– by Tayo Faloye.
He had just concluded his mandatory one year NYSC programme and returned home to Lagos from Benue State. He had plans to return back there someday. He had fallen in love with their ways of life.
Before his final discharge from service, he would regale us with stories of the beautiful culture of the Benue people, anytime he came home on break from service. He was a school teacher in a remote village.
Knowing he was finally back home, we (myself & another close friend) visited him to catch up on gists as usual. Behold, we met him ill. He was having a pain crisis. His condition dampened my spirit. Just like myself, he was a Sickle Cell warrior too. He was one of my closest friend and was two years ahead of me in university then at LASU. He had more bouts of crisis than I did. We stayed with him for a couple of hours and promised to return later in the evening to check up on him again as he was being attended to by his folks in the house.
Discovering he wasn’t getting any better on our return visit, we billed ourselves to raise some money and set out for a nearby pharmacy to buy some drugs to help relieve his pains. He could hardly talk. We stayed by him into the night and promised checking again the following day.
As early as about 5am the following morning, I was awoken that my friend, whom we had gone together to visit our sick friend, wanted to see me outside. Still feeling sleepy, I drowsily made my way downstairs to see him. Looking sullen, he said: “Muse is gone.”
I screamed and spontaneously sprung into a sprint down to our friend’s house, which should be a distance of about 400 meters. Can’t recollect if I wore a slippers or not. Meeting his lifeless body, my mind went riotous as I stared at him lying there free of pains and worldly worries. There were doubts in my head if he was really dead. How could it have happened? Why choose this period to leave? Why wait till after done schooling and serving the nation? Did the drug we bought react, which is my own personal pain relieving crisis medication? Was it negligence? Why succumb to this when he had surmounted worse crises? I wept in disbelief as questions swirled in my head. Just like that, my childhood friend, health discussant, knowledge exchange companion, a brother from another mother and Scrabble game playing partner was gone never to be seen again? Who would fill his void? Tears cascaded down my face in effusive torrents.
The news of his death was already making the rounds as the morning aged and brightened. Sympathizers trickled in. It’s a Muslim family. We were asked to leave the bedroom for the sitting room. I buried my head in my hands and wept out my soul like a baby.
What could I had done better to have saved him? He didn’t seem like he was in the red zone. My mother, who had always risen to such occasions for me and my friends in those days whenever in a precarious situation had already retired from the banking sector. On two occasions in the past, she had had him put on hospital admission at the Golden Cross infirmary, Festac Town, during his crisis periods, given a blood transfusion once and footed both bills lovingly. But this his particular crisis that saw to his demise caught everyone unprepared. It was sudden and brief. Couldn’t imagine the anguish of his aged parents who had toiled to see him come this far, medically and academically, only for him to lose the battle at the point he was at the finishing line. I thought of the emotional trauma his siblings would be passing through. It was a heart-wrenching period.
Another of our friend, a born-again Christian and pastor in the making, who lived within proximity heard and rushed in with bible in hand, agitated. He demanded to be given space in the room for prayers. He was adamant our friend wasn’t dead and would be brought back to life. He was obliged to exercise his faith alone in the room with the body. He sang praises, prayed, rebuked, commanded, quoted the Scriptures, bound the devil, wept, wailed, whimpered and all. His faith was contagious and made me hopeful for a miracle like that of Lazarus in the Bible. Anything to restore my friend back to life was welcome. But it never happened. Our friend was far gone to the great beyond. Obstinately, he held on to his intercessory prayers as time wore on until he was compelled to leave the room.
In procession on different canoes, paddling across the river to Ibeshe Village, where they hail from, for his burial, I could find no more tears to shed due to dehydration. My system was dry from weeping, with deep bilirubin stained eyes. Weakness and numbness engulfed me as he was laid to earth according to Muslim rites. My co-warrior had finally bid me goodbye, leaving me in the battlefield to continue with the struggle. The battle which rages on and far from being won. A battle that has even become fiercer than ever, but for sure, victory is ascerta.
For you all warriors who had lost the battle to Sickle Cell Disorder, we fight on for your memories. We relent not for us who are in the heart of the battle. We trudge on to prevent more humans thrown into the battlefield. We brave on assiduously to stop more casualties. We shall salvage humanity from the scourge of SCD regardless how exhausting, gut-wrenching and long-drawn it takes.
Rest on my friend & brother, NURUDEEN MUSE. It’s two decades you have been gone now.
As we draw the curtains on September, the Sickle Cell Awareness Month 2019, we make bold to tell the world that Sickle Cell Disorder is real and hope for a cure in the shortest possible time. It’s not a death sentence neither is it anything to be toyed with. Endeavour to know your genotype today. And, do so at 2-3 laboratories to be 100% sure. Also ensure children are made aware about their genotype and the compatibility dynamics from primary school age. When we all join hands to do this and much more, Sickle Cell would be largely curtailed and relegated.
Thank you & God bless.
– Tayo Faloye,
DISCON (Disability & Sickle Cell Organization of Nigeria).
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