I sat dejectedly on the very comfortable sofa office chair which had suddenly turned too hot to bear with and very uncomfortable, staring blankly at the piece of paper in my hand. I ran my eyes from the paper to the face seated before me. My eyes ran all over the paper, then to the man talking in front of me, trying to pay attention to what he was saying, but I could hardly hear a word. He wore a white overall apparel, and had a pair of cheesy and real cute eyes behind a big round pair of ancient looking spectacles. A stethoscope hung loosely around his neck.
“I'm sorry Mr. Bassey, but you know... it's not the end of the world. We have an association you can join here in this hospital which can help you go through the trauma successfully, and even live longer than normally expected. On your way out, just ask the nurse on duty how you can get a card to join the PLWHA group.” He continued, “I'm sorry once again Mr. Effiong Bassey. Just try to encourage yourself, and remember it's not the end of the world.”
The doctor concluded, leaving me still and speechlessly staring at the test result in my hand. My hands were visibly shaking. In as much as I tried not to believe it, I couldn't help but do. The result said it all. Tears had welled up in my eyes, but I kept my fist and teeth clenched to stop the tears from streaming down my eyes. I stood and walked dejectedly out of the doctor's office, into the waiting eyes and ears of my fiancee at the hospital's reception.
My name is Bassey Effiong Paul, and I had just been diagnosed with HIV.
My name is Bassey Okon Peter, and I just found out that my brother, Effiong had just been diagnosed with one of, if not the world's deadliest and most feared disease: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
He came home looking dejected and downcast. When I inquired why he was looking so sad, he handed me an envelope. Embedded in it was a paper that had ‘JONAS MEDICAL DIAGNOSTIC LABORATORY’ scribbled boldly at the top. Many tests were listed in the paper, ranging from PCV to MP/Widal to Urinalysis, but the box that was ticked was the one beside 'HIV test'; the result read ‘positive’.
I stared wide-eyed at the sheet of paper in my shaky hands, not believing my own eyes. Maybe they were playing a trick on me, maybe not. I blinked rapidly to be sure I was seeing clearly and fully awake.
“How could he be HIV positive?” I asked myself. “Effiong of all people?”
He's not as promiscuous as I am. In fact, he's not even promiscuous at all. He is the one-woman kind of guy. I’m pretty much sure he hasn’t even touched the woman he is currently seeing, saving it for honeymoon, I guess.
“Jeez! How could this be?”
These were the thoughts running through my mind as I stared on the paper. I examined it closely, checking for a mistake somewhere. Maybe in the spelling of the name, hoping it was a mistake and my brother wasn't HIV positive. Unfortunately, the name was written boldly in caps, 'BASSEY EFFIONG P’.
“Does Lilian know about this?” I asked the dull looking Effiong whom I didn't know anymore.
“Yes! We went to the hospital together, but she's negative and I'm..." He broke down in tears without finishing his statement.
I moved closer to him and gave him a bear hug, placing his head on my shoulder and patting his hair while trying to console him and assure him that all will be well, and that I would always be there for him no matter what, but that didn't stop him from shedding more uncontrollable tears.
- 3 -
I lay in my bed one hot sunny afternoon, watching the fan in my room spin slowly. Lots of thought ran through my mind. My fiancee left me that same day, right at the hospital and said to never call her again, claiming I had been sleeping around with other women. She wondered what I would have done if we had eventually gotten married. She called me a liar, a cheating bastard, many mean names that I can’t even remember. She added that I take my hub infected body far away from her and never try to reach her ever again. I wonder why all these happened just a month to my wedding. The wedding had been fixed and arrangements had already been put in place.
Just as they say, “Bad news spreads like wild fire burning in a dry bush”. The news of my unfortunate infection began to make headlines. Almost everyone in my neighbourhood heard about it. Soon enough, they deserted me and treated me like I was a cursed breed. Some even warned their kids not to come near me. Those whom I referred to as 'friends' partook in this act too; my family was not left out. They all didn't want to have anything to do with an HIV patient. They left me to die, but one person who stood by my side all this while was my elder brother, Okon. He was so supportive and would go the extra mile to get me whatever I wanted, as sick as it may sound. He always assured me that everything would be alright and that I wasn’t going to die any time soon, as he would always be there to do whatever it takes to make sure that I got better and live as long as I wish, but knew all these were just fantasies; I was doomed to die soon.
Each time thoughts of suicide crossed my mind, I would consider my brother and how much it would hurt him if I committed such an act, and that would drown those thoughts immediately. I kept seeing pictures of Lilian on social media, and surprisingly, she had moved on within few days. She uploaded photos of herself flaunting with her new boyfriend, some of which included pictures and videos where he proposed marriage to her and she happily said yes.
Initially, I was happy for her, but I felt hurt and betrayed at the same time. Of course, I knew it wasn’t her fault, I mean... who would want to get married to an HIV positive dude? Though I felt betrayed by how quickly she left me in my time of distress, I had no enmity towards her.
Each passing day only reminded me of how miserable my life was, and that made me feel closer to the grave even though there was no outward sign or indication of any infection of any sort, but my mind had already been turned towards death.
I began to think of suicide often than normal. One fine afternoon, the urge to take my life was so strong. The fan had stopped rolling, as the power holding authorities had done what they're best at doing. Frustration, depression and dejection ran through my mind, and the need to take my life quickly overwhelmed the need to live on.
I got a wrapper and tore a piece of it from top to down, so it could form a rope. I made sure the wrapper was strong enough for what I needed to do. I took in one last deep-breath, and braced myself, while I whispered within, “Just do it!”
I was ready. I stared at the fan and gave the room one last look, before fetching a table and climbing unto it. It was time!
- 4 -
I got a phone call one afternoon while at work.
“Hello! Please am I speaking to Mr. Bassey Okon?” The voice on the other end of the phone said.
“Yes!” I asked, “Who am I speaking to?”
“This is Dr. Thomas Victor, from Jonas Medical Centre.” He added, “I'm calling with regards to your brother, Mr. Effiong.”
“Yes, yes? What happened to him? What's wrong with him?" I asked impatiently, as I was already getting scared. It was this same hospital where he was diagnosed of the deadly disease and now they're calling me. I wasn't sure of what to think.
“Please could you come over to the hospital as quickly as you can? It's really urgent! Your brother may be in some sort of trouble.”
As soon as I heard his last words, I became alert. I could feel my adrenaline pump hard through my veins. I ran out of my office like a man being chased and jumped into my car, speeding out of the compound like it was on fire and my car humping into the street, speeding like a man in a hot pursuit. I thought my brother may be ill at the hospital, or even worse; dying!
“Mr. Bassey Okon, huh?” The doctor started as soon as I barged into his office like a mad man. I sat down on one of the two visitor's seats he had, without being offered a seat.
“Yes! Yes, you called me. I'm here now, so what is it? Where is my brother?”
“I need you to calm down first, Mr. Bassey, please.”
I didn't go there to seek for who to calm me down; I was already losing it. I needed the bespectacled man seated before me to let me in on what was going on and why he had called me, and not to help me to calm down. I smiled.
“Okay doctor, I'm calm now.” I asked, “So, can we get to the reason why I'm here?”
“I have to get back to work..." I said very calmly this time around, wearing on an award wining Oscar-deserving forged smile on my face.
He cleared his throat and started, “Mr. Bassey, you see... Your brother, Mr. Effiong Bassey, was errmm... Was mistakenly... Was wrongly diagnosed.”
I was silent, he was silent, the room was silent. My eyes were wide opened with shock, my mind was blank.
“Well, it happened that his test result was mixed up with the result of someone else, one Mr. Bassey Ifiok. The laboratory technicians who prepared and compiled the results made a terrible mistake.”
We both went dead silent.
“Wow!” That was all I could mutter, as my brain was busily compiling an endless list of possibilities and eventualities. My mind went back to events of the past few days. I immediately felt all the frustration, depression and pain that my brother had gone through. At that point, I became very angry and felt the need to get up and strangle the doctor. On a second thought, I became quite happy. At least, my brother wasn't carrying that deadly virus. I was definitely going to sue the hospital for such a costly error, but that would be later. For now, I gotta give Effiong the great news of relief.
I left the doctor's office without saying a word to him, and drove straight home.So many thoughts flashed through my head as I hurdled through the ever busy road of Lagos mainland. I tried to imagine how he would feel when I break the news to him, but I just couldn't. I thought of what he could be doing at home at that moment; probably thinking or crying his heart out, as that was what he had been doing most of the time in the past few days. He had been indoors ever since he got the test result and has refused to step his foot out of the house.
I got to the compound where we stayed, parked my car and hurriedly barged into the house screaming his name at the top of my lungs.
“Udo? Effiong!! Mbakara!!!!” I called all the names I knew he answered, but got no reply. I got alarmed immediately. He hasn't stepped out of the house in days, and I wondered where he could have gone to.
I slowly entered the room we shared and what my eyes encountered, my heart was never prepared for. I felt a sharp pain at the back of my chest when I saw my only brother – the only sibling I had – hanging lifeless on the fan, with a wrapper tied around his neck, and his lifeless body swinging around like a pendulum. I quickly untied him and lay him on the bed, but it was already too late; he had no pulse and his heart didn’t beat anymore.
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Nice one there ............ Thank God for revealing the truth but unfortunately at the wrong time ........ I pray this does not happen to anyone
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