I stared at the pale body that lay on the operating table in front of me. My mind raced frantically for a few moments before settling on a course of action.
“Prep for C-Section and get me 2 pints of B- blood!” I barked at the two nurses beside me. I knew what I had to do and willed myself to focus as was my custom. As they scampered off to get what I had requested, I heard a voice speak to me.
“What are you doing?”
I turned around and locked eyes with a man with strong features. He was balding with a receding hairline and a pot belly that pushed against his blue dress shirt. His dark eyes spoke of a man terrified.
“Mr Folahan, my apologies but you have to leave this area. We need to prep your wife for a C-Section as she’s losing a lot of blood.”
Behind us, a moan escaped from the lips of the woman who lay on the operating table. It was hollow and haunting, fitting for the danger in which her life was in.
“You cannot give her blood.” The man replied.
I blanked out for a few seconds.
“You cannot give her blood, Doctor. We do not believe in blood transfusion in my Church.”
A full range of emotions flashed across my consciousness; confusion, surprise, and then anger as it became apparent what I was up against.
“I’m not sure you understand me, Mr Folahan. Your wife is going to die if we do not get your baby out of her and stop the bleeding. She has lost a lot of blood and does not have the energy to push. This is more than-”
“Then so be it.”
In the ensuing moments that followed, I lost my composure and professionalism.
“Are you mad? Your wife’s life hangs in the balance and we can save her but you don’t want us to?”
“I want you to, but we cannot accept blood.”
“My good Lord! Will you listen to yourself? Are you trying to kill her? I’m going to save your wife whether or not you accept it!”
“Do not give my wife blood! We do not accept it!”
At this point, the nurses had arrived and other doctors began approaching us.
“Get him out of here!” I barked at no one in particular.
I watched in disbelief as he was forced out of the operating room, screaming and fighting, by the nurses and some of the other doctors.
“Doctor Sandra, we’re ready,” one of the Nurses said to me “Are you sure you want to do this? We do not have his consent.”
“Would you rather we sit back and watch her die?”
The silence I got as a response was enough.
I turned around and marched to the patient and began trying to save her life and that of the baby.
The sun was high in the sky, bathing the marketplace with its light and heat. The flies were out in full force, darting from produce to produce, occasionally pursued by the stray hand movement of the market traders and customers. I adjusted my glasses and inspected the orange fruit I held in my hand. I haggled with the cheery old woman before making the purchase and tucking the fruits into my black rubber bag. As I moved away from the stall, I reminisced about the last five months, how I wouldn’t have had the time to visit the marketplace like this if I was still in practice. In some way, my sacking was a blessing in disguise; I had more time for my family, I was in better shape and eating healthy. I was also sleeping more, and the black bags that once dominated the underside of my eyes were a thing of the past. As I navigated towards the next stall, I heard someone call out to me.
I turned around and was greeted by the sight of a chubby light skinned woman with a wide smile approaching me. She must have noticed my confusion.
“I am sure you cannot remember me.” She said as she finally reached me, still smiling with her white teeth on display.
“I am sorry. I meet a lot of people.” I responded, completely accustomed to being greeted in public places by people I could not remember.
“It’s okay. The last time you saw me, I was dying, but God used you to save my life, and that of my baby.” She turned to her side to reveal a baby held snugly on her back by an array of wrappers. I was going to point out that the wrappers were too thick considering the weather, but I kept quiet and allowed her to continue.
“My name is Mrs Folahan, I was the one you gave blood against the wishes of my husband.”
Then it all came back to me. She was the dying woman I had operated on in defiance of the husband’s instructions. It was a move that cost me my job as the man took legal action against the hospital. I dropped my bag and hugged her, overwhelmed with emotion.
“How are you?” I asked.
“I am very fine, thank you.”
“And how is your baby?”
“She’s fine too. We’re both healthy, God has been faithful.”
“Good to hear,” I said, trying not to cry “I’m so happy you pulled through. I was not able to follow up with your case as I was laid off not long after.”
“I heard, I was so angry when I was I told.” She said with a facial expression that assured me she was being genuine.
“It doesn’t even matter. I’m just glad you and your baby are doing fine. How is your husband?”
“I left him.” She responded curtly
“To be honest with you, Doctor, I couldn’t look at him the same way after that. I couldn’t believe he would have let me die because of some belief I don’t even agree with. I left him as soon as I was able to walk.”
I didn’t have it in me to point out to her that divorce wasn’t an option in her religion, so I hugged her for the second time.
As she escorted me to my car, she told me her daughter’s name was Victoria, and that she had started her own business selling soft drinks at a retail level. I told her I admired her courage, and would gladly patronize her. We exchanged numbers, promised to keep in touch, and then said our goodbyes.
I drove off feeling fulfilled. My stubbornness had saved a life. It had cost me my job, but it had given me a friend, and that was enough for me.