It is a bloody affair… In this large hall filled with metal beds and sky-blue bedsheets. Women’s screams rose in the air… Like a liturgy of pain as they thrashed about with their wrappers falling from their full bosom.
I rushed across the hall at the speed of light to answer to the call of the Aunty Gloria, our head midwife. The bowl of warm water on my left hand strained my arm. A fair pregnant woman rushed at me.
“Nurse! Nurse!” She wailed, knocking off two syringes from my tray of drugs, I swirled out of her grasp. She must be a first timer – I smiled. I know them from the loud wails, restlessness and witty confessions.
I have only worked three years here, but in this short while, I have heard a woman confess to killing her step son, I have heard another’s adultery confession not minding that her husband stood right behind the ward window.
In the height of pain, reason is blurred.
But in all my years here, I have never met anyone like the woman on the third bed on the right wing of the hall. For 8 hours, she has been in labor. Aunty Gloria has been on her, the deep frown on her face had told us that this was a difficult case.
I got to her bed stand and placed the water by the table beside her. Aunty Gloria was bent over the patient’s open limbs. Her green patient’s gown with St Peter’s hospital logo was folded up to her breast. Her hair plaited in wool and her face drenched in sweat. She was no longer screaming now, she was only groaning: a deep groan that came from the deepest part of pain. Her protruding stomach was pulsed with the kicks of her child. The joint of her legs was a river of blood.
I watched Aunty Gloria scoop lumps of blood flowing from the patient’s legs.
“Get me four pints of O negative,” Aunty Gloria screamed, voice laced with panic. Juliet, another auxiliary nurse ran to the blood bank. Her legs trembled as she ran. We all knew the life hung on the balance. We have all seen this happen before. The dilating pupil, frail arms falling to the sides like a stem cut from its base.
Juliet ran back with the pints of blood. Aunty Gloria picked it up and quickly began to attach it to the drip stand. She took that patient’s arm to search for a vein. I watched in fear as I stood right behind Aunty Gloria ready to leap in to help. Aunty Gloria has found a vein, her needle ready to puncture the vein. I saw the patient raise her hand and hold Aunty Gloria’s hand.
“No…,kwusi” I heard the patient mutter.
Her eyes were fixed on Aunty Gloria’s.
“I.. I will not receive blood. I am a witness,” she finished. Her chest panting from the labour of the words.
Aunty Gloria paused… I saw her eyes brimming in tears.
“Mrs Edith, you have lost a lot of blood,” Aunty Gloria said slowly as though lecturing an erring child. “You will die if you don’t accept this transfusion.”
I saw the patient shake her head.
“No!” she said again. Determination burnt in her gaze.
I saw Aunty Gloria stagger. Her agony crystallize into tears. I saw dark black lumps of blood dripping from the edges of the sky blue bedsheets. I saw the patient’s chest rise and fall. Rise and fall again. Rise and…. then froze.