HEROES IN WHITE
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Pa asked Chiemeka.
“I want to be a superhero!” Chiemeka blurted out excitedly before zooming off in all directions round Pa’s bedroom and acting like he was flying.
Pa was not too pleased with that response.
Earlier that day, the Onuka family had paid a visit to Pa. While Chiemeka’s parents chit-chatted with his grandmother in the living room, Chiemeka was spending time with his grandfather in his bedroom. Chiemeka was 7 years old.
“What do you mean by a superhero?” Pa asked curiously.
“I mean superheroes like Superman, Batman, Thor… so that I get to wear capes like them and fly!”
“Why do you want to be a superhero?” Pa probed further.
“Because superheroes save lives and prevent bad things from happening to people.” Chiemeka replied as he slumped from exhaustion on the bed Pa sat on.
“But it’s not only superheroes who save and protect lives, policemen do and so do the firefighters, soldiers, activists…”
“They are not superheroes,” Chiemeka cut in dismissively, “They don’t wear capes to make them fly. How would they save the world?”
“Not all superheroes wear capes,” Pa said softly.
“No! They all do!” Chiemeka insisted.
Just then, his mother called out to him from the living room. “It’s time to go Chiemeka!”
“Yes. It’s time to go home young man,” Pa said smiling at him. “Hope you’ll change your mind about what you want to be the next time we see.”
“Nope! I won’t,” Chiemeka replied assuredly.
Just as Pa got up from his bed, he groaned loudly and held his chest. “My chest, my chest,”he groaned loudly before he collapsed on his bed unconscious.
“Pa! Pa!” Chiemeka cried out in fear while trying to wake him up. Just then, his parents rushed in.
“Call the emergency medical services now,” his father told his mother.
While his mother called the emergency medical services, his father tried to wake Pa up all to no avail. Fortunately, the paramedics arrived within minutes. Immediately they entered the room, they started cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Pa. It did not take long before Pa recovered, though still weak. Then the paramedics carried Pa into the ambulance to take to the nearest hospital while the Onuka’s followed suit. Grandma had to remain at home but was assured that everything would turn out fine before they left.
The hospital was a teaching hospital. Immediately they arrived, they were taken to the Accidents and Emergency (A & E) department where a nurse received them and made sure Pa was placed on a bed. Immediately, Pa was surrounded by a team of people wearing white clothings. A doctor asked Chiemeka’s parents and Pa some questions (took a history) while two other doctors were busy resuscitating Pa. His vitals were taken, his samples were taken for investigations and he was placed on intravenous infusion. It did not take too long before Pa fully recovered with time. A nurse was assigned to monitor Pa’s vitals every few hours to make sure he was doing well.
Chiemeka watched all these happen with fascination. While his parents were talking with the doctors and nurses about Pa’s condition and how they would pay for the investigations and care, Chiemeka stayed with Pa all through. He was so scared of losing Pa and was glad Pa was back again to his normal self. Later on, two young ‘doctors' who introduced themselves as medical students approached Pa and Chiemeka. They asked Pa and Chiemeka some questions and then examined Pa all the while taking down their findings in their notebooks. When they were done, they announced their leave.
“Could you tell me what was wrong with Pa?” Chiemeka asked the medical students before they could leave.
“He had a heart attack,” one of them explained. “A heart attack is a medical emergency. It usually occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Without blood the heart muscle dies. It’s a good thing you called the paramedics and arrived here on time. If you had spent more time at home, you would have probably lost him.”
“Lose Papa?” Chiemeka gasped, “Good thing I didn’t!”
“Well, you can thank all the medics: the paramedics, the nurses, the doctors. They all helped save your grandfather’s life.”
Chiemeka nodded in agreement. “Just curious. You all wear cool clothes in the hospital. What’s the name of your white long jacket?”
“It’s called a wardcoat,” one of them replied smiling.
“And what’s the name of your blue top and trouser you wear inside?”
“It’s called a scrub,” the other answered.
“And please what’s the name of that accessory round your neck that you use to check Pa’s chest?”
“It’s called a stethoscope,” they both replied proudly.
Chiemeka smiled. “Thank you for taking time to talk to me and explain things to me,” he said to them before they finally took their leave.
Chiemeka turned to face Pa. “I want to be a medic one day.”
“Really?” Pa asked smiling, “Why?”
“Because they are superheroes,” Chiemeka replied, “They save lives and prevent bad things from happening to people just like they did for you. How come hardly anyone talks about them or celebrates them in the movies just like they do for other superheroes like Superman and Batman?”
“Well, you could be the first one to start,” Pa said smiling.
Chiemeka smiled back at him. “You were right Pa. Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear wardcoats, scrubs and stethoscopes. These medics, they are real superheroes. They are heroes in white!”
Written by Walker Miriam Ihuoma
Medicine and Surgery
Port Harcourt University Medical Students Association (PUMSA).