Dr. Sarah’s chair creaked a little as she moved. She had added some weight, she thought. She wiggled and the chair creaked again. She was noting down some important facts she was reading from this file. Before her, on the other side of the table, sat an elderly lady whose file she was holding. Ontune. She had a funny name. People have names but Ontune, ha! That one was amusing. The doctor’s long hair kept on falling on her forehead down to covering some part of her right eye. She twisted her head twice every minute to relieve her eyes of this menace.
Once or twice she raised her head and stole a glance or two at her patient. She suspected she had seen her, from the corner of her eyes, staring at her-the doctor. What was she looking at? What was she thinking? She wondered. Or maybe, she was reading the charts on the walls, the pictures that hung behind the doctor of people coughing, and infants being injected, whatever the case she would not ask her. Ontune was old enough to be her mother. The wrinkles on her face suggested either some not-so-lovable life, or old age, or both. Dr. Sarah wasn’t sure. She took the stethoscope that had hung all day on her shoulders off, cleared her throat and then looked at Ontune.
Ontune’s eyes darted up and down the room like a painters brush on a wall. But those eyes, the doctor saw, were as dry as unsweaty heels of a Moran during drought. The eyes were slow in their movement. They reminded Dr. Sarah of that curtain long time ago at the cinema, and how it would roll down and fold upwards to show the end and start of a show respectively. Those eyes, Ontune’s eyes had a secret behind them. The only thing they couldn’t hide was the fact that they had a cinema behind them.
“Sorry for keeping you ma’am” Dr. Sarah began.
“Uhm…. That is okay”. Ontune fumbled in her English, prompting the doctor to switch to Swahili.
“Sasa….. Nimeona uko na shida”.
Dr. Sarah had to choose her words carefully lest it happened like that of Valentine’s Day. A couple had come to her seeking help over their lack of a child. That had been the only missing ingredient in their perfect love story. The man had narrated how his cousin had triplets while his eldest sister had twins. He had claimed he came from a very able family tree and lamented his lack of a child. However after the tests, Dr. Sarah had gone ahead telling the lady (who had been quiet all along) that she was very fertile. That her ovaries and ova were very ready to perform any responsibility bestowed upon them, that her uterus was yearning to be heavy. It was the man who had a low sperm count. How she had put those statements didn’t go well with the man. Men and their ego! She was careful this time.
Ontune nodded her head calmly, like any obedient kid. She knew she had a problem.
“Na ninaona umepasuliwa” Dr. Sarah added.
“Yes, mara mbili kwanza” said Ontune with her two right-hand fingers motioning on the air like those of a politician on a campaign.
“Apart from kupasuliwa, ulipatiwa dawa ngine?”
“Ndio, walinipea tablets lakini sikumaliza. Zilipotea”. There was silence. Did the tablets really get lost or this lady was hiding something. Maybe she threw them away after a while, like they always do. Or maybe rats pulled them away, or maybe, just maybe….
“Sasa damu imeanza kutoka tena” she said in a tone that suggested finality, despair, humility. Her hands were folded over her chest all this while.
“Ilianza lini tena?”
“Imemaliza one month sasa”, the hands were unfolded to allow the forefinger show one.
Dr. Sarah bent on her notepad again. Wrote something. She backed to her original position. She had handled such cases before. Cases of women whose genitals bled to embarrassing extents. Each woman bleeds yes, once per month, but these women, like Ontune, bled because their wombs some overgrowths- fibroids. Fibroids meant she wouldn’t conceive, not until they were removed.
“Ulisema umepasuliwa mara mbili?” She asked. Ontune nodded her head, hands back folded on her chest. Dr. Sarah wrote again.
“Hebu niambie miaka yako.”
“Forty-three. Ninaingia forty-four August”
“Unafanya kazi gani?”
“Fundi. Mi nnashona manguo. Aki nikipona sister nitakushonea kitenge.” They both laughed at that, the first laughter they shared. The doctor however did not look up.
“Na bwana yako?”
The doctor looked up. She stopped writing.
“Sijawahi kuwa na mwanaume.” Added Ontune.
Dr. Sarah sighed a sigh of despair. So she began to say what she had held back all along. She told Ontune of the dangers she faced. That too many surgeries put her at risk of death. All this while, the hands were nun-like folded and she was keen.
“Sasa mimi ninaona tuende theatre, nikufanyie operation tutoe hiyo uterus.” Dr. Sarah said as she finished her explanations. Then the hands were unfolded.
“That means…..” Ontune tried to talk.
“That we have to remove your uterus this time round”.
“No!” She banged her hand against the table. There was silence. Then she spoke gently.
“That means I won’t be able to conceive. That means I will die childless”
Dr. Sarah could not believe this. She was looking for the right words.
“But you are approaching menopause!You have no man to give you babies!How shall you…..? She was now losing herself. She was not prepared for anything close to this.
“God gives babies and not you!!” Ontune retorted. She was already at the door, and dashed out shutting the door behind. And behind her, a trail of blood….
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