It all started with a routine check up. It’s always a routine check up. Maybe here is where the perennial fear Kenyans have to go to hospital seeds. We have this belief that what you don’t know can’t, no, won’t harm you. We’ve half assed our way through life with this philosophy and it’s worked well. If you get a cough you buy a cough syrup. If it persists you buy antibiotics. You only see the doctor when you start spitting blood and the coughs are so bad every time it feels like your lungs are about to burst.
You see, a few people drop dead in the shower without a warning after complaining of a slight headache in the morning. Others have their health deteriorate over time treating only the symptoms until they kick the proverbial bucket and the mortician cuts them open to find a blackened lung or hardened liver. They lay there in their nakedness being prodded by medical students having their bodies dissected and studied. Someone will ‘aah’ and say they were a smoker pointing at some miniscule mark on their trachea that looks like the inside of a chimneys column.
A routine check up for some people is the beginning of a nightmare. You go in to see the doctor with your happy go lucky goofy face wearing shorts sandals and a polo t-shirt. He’s probably going to check your pressure, check your temperature and fill in a form with stuff you have no idea about. He’s going to laugh around with you and you might ask him out for a beer. You have many friends but none is a doctor. You decide you want a doctor friend. A friend you can introduce to people as “this is doctor…” People respect doctors and for some reason this will rub off on you. Most importantly you can get free advise without it being weird.
“Hi Sam, quick one… eeh how are you?”
“So there’s this thing I feel when I sleep that hurts my left thigh. Is it normal? You know these things mimi sijui.”
“What exactly is the problem?” He’ll ask
“Every time I get home after a pint I sleep and my thigh hurts. Only the left one. Do you think I might need to stop? Drinking? Is it related? How’s the family?”
He’ll laugh and say the fam is okay before telling you that you need to stop drinking regardless. After prodding some more you both figure out that it’s your keys. You never take them out of your pocket when you get home.
So there you are with your polo, shorts and sandals sitting in the lobby next to a guy in a suit with a loosened tie. He looks like he just got off work to see the doctor. His expression says someone forced him to be here. His wife you figure. He is sniffling and you guess he might have a cold. He doesn’t once look at you he is on his phone probably convincing the missus that he actually is in the hospital. He gets called in next and the doctor brightens up on seeing him.
“What’s the problem?” He asks
You don’t hear what he says because the door closes but you imagine he says
“My wife, I’m sick of her. Got anything for that?”
Because you hear a hearty laugh followed by the clasping of hands.
You fiddle with the magazines and notice how all talk about love, sex and parenting. You put them down and pick a news paper but find the crossword filled out. You look at the nurses as they pass in their uniforms and wonder how much death they’ve seen and if it affects them. You want to talk to one but they all look so busy and you don’t want to look like you’re hitting on them. Some are wheeling patients into various rooms for testing. You look at your watch and remember you need to meet with a friend at the local. The guy in a suit walks out of the office thanking the doctor and you’re up. You walk in and decide this is the best chance to make acquaintance.
“Hi, nice to meet you.”
“Good to meet you too.” He responds as he takes a seat and removes the stethoscope from his neck and places it on the table.
“So what do you do?” You ask. Before realising it’s a dumb question so quickly add “… For fun. I mean what do you do for fun?”
“Golf at the club. Ever been?” He says as he goes through your reports.
“No. But would love to. When are you free?” You ask.
He stands and gestures you to pull up your shirt as he sticks that intrusive stethoscope under your chest. He’s quite a young guy you notice. He asks you to breathe in and out while caressing your hairy chest. It’s weirdly romantic and you wish he bought you dinner first.
Handing you a card he says
“Here, call me tomorrow.”
He gets done checking your vitals and sends you in for some blood work. A nurse walks in, short and stout with a motherly face. She asks you to follow her and you oblige lest she pinches your cheeks. In fifteen minutes you’re done and you wait for your results in the lobby. The doctor and nurse walk in together and they’re in hushed tones looking over at you.
You go back into the examination room and the tension is palpable. You take a seat and the doctor shoots a series of questions before saying they found something in your blood. You ask them what it was. But they are dodgy and are re not sure so they say they need to run more tests and scans so you have to stay. You get admitted and you call your family assuring them it’s all fine. But it’s not you feel it.
Test after test they confirm their fears. You have something life threatening. You never get to call the doctor for that round of beer or golf. He’ll look at you like you’re dying. You’ve given people that look too right after you learnt they have somethung cancerous. Your life changes. There’s something about knowing you have a condition that changes you. We live with death around us but knowing something is potentially going to be the cause of yours instills around fear. Deep down you wish you never went for that routine check up.