‘Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, Doctor.’ James said as they shook hands with the Resident who welcomed them into his office.
He was a tall man who looked around forty, though there were already signs of grey in his hair. His office was the typical doctor’s office, a desk with his name on a plaque on it, an executive chair, and two chairs for guests. There was also a sofa in a corner for resting as well as an air conditioning unit in another corner.
‘Of course, the nurse told me that you said it was a matter of life and death. So what seems to be the problem?’
James cleared his throat. ‘Sir, my friend’s life is in danger if you don’t help us.’ He said.
The doctor studied Bade closely. ‘He doesn’t seem sick to me. Have you been diagnosed of any ailment? Do you have your medical history here?’
Bade opened his mouth and then closed it, looking at James for support. James spoke up. ‘It’s not like that sir, he has been posted to serve in the north, Kano to be precise, and the climate there might just be too harsh for his survival.’
‘I see,’ the doctor said, looking at Bade again, then a light seemed to blink on in his eyes as the realisation hit him. ‘Oh, I see.’ He said in a totally different tone. ‘I took an oath to save lives, and this seems to be an occasion where a life can be saved, so what do you want me to do?’
‘If I remember correctly, a graduate with some certain medical conditions cannot be posted out of his locality?’ James’ tone was between a question and an assertion.
‘As a matter of fact, yes,’ the doctor replied. ‘Such afflictions like epilepsy, asthma, sickle cell anaemia among others can prevent a graduate from being posted outside his state.’
James turned to Bade, a triumphant grin on his face. ‘There’s our solution. From now you are an asthmatic patient.’
The doctor cleared his throat, looking apologetic. ‘I’m afraid it’s not that simple. You would need a doctor’s report ascertaining that the patient is actually asthmatic, and you would have to send a copy of that and a request for redeployment due to health reasons to the NYSC head office in Abuja.’
‘Oh’ was all Bade said, the answering smile on his face dying. But James refused to give up. ‘Surely you could help us with the Doctor’s report?’
‘It is obvious to me that your friend isn’t asthmatic, young man, you are asking me to falsify a doctor’s report. My licence would be on the line if it was ever found out that I lied through such a means and my reputation would be in tatters. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.’
‘Doc, please, you are our last hope.’ James said, ignoring the look Bade gave him.
‘I realise that, but the ethics of this profession won’t allow me to do this. I would really love to help you, but my hands are tied.’
‘Doctor, you’ve been watching the news, you know how it is like over there, if he was your son, would you allow him to go? Have a heart, please.’
The doctor looked conflicted, but Bade could see the rigidity in his stance. ‘He isn’t going to help us,’ Bade spoke up, ‘men like this cannot go out on a limb for someone who isn’t one of their own.’ He concluded looking at James.
‘Thanks for trying, my friend.’
Bade stood up and headed towards the door, his shoulders slumped. He turned back to the doctor who had not gotten up from his seat. When he spoke, he tried to hide the pain. ‘Do you have children sir?’
‘Yes, two, a boy and a girl.’ The doctor replied.
‘Then I pray they are never in a situation where they would need help from a stranger and the man would refuse to help because of his ethics. If we cannot help one another in our time of need, then what is even the point of living in a society?’ Bade asked as his parting shot. He gave the doctor no chance to reply as he and James left the office. As they stepped into the hospital corridor, a gurney was pushed past them by two nurses, a young child on laying senseless on it, bleeding from wounds on his legs, while the doctor who trailed behind them was being properly attired with the face mask and gloves for surgery. A weeping mother held onto her man as another nurse prevented them from following the gurney. Her sobs shook her whole frame, the tears being pulled out from the inner core of her existence, a wail of anguish at the possibility of losing her child, the uncertainty that if he lived, he might be crippled. Even the man was shaken, it was in his eyes, but Bade could also see the struggle there to stay strong for his wife. He was probably facing the same fears, but if he too had given in to the urge to weep, there would be no succour for either of them. There was that strength, that fortitude in him, it was in the way he stood, the angle of his head, it said that no matter what happened he would meet it head on and survive. Bade took this all in as he and James passed, heading to the front door, and he took strength from it.
James spoke up behind him. ‘I’m sorry I let you down again.’
‘Not at all, my friend, you tried your best. I could never ask for anything more from a friend. Thanks for all the effort.’
James nodded in grim acceptance. ‘So what happens now?’ He asked, knowing the answer, but the question still had to be asked.
‘It occurs to me that I have two options, I could either go on resisting the posting until I do something stupid out of desperation, or I could face my destiny head on and cocksure that I would be fine, like a real man would. We tried our best to change it, but maybe this is meant to happen, and I’m tired of fighting it. So what happens now is I pack my bags and head for Kano. And I’m sure I will be fine.’ He said, a calm, steady look on his face, to reassure his friend as well as himself. And James, hearing the determination in that voice, believed that in fact, his friend would be fine.