Seven years ago I started my housemanship at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia. My first posting was Paediatrics. I Love Paediatrics! I loved going to the ward. I loved the fact that children don’t pretend about their illness. When they are sick, you will know. And when they recover, nobody will tell you. Their hearts are so pure. You just have to love them. I loved attending to them when i go to the ward. Sometimes when they are fussy, my fellow house officers will call me to help calm them down if i’m in the ward, so that they can administer their drugs. Some of the children will then cling to me and refuse to let me go. Sometimes, their mothers will tease me and tell me to go with them. When we encountered children with rare blood types, i gladly gave my blood to save them when all effort to get blood fails. I just love attending to the medical needs of children.
So one day, we had a 10year old girl admitted into the ward with AIDS. We battled to save her life. My consultant, who is very great at what she does, did everything she knew to do. But her condition was not improving.
I used to spend some time with her and her mum, who was taking care of her, encouraging them and making them laugh the little way i could. Her family was not disjointed, you could see the love they shared. It was palpable. She was the third child in a family with 5 or 6 children, i’ve forgotten the exact number. Her mum stayed with her at the hospital while her dad shuttled the hospital and their home, looking after the ones at home and making sure they had everything they needed at the hospital.
As time went on, her mother began to freely communicate with me. So one day, i was documenting at the nurses’ station when her mother came for something, i’ve forgotten what. We got talking and i asked her how the child got HIV. She was the only person that was living with HIV in her family.
“She was raped when she was 6years old” she replied.
I was soooo shocked, wondering why an innocent 6year old could get molested by anyone at all.
The man who raped her was arrested and later release because he was old (above 60years old) and because the police “felt” he was “somehow mental”. All their efforts to pursue the case failed and so they dropped it. The man walked free!
Her mother told me that she was her smartest child and that she behaved like an adult, even at 10years old.
Meanwhile, a couple of months after she was raped, the child became sick and was diagnosed of HIV, and her journey of life began. With time, she deteriorate even though she was on antireteovirals, until she found herself in the hospital.
That jist broke my heart. I started spending more time with them and encouraging them more.
One day, her mother called me to her corner and asked me to stay with them that she does not understand her daughter’s behaviour.
“What’s the problem ma?” i asked when i got there
“She is asking for her siblings. She is insisting that all of them should come and see her today. Her daddy has gone home to bring them. Funny enough, they all refused to go to school today.” she replied.
I examined her and found nothing out of the ordinary, so i reassured her. I stayed with them for some minutes, and then promised to come back when i finished my work for the day.
When i returned as i promised, her siblings were already there. Her mum was crying. I felt they were having intimate family time so i wanted to leave and return later, but her mum insisted i stayed. So i stayed and listened.
She was talking to her siblings. She made them promise they were going to be of good behaviour. She told them that no matter what happened to her, they should be strong. She told them that they must love God with all their hearts.
At this point, her dad went outside and started crying silently.
She turned to her younger siblings and encouraged them to be obedient and good children.
She called her elder brother, held his hand and told him to take care of their family. She told him to take care of their dad as he is the man among them. She begged him not to give their parents trouble in raising him. She begged him not to be a wayward child.
She called her elder sister and told her to be a good girl. She told her to take care of their mum as she is the older girl in the house. She told her that she made some promises to their mother to take care of her when she grows up, but that she may not grow up to fulfil that promise, so she should help her to keep her promise by taking care of their mother.
At this point, her elder brother of about 15/16years could not take it anymore and he went outside to cry.
i realised that tears were flowing down my eyes too and i could not hold them back. I examined her again and she looked ok to me. But i was scared of the things she was saying, even at her age. So i called my registrar to come and examine her.
People were already outside, patient relative mainly, trying to console her father and her brother. I stayed with her mother, reassuring her.
But before the registrar could get there, she looked at me and smiled as she said to me “Doctor, thank you for everything you have been doing for us. You always come here to see me. Thank you.”
Then she turned to her mum and said ” You must forgive him. That man that did this to me, you must forgive him.”
She then took a deep breath and turned her face away from us.
As the registrar walked through the door of the ward, she took her last breath. Before my registrar could get to her corner, she was gone. We tried all we could to resuscitate her but we couldn’t.
It was her mum’s heightened cry that announced to her father that she was dead. He rushed back inside and was shouting “Ọ nwụgo? Is she dead? Ọ nwụgo?”
He then took her siblings outside and a crying spree ensued.
I could not hold my tears that day. And from that day, i hated to do calls in the ward. I preferred children emergency and the newborn unit, and thankfully, the roster gave me less calls in the ward.
This is not fiction. Sincerely, i did not make it up. It happened to a 10year old girl who was raped at the age of 6. The rapist walked free.
What a rotten society. This has gone on for too long in this society.
Something needs to be done.
Something has to be done.
My heart hurts.
My heart bleeds.
Chinwendu Eunice/Chinwendu Chidiebere ikechukwu /