Dad’s ill health suddenly surfaced after my brother’s burial. Both Mom and Dad couldn’t be at the burial – tradition or culture. He had broken down suddenly and we had to call in the ambulance to get him to emergency and recovery. While we waited on the doctors, Mom and I waited at the lobby impatiently. I saw Mom look too fragile as she sat there helpless and looking lifeless herself. Finally, the doctor called for us. Mom jumped.
“We were eventually able to get blood from our bank. He had obviously been treating leukaemia for a while. It would appear the recent shock shook him and aggravated it even more”, the doctor explained. “We’re able to stabilize him, at least for now.”
“Blood bank? I thought you had gotten some from my daughter earlier”, Mom said.
“Yes, we did”, the Doctor said as he began to walk to his office, taking off his latex gloves as he walked on. Mom followed him, interested in every word. I was confused. I didn’t know if that invitation to his office was also extended to me.
“I’m afraid your daughter’s wasn’t quite usable”, he said eventually when we were all at his office. “Please sit Mrs. Olowookere”.
“Why? Her blood group is the same as her father’s,” Mom said as she followed the Doctor’s eyes to me.
“I know but the test we ran gave us some concern.”
“What concern?” Mom’s voice rose in fear.
“What I’m about to tell you now might not be what you need to hear now but the sooner we begin to deal with the virus, the better chance we have to beat this”, the Doctor sounded alien.
“What virus?” I asked in fright.
“Human Immunodeficiency Virus”, the Doctor said reluctantly.
“HIV?” Mom whispered with eyes wide open.
“No. No, that can’t be. I’m sure you have mixed up the blood samples somehow. Please repeat the test. My daughter can’t be – No”. It had certainly been an overwhelming past few days for Mom; the last thing she needed to hear was one more bad news.
“Doctor, there must have been a mistake. I … I can’t be HIV positive”, I stuttered. I doubted myself as I said the words. Dan had said I looked frail. I had often doubted my own sound health. I had thought to see the Doctor to check myself but I often wove those unsteady thoughts. Now I understood it. I thought the alcohol made me unnecessarily tired and the cough left me with a rather unusual sore throat but I didn’t want to be sick.
“Mrs. Olowookere, I am so sorry about all these but in all, you have to be strong for your family. They need you now more than ever”, the Doctor said.
“No, my daughter will not die. I refuse to believe your report. My daughter will not die”, she kept chanting. And it was only because of her blank expression as the tears once again filled her red puffy eyes that I began to cry as well. I hadn’t been fair to her, to myself, to my late brother.