Alhaji A (one the co-patients) sits majestically in the plastic chair by his bed, sipping on piping hot tea in a plastic cup. Nurse Coker walks pasts and this ensues:
NC: Alhaji eku igbadun, you’re enjoying o
AA: Nurse, what have I done to you to deserve being mocked bayii?
NC: (bursts into laughter) Ah! Alhaji I am not mocking you o. See how you’re balanced with the cup now
AA: Ehn, sheybi this is what you people have turned me into. If I was in my house, I’d be sipping on a bottle of Hennessy on a Sunday afternoon like this but look at me now, I am sipping on tea. Aduru mi – as old as I am.
(everyone in the ward laughs)
NC: Ehn Alhaji, it is not too late, you can order for a bottle of Hennessy and they’d deliver it to you here. Owo wa lowo yin, e je ka baayin na – you’ve got money let’s help you spend it.
Everyone is bustling with life today. We are anticipating the Liverpool-Manchester United game. Spirits are high, the arguments are hot. “There’s nothing special about Liverpool, we will whoop their asses,” Alhaji A says. Class Captain (CC) replies, “I am a Man U fan and I cannot boast of a win like you’re sir.” The arguments are back and forth. This is one of those moments when it doesn’t feel so gloomy being here and one is thankful for the privilege of thrilling moments.
This evening, I have another breathing challenge. I am lying down and my mouth is wide open, trying to take as much air as I can, but the air isn’t going down to my lungs. Feels like something is competing for the oxygen I breathe. The more I try to breathe, the harder it becomes. Things get very ugly quickly, I want to get up but I can’t. As I gasp, I whiff in a pungent smell – like rubber burning. The incinerator is right behind me and so I am sensing someone, in their wisdom, decided to incinerate while we are in the ward. As I struggle to breathe, I grow weaker and weaker.
My neighbor, Mr. B, quickly rushes, closes the windows and pulls up the shutters. Then slowly, the air begins to feel different; still difficult to breathe down but the air felt purer. The two grandpas by my side can hear me breathing hard.
Eventually, after minutes, I sit up. I reach for the kettle next to me, boil water and begin to inhale steam to clear my airwaves. The breathing gets better instantly. In that moment, I feel like, perhaps, this experience was what Mr. B had midnight of Day 2. I imagine that moment as one where took a quick trip to the edge of life but made it back just in time before I tipped over.
Game time eventually comes and they refuse to switch to the channel showing the game, we are all disappointed. I am not really interested but I try to follow the game on twitter; it ends goalless.
The power goes out and an eerie noise rouses us all. It comes from the female ward, a woman is screaming, her voice laden with panic and fear: “help us, we need a doctor here!!!” the accent is quite foreign. The intercoms are down because the light. The lone voice is now joined by two other voices crying for help. “Help us before she dies,” one of them cries. We are all frozen in our bed, till two men rush out and dash to the triad. The doctors were changing shifts in the Conference room so none of them heard the SOS. Eventually our men return to us and tell us the doctors have begun to attend to the distressed woman.
We spend the rest of the night in silence, contemplating in hushed whispers how differently could have turned out and how easily a person slips from life to death.
PS: two people left the isolation center today and it was a beautiful thing to see. They had been here since December 30/31 2020. So we would joke among ourselves and say they have been here since last year, then we snap our fingers when we say ‘last year’ as though it was 2019. And yes, for the first time since arrival, the old bald man had a bath!
Breakfast – Moinmoin x Pap x Milk
Lunch – Eba/Amala x Ewedu x Fish
Dinner – Jollof rice x
Fruit – Watermelon