Ebun and I walked into the female ward in block E. It was one of the Saturdays when we were bored with poring over chemical structures and cramming botanical names. We strolled in with our labcoats, smiling as we greeted the nurses. They replied without giving us any attention, their heads bowed into patient files open before them.
Ebun and I walked round from patient to patient as they lay on their beds. Some smiled at us, some were to weak to, and some were oblivious of our presence. We spoke with them, prayed for them and left them with few fruits. There was this man who began to pray for us after we had prayed for his wife. He was grateful we had visited.
On our way out, at the far end of the room, close to the window with open louvres void of netting, she sat there, watching us, smiling, a slight one. On the bed beside her was a very pale woman, with almost no clothing on. She looked seventy. Her thighs were not larger than my thin wrists. On her head were patches of scraggly hair. Her skin sagged. She lay limp and lifeless.
“She’s my daughter. She’s only nineteen,” the woman on the chair began as we drew close, not bothering to wipe off the tears that now rolled down the sides of her face. “Her name is Onyinye. We’ve been in and out of hospitals since last year. She is also a medical student, schooling in University of Port Harcourt.” She broke off to sob some, I and Ebun only listened, speechless. She stood up to turn her daughter the other way, exposing her deep sore-ridden buttocks, her half-full urine bag dangling over the edge of the bed. I started to have a dizzy spell, nausea welling up in me, beads of sweat breaking out on my forehead. I needed to sit down, to lie down actually.
She continued, “Please pray for her. God will not answer me, but I believe he will answer you.” I fought tears, I think Ebun did too.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Ebun began in her sincere way, stammering a little, “but I know God will restore her health.”
Even as I quoted, “By His stripes, we are healed,” I tried not to envisage the degree of healing Onyinye would need. I tried not to let logic get in the way of miracle. I believed, for her mother’s sake too.
“Let’s pray,” Ebun said, stretching out her hands to take both mine and Onyinye’s mother’s. Before Ebun got to the end of every prayer sentence, a passionate believing Amen rendered the air. God had to heal Onyinye.
I forced a smile and held onto her hand a little while longer after the prayer. I nodded as Ebun spoke reassuringly, “She will be in our prayers. God will heal her.” Gratitude seeping through her tear-stained face, she exchanged numbers with me and promised to keep in touch. She would tell us when Onyinye was leaving the hospital.
It was late one morning a few weeks after, when I was preparing to go to the lab that my phone beeped. It was a brief message: Onyinye passed on early this morning. Thanks for your concern and prayers. I didn’t know if to heave a sigh of relief.