MY TRUE LIFE STORY:
In December 2009, I walked into the emergency department of Federal Medical Center, Owerri, Nigeria I had just started my internship. I was not on call but I was just passing through to check on my patients. I saw a man, he wasn’t my patient, but he was in bad shape, gasping, humbled in the face of death with his head resting on his wife’s lap and his children, apprehensive and confused, were running around outside. The nurses refused to attend to him because a few hours prior to this he had signed the form to leave the hospital against medical advice (most likely because he was not comfortable with the kind of care he was getting).
There he was, I can still remember the look of resignation on his face, he had accepted his fate. Knowing that he was not my patient and that he had been discharged against medical advice, I still chose to take the risk to treat him. (Let him survive, then I can ask questions later). I did my best, called my superior for help we struggled for quite some time to even find a vein to resuscitate this man. Eventually, we could only get a miserable access: only the tip of the cannula was inside the vein. I held the cannula while Dr. Ben pushed in the drugs and infusions. As weak as he was, the man kept his eyes fixed on me, all through the time. The first thing he said when he could muster a breath was, “do you know me?”, “Do you know who I am?” I replied “No sir!” and continued what I was doing. When I finished, the wife tried to smuggle N1000 ($7 at the time) into my hand,and she was shocked when I refused it with an appreciative smile on my face.
Fortunately, he survived and then told me who he was and said, “I wish I had something to reward you with”. “Don’t worry, I will show you who I am”.
Two weeks later I was having ward rounds, then I got the most abrupt phone call of my life, “Come to Madam’s office!” Madam was the Chief Medical Director of the hospital. Turns out that the patient wrote a strong letter of commendation, on my behalf, to the CMD and copied my consultant. In his words he said, “I WANT YOU TO WRITE HIS NAME IN GOLD IN THIS HOSPITAL”. I personally felt that was a bit dramatic (I must confess) but typical of the Nigerian setting, nothing really was done. The CMD called me to her office, read the letter to me, and gave me a handshake with a rather sardonic smile (after she read the “write his name in gold part”) and that was all. The same person rejected my residency application when I applied there (Irony of life. Hahahaha). Nothing was done, but I smiled and left feeling that my true reward was that I saved a life.
5years and 5 months later at the University of California, UC San Francisco (UCSF), on this day, the 15th of May, 2015, the Chancellor of UCSF has chosen to “WRITE THAT SAME NAME IN GOLD” on the walls of the University and my family name will remain on those walls till eternity and it makes me believe that it could only have been the prayers of that dying man.
Today, I am being honored with the prestigious Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, at the University of California San Francisco and my name will be written alongside many great people, who have achieved things beyond my mind’s fathom. I have only God to thank but I have learnt innumerable lessons:
1. Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
2. As a health provider, “DO YOUR JOB, AND MONEY WILL FOLLOW”. Money isn’t everything, your deepest satisfaction should be to see people get better. You may suffer (yes) you may lose sleep and get insulted etc. (never lose focus as these are temporal )
3. The best reward you can get is from those who can not give you anything especially the poor, elderly or vulnerable. Prayer and blessings surpass riches.
4. I rejected the money I was offered by that patient but today I am receiving an award that may come with an amount that is more than 400X the amount the patient offered me.
I have not written this to show off. I have written this in the hope that it will inspire others who suffer in daily their work. There is true reward for diligence, that reward may not come when or how you imagine it, but I will come. The blessings may not fall on you, it may fall on you children, but it must surely fall.
Remember this, we are here on earth for only a short time, no matter how much you cling to life, you will still lose it. The best life you can live is one that you live helping others. Nothing else makes as much sense. We are all connected. Let us help one another.
Dr Obieze Nwanna Nzewunwa