Previously on The Housewives’ Tale: Adaku visits her friend, Mimi at home. Mimi has been complaining about stomach aches, which worries Adaku, seeing as Mimi is pregnant. She gets to her house to meet a visibly distressed and obviously unwell Mimi, who she encourages to go to the hospital with her.
“Your friend has ectopic pregnancy. We have to evacuate or risk her losing one of her tubes,” the doctor says to me.
“Well, that seems like the right thing to do,” I respond, while looking at the doctor to finish his explanation to me.
He doesn’t say anything else; he just keeps his expressionless bespectacled face turned to me.
“So?” I encourage.
“Well, you’d have to convince your friend to do the right thing,” he says, nodding toward Mimi, who is writhing in pain on the examination table in the doctor’s office.
“No! I cannot lose my child!” Mimi bites out through teeth clenched in pain. “I will not knowingly commit abortion, God forbid!”
“Ha! This isn’t committing abortion nau!” I reason as I turn to her. “This one is to save your life, so that you can be able to have more kids and take care of them!”
“Ada, you will not understand. Do you know –”
“Excuse me, doctor, your attention is needed in Ward B,” a nurse pokes her head in through the doctor’s consulting room closed curtain to announce.
The doctor rises immediately, as if grateful to be rid of us for the moment. He adjusts his stethoscope and walks to the doorway. “She doesn’t have much time left before the foetus bursts her fallopian tube,” he says as he pushed the curtain aside. “So, she should decide to evacuate fast.” And he walks out.
I immediately move over to Mimi, feeling a tiny clutch of fear from the doctor’s last words. “Babe, don’t do this –”
“Ada, my husband says I should not abort, and I will not abort!” she says with finality.
Staring at her face, with the dew of perspiration on her forehead, and the resolute cast of her features, I know there is nothing I can say to change her mind. The only person who can change her mind is her husband.
“Oya, give me your husband’s number, let me try to convince him.”
“He will not like that.”
“What will you do then?” I ask, at a loss.
“I don’t know… I think I should just go home.” With this, she turns her body upward, grimacing as she sits up. When she hops down from the examination table, she winces sharply.
“Nne, biko, listen to me,” I begin pleading. “This kind of thing killed one woman in our church. She went to a prayer house because she believed that her enemies were after her baby. That was how she died, and left two little children motherless. The worst was that her husband married another person, barely five months after her death. Consider Osinachi, your son. Who will take care of him?”
“I don’t know what to do!” Mimi wails, breaking down into tears. “If I do it, my husband will not be happy.”
“And if you don’t do it, you will die,” I say, my tone freighted with exasperation at her obstinacy. “I know it isn’t comforting, but there’s no way around this. A doctor in our church had to do a symposium for the men and women on ectopic pregnancy, and I read up on it on the internet. Trust me, there’s no way around it.”
She stands there, slightly swaying, her right cupping the underside of her slightly bulging midsection. She takes in a trembly breath, and upon exhaling, she says, “Ok, I will do it, but promise me that you will tell my husband that the abortion was spontaneous.” She turns a pleading look to me as she says this.
“Oh God! Do I have to do that? You can tell him yourself now!” I protest, not wanting to lie to any woman’s husband. I can think of a lot of ways that can backfire, especially, if he finds out the truth.
“I need time to think about this properly,” Mimi says, apparently wavering away from her decision of three seconds ago. She reaches forward to gingerly lower herself into a seat. “I will just ask the doctor for pain medication and go home. I will come back tomorrow with my answer.”
I sigh. “Ok. When the doctor comes back, we’ll see if that is okay. I just wish your husband will let you do this. You guys can still have plenty more kids, you know?”
My phone rings, cutting off whatever Mimi is going to say in response. I dig out my phone from my handbag and a cursory glance at the screen reveals the caller as Nkaiso.
Smiling, I answer the call.
“Hello sweerie!” I call out cheerily.
“Adaku, this is you, right?” a grating male voice bites out into my ear.
“Huh? Yes! Who is this?” I stutter, not a little startled.
“Ehen! I want to let you know that my wife is home, and I want to warn you to stay away from her, you hear me?” the man spits at me. “You are a bad influence on her, and I am ending your friendship by this call. Shame on you and other shameless women that advice other women to leave their matrimonial homes while remaining under the protection of your own husbands –”
“Hey! Hold it there my friend!” I instantly round on him, my anger ignited by the audacity of his call. “You call yourself a husband? What a joke! You’re just a bully!”
“I have warned you. Stay away from my wife, you stupid woman!”
“Don’t you ever call me stupid again, if you don’t want to find out how I deal with an anuofia like you!” I fume. “As for Nkaiso, she’ll find herself soon, and dump your stupid ass. And for your information, you cannot end our friendship even if you tried! Nonsense!” And I end the call. Turning to Mimi, I begin, “Can you just imagine…”
The rest of my vexed words dry out on my lips as I notice that she is panting and waving a hand feebly before her face, as though encouraging oxygen to get into her. The perspiration is no longer a slight sheen on her forehead, but has spread out to drench her body, beads of sweat dribbling down her face and moistness plastering the top of her dress to her chest and the sleeves to her arms. Her eyes are bulging as if she is staring at a ghost.
“Ogini?” I ask, fear gripping me at once. “How are you feeling? Why are you sweating like this, under this chilling air conditioner?” I reach out to hold her hand. It is sticky and clammy with the sweat.
Still panting, she shakes her head.
“Should I call for the doctor?”
She shakes her head again. “This place is stuffy,” she manages in between laboriously-drawn breath. “Let me…” She made to rise from her seat. Midway up, she suddenly pitches forward to the floor.
I spring to my feet and try to break her fall with my outstretched arms, but the weight of her trajectory knocks me off balance, and we both end up on the floor. A sickening retching sound rips out from her, and she arches her body backward before vomit judders from her to the ground beside her face.
“Oh my God! What is happening to you? What is happening to you?” I scream as I quickly pick myself up from the ground. “Somebody help me! Somebody please help me!” I shout frantically toward the consulting room door, while holding Mimi on the floor and endeavoring to pull back her braids from the bile pushing its way through her mouth.
“Mimi, it’s okay now! It’s okay,” I mutter softly to her when her regurgitation abates. Feeling breathless, I drop back on the support of my hands, still seated on the floor.
Just as quickly as the respite came, Mimi begins to vomit again, this time just as violently as the first time. The bile forms a splashy mess on the ground, and the nauseating sight and smell of it causes my stomach to clench.
“Somebody help –” I start to scream again, just as the curtain parts, and a woman clad in a cleaner’s garb looks in.
“What happened to her?” she asks, wide-eyed, mop in hand.
“I don’t know! How am I supposed to know?” I shrill at her, stopping her midstride as she walks into the room. “Go and call a doctor or a nurse and stop asking too much questions!”
My barked command spurs her into action. She drops the mop and scampers out of the room.
Forty minutes later, Mimi has been wheeled to the radiologist, and then to the ward, because she couldn’t stand on her own, and is being prepped for surgery. As it happens, the foetus had burst her fallopian tube already, and she is currently bleeding internally. A surgery has to be carried out as a matter of emergency to remove the damaged fallopian tube and the foetus, and drain the blood.
Mimi is silently weeping as a nurse shaves her pubic hair. She has been crying in confusion since she was informed about the surgery. All my attempts to reach her husband has proven futile, as the man’s number has refused to connect. Mimi pleaded with the doctor to postpone the surgery till tomorrow, so she could have the time to reach her husband and apprise him of the situation. But the doctor assured her that she could die either from excessive bleeding or infection before the end of tomorrow.
“Ma, is this your phone?” Someone taps my shoulder to ask, waving my phone in my face.
“Yes! I must have dropped it in the doctor’s office!” I say, taking the phone from her. “Thank you.” I give her a wan smile of gratitude.
“You’re welcome. It has been ringing non-stop,” the hospital staffer informs me before walking away.
Checking the missed calls, I realize that Gabby’s school had called multiple times, and my husband and Chinwe had also called. I check my wristwatch to confirm that it is a few minutes past 1pm. Gabby’s school is supposed to let out at 12 noon today, because the pupils are done with their exams for the term, and are just rehearsing for Christmas carols and party, while the teachers mark and grade their results.
“No wonder,” I mumble to myself as I dial the school’s number. I listen as the phone rings on the other end.
Soon enough, someone picks up.
“Hello, good afternoon. This is Mummy Gabby –”
“Oh! Mummy Gabby! Good afternoon, ma. We have been trying to reach you since 12:30. We had to call Gabby’s daddy to come and pick him up, and they just left,” the person on the other end informs me.
“Oh! Thank you so much!” I say, relieved that my baby isn’t still stranded.
Chinwe’s call comes in as I end the call.
“Ada!” she hollers immediately I answer.
“What!” I holler back.
“Your husband is worried! He called me to ask if I knew your whereabouts, and I don’t. Where are you?”
“I am at the hospital with –”
“Jesus Christ! What happened? Did you have an accident or something?” She fires her questions at me.
“No! Listen joor! I’m here for Mimi. She’s not very strong. In fact, she is not good at all! Her pregnancy was ectopic, and it has damaged one of her tubes. They have to operate today.”
“Ewoo! And she was complaining about stomachache oh!”
“Yes. Please, can you come and stay with her, let me go home?”
“Of course, I’m right on my way to you guys. Text me the address to the hospital.”
I watch from the entrance to the hospital as Chinwe walks toward me in a half-run.
“What’s up, where is she?” she quizzes, out of breath.
“She’s about to go in for a surgery, but she can’t, because there’s no member of her family around to sign her consent form,” I say.
“Is she unconscious?”
“No. Her husband has to sign the consent form for the surgery, since he is the one she listed as her next of kin. I offered to sign, but was turned down by the hospital administration since I am not family. So, I have already discussed it with her, and we told the hospital that you are her cousin, so that you can sign for her.”
“Wait! Let me get this straight. What about her husband?”
“His number stopped connecting before she had to go in for surgery. But we have to save her.”
“Of course, we have to save her!” Chinwe declares, stomping past me into the hospital reception. “Which way am I going? Where is she?” she stops to ask.
“This way,” I say, gesturing to the right.
We walk through the convoluted corridor and climb the staircase to the theatre in silence.
“Oh! You’re here. Is that the cousin?” the doctor asks upon our entrance.
“Yes,” Chinwe and I chorus.
“Alright, just wait a few minutes, let me get the form,” he says before leaving us alone in the room with Mimi.
Mimi lies there seemingly in no more pain. The last several minutes have changed her. There are dark circles under her eyes which are rimmed with red, and her hair is a disheveled mass haloing her head on the gurney. She appears listless, like someone accepting an ugly fate.
“Nne, don’t worry. Everything will be fine, inugo?” I say, moving closer to touch her arm consolingly.
“But, why can’t sign her own consent?” Chinwe asks.
“My dear o, they said it’s not allowed,” I reply. “I guess they need someone to shift the blame on to if something goes wrong.”
“Nothing will go wrong in the case though,” I rush to reassure Mimi, who suddenly looked close to restarting the water works.
“That is so incorrect!” Chinwe storms. “In fact, legally, that shouldn’t be the case. As long as the patient is conscious and sane, she should be the one deciding what happens to her body. Not any next of anything!”
“In fact, I will insist that they let her sign the consent. What kind of nonsense –”
“Babe, forget legalese for now,” I interject pleadingly. “We are racing against time to save her life. Biko, you can continue being a lawyer after signing the consent.”
“Eh-eh oh! These people are just being annoying!” Chinwe fumes. “So, if I didn’t come around nko? They’ll let her die?”
“What you want to do, or should I say, force them to do will only take a long time of talking and arguing. Biko, nne, just sign this thing when the doctor comes. This is Nigeria. I’m certain that this hospital doesn’t even have a legal department. So, no one will understand what you’re talking about. Just do it for Mimi, inugo?”
Chinwe takes a deep breath and blows the air out of her mouth, relaxing visibly with the exhalation. “Just for Mimi oh! Just for her. And I’m going to sound a clear warning –” She revs up again.
“Ah! Ozugo now!” I say, interrupting her. “It’s okay! Everything will be fine. There’s nothing that God cannot do. Just be still, you hear?” I divide my gaze between Chinwe and Mimi, to assure them both.
They both nod.
“Ok. I have to go now. My husband picked my son from school, and he needs to go back to his office. Mimi, I will go to your house and pick up your baby to stay with me. And then, ask your house-help to pack a bag for you and come and stay here with you, eh? Just focus on getting better.”
“Thank you,” she rasps.
Written by Adaku J.