the university interns asking me how I could be so strong when people had almost no regard for the handicapped. She was one of the few that didn’t have that pity look. She was straightforward and genuine. One day, I hope she gets out of law school and comes here to work. Or that she builds a firm to rival mine.

She had no idea that before you, it really wasn’t much strength. It was more of a daily motion. Put one leg in front of the other each day – actual leg, then prosthetic leg, or crutch, or whatever. That, and the occasional ‘superficial fun’.

She had no idea the countless nights when I felt that my left leg was burning – even though it actually wasn’t even there. She didn’t know how much I’d cried over the stupid pitying glares that people gave me. She had no idea how much love had been lost… how many heartbreaks I’d suffered. And how I’d decided that love was not for the ‘crippled‘.

She, like many others, did not know that you were the one wake-up call that I needed.

When I met you, I was in my old wheelchair. It didn’t seem to bother you… because you stayed and talked, and drank with me, and teased me, and sort of flirted with me. I thought it was the drinks. I was pretty sure that we’d sober up the next day, and you’d remember that the girl was in a wheel chair with a stump, and decide to forget about it all – it was all too familiar!

But you called me the next day, and asked to go on a date. I told you I had a fitting for my new prosthetic leg, so I didn’t think it would be possible – thinking that that would remind you that I really was in a wheel chair.

But you asked to tag along “I’m on leave, so I’m pretty free! I could tag along and then take you out to dinner after?” – At that point, I must say that I was starting to get smitten! I had to sit in front of my mirror, and remind myself that this was all ‘superficial fun’. I could not afford to ever be heartbroken again.

Yet after that physio appointment, I knew that I wanted you. It didn’t matter in what context – brother, friend, doctor buddy, boyfriend (even though this possibility was so far-fetched to me). Whatever you were offering, I was willing to take it… I needed as many people that treated me as if I was like everyone else, as possible.

I remember the stupid smirk on your face when I asked the dude if I could go back to wearing miniskirts with the prosthesis. How you got into doctor mode, bantering with him, and not being arrogant about all the answers he gave – which you already knew.

That day, I decided that if I had just 2 people that didn’t care about my cut leg, 2 people that would treat me normally, after a day of dealing with pitying glares or hurtful comments, then I’d be okay.  I had mum already. And now there was you.

After 10 months, I got back to practicing, and there were times when I could swear that I won the cases just because the judge saw that I wore a prosthetic leg. You wrestled me out of that thinking of course – “You’re a smart young woman – helluv vibrant, irresistible, nothing about your absent leg has anything to do with your winning any case! You’re efffing brilliant – and you should even start your own firm! ”

I fell in love with you that day. Proper love, you know. It was just unexpected. You motivated me. Before you, a lot of my colleagues knew how to bring me down easily. Especially with regards to the incident, and the leg. And of course, the pity.

I remember when you got to mine, from the clinic one afternoon, and I was so upset about Le-Ann’s child abuse case. I was poring over my books and barely noticed that you were there. My leg was somewhere on the couch, and I was sprawled on the floor, in a tee and shorts.

You claim you stood there for about thirty minutes, just looking. I noticed you only when I turned to get my bottle of water, and I was startled, wondering why the hell you were standing there staring at me that way!

“I’ve been lusting after you for some time now…”

I thought I was imagining it. I mean I knew you cared about me, and respected me as a person, I liked that you hugged me often, and made me feel mushy on the insides. I knew that our relationship was special, and we would always be in each other’s lives, caring for and motivating each other. But I had no idea that you found me attractive in any way. It took me by surprise.

It took me by surprise too when you got down on the floor – lab coat, stethoscope and that weird bag in hand, and kissed me. All the raging hormones that had been banked securely for years were breaking their boundaries and pushing me over the edge🙈 . It’s why I started tearing up. I know you probably knew that. My lies about how emotional the case made me didn’t seem to appease you.

Later on, when we’d just eaten, and I was going over the case with you, and planning out my arguments, you did it again. Out of nowhere. “I want to marry you, Diane, and make many little Dianes with you.”

I remember also when I came by the clinic one evening to bring you food, just because. How one of nurses asked me if I was sure I was in the right place. I remember how mad you were when you finally came out. I remember them loud-gossiping about ‘the boss’s girlfriend’, how I must have used some sort of ‘juju’ to get you, because how would such a good doctor – tall dark and handsome, settle for a ‘cripple’. That word! It was the first time I saw you irate!

I’m getting too emotional over this letter…😫 The point, is just to say, thank you… For not pitying me. For loving me. For showing me that being ‘handicapped’ in anyway, is not the end of life. That life can be amazing regardless. Thank you for dancing with the one-legged girl… For 3 years of seeing me as whole, when I had doubts. For dealing with my issues – phantom limb and the low-key low self esteem being the worst of them. Thank you for all the fights we’ve had – it’s refreshing to know that you don’t let me win them just because… (Oh and thank you for all the make- up sex we’ve had to have🙈🙈. The most recent of which may have led to a thing…😂🤣😂🤣😬😉)

We’re expecting.

I have a feeling that you already know, and you’re just waiting till I say it. I hope it’s a boy. And I hope he becomes just like his father… (just without the leaving of soapsuds in the bathroom part😋).

Thank you for everything. But especially, for not pitying me!

Diane.

juju – evil spirit, fetish or black magic.

Last Night…

I paused to think of what I was saying…

Apparently it was nonsense.

The consultant was hovering over me, practically ordering me, tele-pathetically of course, to figure this out.Think, think….

The wine was really good! Not the usual common kind. I had no idea where she got it from, but it was great….It had a tinge of peach…. And it burnt my throat in a ticklish way.

Like many beautiful things in life, It didn’t start out planned.
It was just like any other visit… We talked and danced, and drank and danced some more….We fooled, and played and….Uuh… Let’s say we made a memorable night…..

I love her!

Kofi, snap out of it!

We had here Mr. Odeyeko. 57 year old morbidly obese male. He had presented a month ago, with chest pains, dyspnea, tachycardia, and oedema in the right leg, albeit a normal blood pressure.
He was diagnosed with constrictive pericarditis, which had led to a pericardial effusion, and had been observed for a week, after which he was sent into surgery for pericardiectomy, and pericardiocentesis. Surgery had gone very well, and he had been sent to the ward for recovery. He was presently on some medication.

Now, eight days post op, and he presents with a tamponade! Of course, it’s always one of the things to look out for in such cases, but everything had gone on so well…. Till now.

Why was my head spinning?

It seemed to everyone else an easy answer, and just like all other cardiac tamponades, this was an emergency!

“Asamoah! Where did all your medicine run away to?”

Frankly, my mind was hovering more on the match tonight than it was on Mr. Odeyeko.
Or maybe it was last nights wild amazing fun..

“Kofi Ogyaedu Asamoah!” He bellowed. “Your mind isn’t even here!!”

Frantically, I muttered something I hoped would correct my earlier misdiagnoses…

“Sir, Recent cardiac surgery, coronary intervention, or some trauma can lead to the rapid accumulation of pericardial fluid… and especially since he had restrictive pericarditis, tamponade cannot be ruled out….”
Why couldn’t I get her smell out of my head? Chanel no. 1, I think…. Her fathers last present to her….
My heart was beating as though I’d run a marathon!

“Kofi I said what is the way forward??”

What on earth did this man want from me again?!

“Kofi, I want you to walk out of this ward, and put yourself together! In the next two hours when I get back from my break, you should be composed, and ready to think fast! ”

Blessing in disguise

“Yes sir.” I muttered as unenthusiastically as I could….

He didn’t know what he’d done!

I walked out of the ward as fast as I could, without engaging curious eyes.

I made a phone call…

“Nana Ama…. Let’s do it again… I’ll see you in ten. You better have more of the wine….”

The Busy Hughes

8:20am
My most intense procedure of the day had just begun…
I’d made Burr holes in the skull, cut out the bone flap, folded up the dura, and i was placing in the retractor…
It wasn’t a time for talk, or for reading notes…

The whole OR was silent… Save for Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ playing in the background.

I knew this tumour was bad….
‘But I’ve got this….’ I kept saying to myself.

When the nurse walked in with a note for me, I almost cursed her out! Why would she walk in here in the middle of this just to bring me a note?

“Doc… its an emergency!”

Everything was an emergency lately…

“Leave it on my desk… I’ll take care of it!!”

I had three other major procedures….

It was 7:23pm when I finally got to my office… A salami sandwich and a can of coke sat there…. And there was that note too….
Biting into the sandwich, I opened it up…

‘I think I miscarried! I’m in C9 on the East Wing. Both Sam and I have been trying to reach you… I need you here… Please come!’ S

S? That had to be Sydney
But Sydney wasn’t pregnant! Was she? How far along was she?
What??
My heart was thudding hard in my chest…
My wife was not pregnant!

Had I been so engrossed in my work that I didn’t notice that my wife was with child?
I knew I’d neglected her many times….

But I swore an oath…. To save lives

‘You said vows, to love and to cherish her!’

I looked for my cell and tried to dial her number…. She’d tried me eighteen times…
I rushed out to the east wing…. C9…. Where was C9??

No answer….
I kept dialling…

What has been going on in her mind all this while??
She’d always been a strong woman… So strong…. And I took that for granted!

Oh Lord!

I went by Sam’s office, it was locked….
I tried his line… Off
Where in this east wing was C9?

When I finally found it, I barged right into it, startling both Syd and the nurse attending to her…. She looked straight at me with such pained eyes, I wanted to breakdown…
I watched as the nurse walked out, and I sat next to her on the bed….
I felt like I’d failed….

“She was almost four months old, I was gonna call her Charlene….
I didn’t want to bother you much, luckily I didn’t have many symptoms… Morning sickness lasted just about two weeks, and you were often at the office by then….”

She paused to wipe a tear.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen her cry…

‘Sam knew, but I asked him not to discuss it with you… He assumed you knew too of course. When I woke up this morning, there was blood everywhere, and I was in a hell of pain….”

More tears.

“I knew Charlene was gone back home… ”
It’s sad you never got to know her…

She kicked a lot when I was in the shower… Or when it got really cold at night… That explains the second duvet I got…
She had this light tickling thing she did whenever I was full…. And I think she liked oysters, cos I’ve been craving and eating oysters since I noticed her….
She would probably have had your eyes, and that annoying half smile you have sometimes. And my hair, and my cute nose of course…. ”

I had tears running down my face… I’d missed one of the most important joys of life…. All because of work….
I’d failed my wife, neglected my vows, and lost my little Charlene….

I lost my diamond while I was busy picking up stones….

R.S Hughes (M.D)

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My biggest regret….

Dear Daniel…

You’re my biggest regret.

As I walked down the hallway, ready for all that the world would bring at me, you walked straight up to me, and spoke gently to me . Medical school scared us both, but it was good fear. Fear that made us strive for the best grades. But that’s as far as you helped me. Beyond that, it was downhill.

I was innocent before you. But when you came into my life,  I became a savage.
You were insatiable.
Yet you never took responsibility for what was yours.

‘Daniel, I think I may be pregnant.’ I was petrified. You mustn’t have seen it. You beat me up so badly, I couldn’t come to write the test we had the next day.
I didn’t want to, but I had to get rid of it…..

I should have been smart enough to end it then.
But no. Like a stupid dog, I followed after you still.

The second time, I couldn’t even tell you… My birth control failed, and I was a bit too far along. You didn’t notice.
I found me a quack, and it was also gone. You were mad at me for two weeks, because I was too weak, to ‘be your woman’.

I wonder if it was love that made me stay, or just a fear that no one would want me. Or worse yet, a fear of all the beatings I’d get.
I was scared to be around other men, especially those that treated me right.
Because you would pounce on me, and my pretty face would get distorted.
I was asked once too often, why my face was all swollen. It was either the bath tub, or the slippery tiles, or lack of sleep, I’d say.

You were always sorry soon after. But you never stopped. And I never left.

When it happened the third time, my devastation was an understatement. The birth control interfered with my cycles and hormones, so I didn’t even realise it until after the fourth month. I knew I was going to die.
I had to tell you, and that started another tirade, and beatings so hard, I passed out.
I had to lie. I’d been attacked by robbers, and I miscarried that pregnancy.

I thought marriage would end all the violence. I was a smart doctor, yet a stupid woman. in the second year of our marriage, you wanted a child.

Oh how we tried!

But month after month, nothing happened. Your mother wanted me out, and the abuse became routine.

Why were you beating me, when you were the reason we had no children? Why were you so angry, when you had purposely killed three of our kids? Why, Daniel, Why?

Today, I’ve realised thatI’ve been a fool for far too long.

I’ve also realised that hiding from you isn’t going to solve this. I’m sending this letter to you, and a copy to the police. They’ll know where to check in case I’m killed. I’m going to leave you, and I’m going to be free.
I’m going to find a man, that will make me happy, and not kill me in the process.
We’ll adopt children, and live life – real life.
I’m only 28, it won’t be hard.
I’ve gone back to the Jesus you made me neglect so many years ago. He’s going to give me happiness, and all the stupidity is gone.
So Daniel, Enjoy your life. i doubt you will. I’ve only started living mine.

love,

Elaine