Getting a second wind


This is where they met, bumping into each other like afternoon and evening.
The picturesque was a peach and blue sky with a soft breeze blowing up mango leaves in the air and dispersing. On the ground was wet loam – soil softened by an earlier rain, beginning to culture algae. It was not your typical love scene but for the vermillion ixoras found on the path; redheads that spoke of love.

The evening was cold and tranquil and the scent of fresh foo-foo, spinach and soldier ants clung invidiously to the air like a sickly afterthought.

It was on this evening and in these circumstances, somewhere in a little village, that two strangers met; with a sky restraining rain, and like a spectator, watching the scene, lingering for the right moment to drench two fated lovers.

Emem had stepped out of her house to buy bread. You could not endure not taking a gaze at her immersing in: the light of her eyes, perfection of her face, clay coloured skin – the hue of a sunny afternoon.

She walked seamlessly with an utmost elegance without a woman’s peculiar sway of the hips. If there was beauty as ostentatious as a peacock’s, subtle as a tranquil evening but bold and daring, it would be Emem’s.

The boy’s name was Ekanem; a young lad, dark and square headed with a faint moustache and nascent pubic hair. He stepped out of his house for a stroll as if propelled by an unnatural force. His wanderlust was not a strange inclination but it never happened singularly.

Usually, there was a mango to pluck, a friend to visit, an animal to trap or an angry father to avoid before the wandering.

Ekanem set off to wander Minya, observing whatever new grasses had crept up the sidewalk or what morsels the weaver birds were scouting for among the brambles. He would stroll across this path with shorts slightly below the waistline. The typical pouch beneath his buttocks was ‘the thing’ for big boys.

It gave him a sort of manly feeling; the feeling that he could slay a Goliath peradventure he were to find one, using snakes as slingshots. There was also the bob, sway and swagger of youth as accompaniments. At first glance and if you cared not to pry, this was a boy with the features of a future rascal although his manners and heart were the opposite.
“Watch where you…”Ekanem bellowed, pausing as if dumb to behold a beauty he has never seen.
Emem was silent but dashed him a numbing stare.
“Err..your bread.” He added.
“Oh, ” she exclaimed, chuckling at the foolish boy who looked as if he had seen a ghost.
He picked it up and handed it to her.
“Thanks, ” she added.
At those words, it rained like the heavens waited to witness these two meet. As they skedaddled off their separate ways, a seed of love was planted and it blossomed as the heavens destined it.
That day set in motion plenteous things. Enamoured fellows with sleepless nights and wet dreams, friendship, then secret meetings and at last a baby named Uwem.

Uwem grew up not quite like other boys in Minya. There was something about his asthenic build,slight paleness and fatigue but everything seemed normal till the day his hands swelled and his entire body grew limp.
“Daddy, ” this is what Emem called her husband. ” We have to take him to the hospital.”
Ekanem stared at his wife with that unique grimace that means ‘worry.’
“You’re right, ” he said.

The next day, Uwem was taken to the hospital.
“He has Sickle Cell Anaemia.” Dr Ukih croaked.
“Oh my God, ” Emem gasped, holding her hands over her mouth to muffle an inadvertent scream as she crumbled into her husband’s arms.
“But Doctor he was okay till two days ago.” Ekanem said, trying to catch his breath. “I…I.. thought it was Malaria.” he added.

Dr Ukih looked at him with raised eyebrows, thinking ” Of course, it’s always Malaria.”
“This is why you must know your genotype before marriage…and he is such a sweet little boy,” he said.
“Is there a cure, Sir? ” Ekanem asked
“Err…the best option available now is to manage it.”
“What do you mean, Doctor?” Ekanem said.
“He needs an Allogenic Bone Marrow Transplant and there’s also a risk of GVHD,” he said, not bothering Ekanem with the meaning of GVHD.
Ekanem looked puzzled, the worry lines thickening across his face with tears welling up his eyes.

Dr Ukih sighed and stared right into the eyes of this despondent father: ” I’m sorry, Sir, ” and Emem wept and wailed.

There was only little Ukih could do and the many years working as a Doctor, the many years he watched life slip by him, taught him hardness; the art of emotional detachment
This was the first of their many visits to the hospital.

The young frail Uwem had come to: know this place as a second home, reek of its smell, know every cruel trick of the smiling Doctor; be adorned with multiple pricks from 24-guage syringes, live on the mercy of blood donors. Uwem learnt to smile and talk and write wishes with his eyes on white walls and at an early age, realize the true definition of pain.

Mummy, I heard in heaven people are not sick. I want to go there.” He said.
“No, my dear,” she croaked, her voice drowning in muffled sobs. “Not yet.”
Emem and Ekanem spent nights at the hospital with their beloved son, wishing there was a way to bear his pain, lessen his burden or change their fate; delete the scene where they met on that fine evening.

“Daddy….Will he die?” Emem asked him.
“Shh! Don’t say that. My boy..” he paused to swallow his tears “will not die. Uwem, Life cannot die.”
That evening the verses of Psalm 118:17 did not depart from their mouths. The Bible, the cross and the oil was employed to save the life of their dear son. Miracles are real and can happen, they knew this.

But things got worse. The boy suddenly slipped into a coma and for a sickle cell patient that is a bad thing.
They waited for what they knew in their hearts would come. His death – the death of not just a son, but the death of love, the death of themselves, the death of everything.

Who orchestrates the symphony of Life? Who by words made the Universe? Who can give and take? Who can mend and unmend and heal the broken? Who crafts Fate and authors Destiny?

A newspaper published on June 12, 2016 was about a certain woman, Alhaja Asiata Adupe – A sickle cell woman who lived for 90 years.
“Daddy! Read this,” Emem said brimming with joy and pointing to the bold caption on the heading of the newspaper.

“I said it, my boy will live.” Ekanem said.
This story however seemingly impossible was the needed reassurance and like getting a second wind, it birthed hope, evident in the joyful throbbing of their hearts and the spark in their eyes.

These were the words of Dr Ukih on their visit a year later.
” I cannot believe it, in all my years! This must be a miracle.”
On the other side of the consulting table was a happy man and woman with a healthy, bubbly 6 year old who would never again know pain.

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