I sat in Church and watched in utter amazement as the young eloquent and vibrant pastor left no stone unturned in demonising all I stand and have lived for, for the greater part of my life. It was testimony time in a well-known Pentecostal Church in a beautiful town in the southern part of Eastern Nigeria where I had been invited to the dedication of one of my patients’ baby…
I can recall Nathan’s birth (not his real name) and how I had come face-to-face with labour-induced psychosis. His mother became psychotic (mad) just as labour commenced. She literally set the labour room on fire and spared no item both animate and inanimate. She was at war with beds, cupboards, curtains, etc and razed down almost everything to shreds. Other “labourers” in that labour ward had to relocate to the tiny labour room or corridor so as to give her chance and space for the temporal madness.
Sincerely, our mothers deserve special adoration at the harrowing experience they pass through to have a child, more so, this my beloved friend, who made a very cute and diligent temporal mad woman. I can remember her fiercely asking her mother who I was when I entered the ward to examine her.
“…Noooooo! Nooooo…!” She screamed. “…This can’t be a doctor… Nooo! Which kain doctor?” she continued to ask, shaking her head vigorously in negation. “Tell him to gooo! Tell him to goooo! Mum can’t you see? This is a Devil! He’s a devil and not a doctor…” she shouted as her last words sent her mum and I into a maze of shock.
With a smile, I wriggled out of this maze and approached her with a child-like innocence and heart of forgiveness, though I felt exactly the opposite in my mind. Getting to her, I tried to reassure her but that did next to nothing. She grabbed my shirt and ripped it to pieces. Her mum’s face melted just as mine froze and solidified. See me nah, bare-chested before my patient- a naked pregnant lady in labour. How do I explain this?
The matron, who was watching from afar, quickly got me some theatre scrubs to change and I resumed duty cos I am a man on oath – an oath to even keep a perceived enemy alive to kill me.
I don’t know how it happened but we managed to reach a rapport. Though the madness raged for the next 4 hours prior to delivery, we stayed within a very thin sanity spot. The only thing I could recall was that in addition to monitoring contractions, cervical dilatation and fetal heart rate and kicks, I was also rubbing her waist.
A few days after delivery (perhaps on the day of circumcision), this very thankful “previously insane” lady returned to the ward with her husband and handed over some drinks and snacks to the matron and a very pregnant suspicious sealed package to me (abeg don’t ask me what was in it. Tenkiu). They happily invited me to Nathan’s dedication and I promised to attend.
Now, seated for this same dedication, I had to listen in horror as the testifier and young pastor moderating the service teamed up to complete the works my friend left unfinished in the labour room eight weeks earlier.
It was testimony time. Of all those who lined up to testify of the LORD’s goodness, one lady’s testimony stood out. She narrated how her doctor typically sentenced her to death and led her to the gallows before GOD miraculously showed up just the very moment she called “Papa” on phone – pointing towards their General Overseer (GO). The junior pastor didn’t help issues. He kept re-echoing how doctors wished his member dead but GOD showed up against them. I felt like a terrible person. My friend looked at me and I shook my head.
As a believer and an Evangelical, I strongly believe in the intervention of the supernatural in the affairs of men. My whole life has been a testimony as such but putting my colleagues and I at an uncomfortable centre of every testimony makes my stomach cringe. After this dedication service, I returned home to take a second look at the oath I took fourteen months earlier.
No doctor will wish any patient death unless that doctor is psychologically unstable. That’s the simple truth.
Testimony time – onsite or online- is the most difficult part of any service for me. The feeble in faith have misinterpreted this time and ignored reasoning and common sense which has led them to an earlier grave or with debilitating illnesses. Some overzealous pastors have shifted the boundaries of their calling, turning their churches to Emergency departments or even mini-hospitals. A story, which one of my senior colleagues told us, quickly comes to mind. He narrated about the practice of one particular church in southern part of the East which never allowed their pregnant members to deliver in hospitals. They were very quick to cite childbirths by the Hebrew women in the Bible.I lost count the number of their members that landed in the unbooked labour ward section of our hospital then. Here, we always battled to save the mother and the child but on many occasions, losing the child or the mother or both.
He told us of his experience where a lady had obstructed labour in this church. The baby was breech – the hand presented first. In his own words: “…the church birth attendants, after vigorous handshakes with the baby, thought it wise to cut or pull off the hand…”
A profusely-bleeding mother was presented finally to the same hospital her faith has vilified, only to have a Caesarean-section (CS) which is a taboo in their kingdom. The child’s innocence was exchanged for the mother’s ignorance. Luckily, the mother survived. Till date, I wonder what her actual words would be during the next testimony time in her church.
This is the second in a series of essays on “Medical Myths – Tales by Doctors” written by Dr Uche Anyanwagu (PhD). Dr Uche is a medical doctor by profession, and a writer of poems and essays during his spare time. You can follow him on Twitter: @ucheanyanwagu.