T’was the night before Christmas, I was beginning to crash,
When two boys from the village got into a stash,
Of their grandmother’s cassava– she was saving it special,
And had it back of the house, there, under a kettle.
But, it, they had found, slicing it up for a snack,
(Stuff will kill you if not washed up and cooked right)
And they gave that a try, by the time that I saw them,
Retching and puking themselves on beds in Men’s Ward, then,
Under the lights that are kept on all night,
To make the rats bashful to put up much fight
Over food that is lying about in the ward,
Or get over-bold and gnaw charts, I’m told.
The boys got their IVs and charcoal, as well.
And, this time it worked (God has mercy for fools)
So I walked back to Six, through the silvered moonlight
That you get when the hamarttan’s blowing just right,
In time to change, get some tea and a biscuit,
And go off to rounds on the fevers, and boils,
Malaria, the typhoid, the burns, the kwashiokor,
TB and ulcers of skin, gut and soul,
Which characterize, in part, the Fall of us All.
The kid in Two is a pitiful sight, skin taut over bone,
Deep gasping breaths, his ribs show me his gauntness.
We have tried all we have. All to do we have done.
But every few days pops a fever, despite this.
Then there is the girl with the compounded fracture,
And local healers set it two weeks ago Tuesday,
Her arm, she can’t feel, and fingers can’t move,
And poor thing looks like meat; it stinks and it oozes.
By five PM, all we doctors are gathered,
In the front of the clinic with bushels, we’ve come,
Filled with oranges and goodwill, we go to the bedsides
We’ve left just before, with frowns and concerns.
We’ve come back now with spouses and children,
And in one case a puppy, ‘though he stayed outside,
To sing to our patients, of Jesus first Coming,
To sing alleluia, to staff nurses and aides,
To sing of the Virgin, alone in a stable,
To sing of a Miracle, expected by none,
To sing to the people in pain and in danger
Of Saving from Outside their ken and their care.
T’was the night before Christmas, I’m too tired to spit
But among Jesus’ people to sing and to praise.
It’s a great Christmas, the best I remember.
Merry Christmas to all in this dry warm December.
(NB: It has been a long-standing practice since the early days of the Baptist Medical Centre, Nalerigu, for the doctors and their families to carol through the wards (Men’s, Women’s Paeds, Isolation) as well as those waiting in Emergency, and the support facilities (Pharmacy, Laboratory, Radiology) on Christmas eve and present small gifts, usually oranges, to each of the patients, their people, and the staff.)