Series, The Doctor's View

The Doctor’s View: The Human Rope

HeaderBy Denise Kavuma, Uganda:

Every service-provider has that one client they will never forget and whether it was because he brought joy to them or put the fear of Satan in them, it doesn't matter. For me it was the guy who showed us the darkness in all our souls.

It had been an exceptionally busy night for the team and the 2 nurses who were working with me were at their wits' ends. We'd had a child who was continuously convulsing despite our best efforts, numerous snake-bites coming in like it was hug-a-snake day, and a drunk guy who'd been hit by a car and was staggering about wanting to kiss the nurses…or maybe he wanted to kill them, I forget which; however, their fear and revulsion was key.

At about midnight when things were finally beginning to settle down and we'd confined the drunken guy to a bed, in comes this panicking single-father with his 3-year-old daughter in tow. The little girl was weak and lethargic and the father was babbling out some disjointed story from which I gleaned that his kid had been having some pretty serious diarrhea, but the guy did not want her to be admitted.

So we set about doing our thing and as we stabilized the child, I tried to take more detailed history from the dad who'd calmed down at that point. On asking when the diarrhea had started, dude began telling me how he'd been initially invited to some ambassador's party with a bunch of well-known public figures in Uganda. He went on to inform me that he was a lawyer and that was why he was well connected enough to attend such parties; that it was at this party that various ladies had hit on him but he couldn't do anything because he had to get back to his kids at home, blah blah blah.

*15 minutes later*

And so, as he was going back home, he'd decided to get the kids some chicken and fries but this particular 3 year old ended up eating her meal cold and then the diarrhea began the next day.

I tried not to stare at him too weirdly and made a silent vow to not ask him any more questions lest I ended up walking out of the E.R. two years later. Oh, but he wasn't done; he ended up spilling his entire pre and post-marital life to me and as the hours went by, I began to think that he had a diarrhea of sorts as well.

Yes, I am a doctor/counselor/servant but man, when a dude is telling you what a harpy his ex-wife is and proceeds to call her all sorts of names in every language you know and then wants you to agree with him, you gotta draw the line. I did as much and chose that moment to go and check on our resident drunk; meanwhile, the father decided that 2 a.m. was a brilliant time to start texting his friends, pictures of his sick kid. So, he called them up, let them know he was going to send some images and started taking pictures of the sick child – IV line and all – and WhatsApped them to God knows how many people.

At this time, the child was improving on the rehydration therapy and was sitting up, talking, and even giggling a little. In his overly excited state (or so I assume; I know he wasn't in his right mind) the dad texted his ex-wife a picture of their sick child.

Seconds later, he starts having the loudest phone-argument you can ever imagine at that time and at 3 a.m. any phone conversation is simply too loud. His voice was booming with indignation and the kid was starting to get agitated again. On hanging up, he threw around all the cuss words he could manage – they were not that impressive, I have to say, clearly lawyering is nicer to the soul than doctoring – and grimly informed us the mother was coming to take the girl away but he was not going to let that happen. Then, he started doing some lunges… Ok, he didn't do any exercises so much as he just sat there all grim and stiff, like a reaper but for a dude that wound up, I really expected him to pull some weights or whatever from his car and start lifting or something.

*30 minutes later*

We were busy sedating the then aggressive drunkard – again because clearly God needed to watch some comedy at that time – when we had voices rising in anger. We rushed to the scene to find the father arguing with the mother about the child. She was accusing him of being careless and he was declaring that she only ever cared about the kids when they were in public. The waves of hate rolling off those two were immense and we had to steadily make our way towards them in the manner one would when walking through a storm.

A few seconds later, the mother tries to snatch the kid from the father's arms and so began the very first tug-o'-war I'd ever seen, with a human child being used as the rope. The girl was screaming, the parents were not letting go and we were being blown back by the hate, trying to reach them but still too far away.

At this point, the cashier had had enough and he got up to intervene. He stood up and we all sort of paused for a second to see this HUGE guy, walk up to this couple and tell them to cut it out or else he will flick his finger at their heads and break their skulls…or so I imagined. In truth, he just told them to calm down and the father took this chance to run the heck out of there with his baby. I bet that unfortunate kid messed her pants in all that struggling and I hope some of that liquid shit ruined that guy's shirt.

In the silence that followed, we looked at each other…and then burst out laughing.

Whether it was the fatigue or the shock from the ludicrousness of the entire episode, we just couldn't stop. None of us found it funny but we needed some relief from all the tension and some deep, dark place in our souls provided us with the laughter and we took it.

Until the drunk dude woke up yet again.

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