When Sochima bought drugs from the kiosk close to the filling station, she was oblivious of what drugs did to people. Oblivious of the existence of adulterated drugs. Oblivious of the dangers these pose. Oblivious of the fact that they could kill her child, her precious Urenne.
Urenne developed fever at 2:30 am, on Friday. Children and their fluctuating health. Sochima gave her crushed paracetamol tablet mixed in water, like she had done two months ago when a tooth sprung out of Urenne’s gum and brought a fever along with it. Like she had done every other time when Urenne’s forehead burnt hot. But when by daybreak Urenne’s forehead and neck still burnt, Sochima ran panicky to Aunty Nurse’s kiosk with Urenne strapped to her back, her legs white from harmattan sucking moisture away from her skin. Aunty Nurse sighed and smiled. The smile of a good nurse who knows how to make her diagnosis quite correctly.
“Good morning Nne Ure. Ke kwanu?”
“Adiro’m mma biko. My pickin body dey burn like fire.”
Aunty Nurse extended her hand to feel Urenne’s neck for the fever.
“Ah! E hot oo. When last she shit?”
“Yesterday. For morning.”
“Teeth still dey worry am?”
“No oo. Since she take that mericine when you give am, e don stop.”
“OK. I know wetin I go give am.”
Aunty Nurse ransacked through her bowl of drugs, until she brought out a pale-looking sachet of drug. For a split second, Sochima worried it was the wrong drug, before she assured herself that Aunty Nurse, reputable Aunty Nurse that served as the community’s only health provider and whose musty kiosk was as revered as any ultramodern hospital, should surely know the right drug.
“Give am this drug. One for morning, one for night. Use paracetamol give am oo.”
“OK. God bless you for me. I go settle you later.” Sochima smiled at her. Kind-hearted Aunty Nurse, she thought, who didn’t mind offering her services on credit.
And the fever stopped, just like Aunty Nurse said it would. Urenne’s body started to feel normal at 4:22 pm, few hours after her first dose. Sochima was sure of the time. When you are a mother, you are conscious of every fine detail, you know, because children are such delicate things.
By noon on Saturday, Urenne was almost well, running around Sochima’s little room with her puny feet and drooly mouth, smiling to show the handful of milk-white teeth that sat on her gums. Sochima made mental notes of going to pay Aunty Nurse first thing on Sunday morning from her two thousand naira savings. If only Osita had not left her because Urenne was not a boy, perhaps he would have helped her with some money.
But, you see, sometimes while we make plans, the devil peeps in through the keyhole in our mind, steal those plans, and modify them into a sinister scheme. This was exactly what Sochima thought when on Sunday morning, at 6:08 am, when she went to wake Urenne up, so they could prepare for church, and found her limbs stiff and her body cold like iced fish. Sochima didn’t think of her baby being dead, didn’t consider the possibility of her being dead, because the child who, not minding the circumstances of her pregnancy and birth, brought her so much joy and love, couldn’t die. She grabbed her bottle of Goya olive oil and her Bible from her wooden stool, smeared the oil on Urenne’s forehead, and started to pray, to rebuke the evil plans of Satan, to burn Satan with Holy Ghost fire, until she was sure his charred remains were beyond recognition. When she opened her eyes at 7:14 am, expecting to see Urenne smiling at her, that dimpled, innocent smile of hers that made Sochima’s heart lurch lovingly, she only found that Urenna’s body was still. Her limbs were still. Her breath was still. Sochima screamed. She crashed herself to the floor and cursed the angels in charge of Sundays. How could they be so callous, so insensitive, that the first thing they do on a day that should be holy, was kill her child? Her child. When her neighbour, Nne Kamsi, came in minutes later, to find Urenne’s still body on the mat, she picked Sochima up and cradled her to her chest. God knows best, Nne Kamsi kept saying. Sochima wanted to scoff that perhaps His knowledge of the pain of a mother losing a child was half-baked, but her throat was plugged with tears.
Later, when all the sympathisers had gone, after they helped her dig a shallow grave at the cemetery and put her child in it, after Aunty Nurse had come to say, Ndo, she didn’t even know that Royals chemist shop, where she got her goods wholesale, sold fake drugs, her Nurse-friend had just told her this earlier today when the news of Urenne’s death spread like wildfire, Sochima thought of what people would think of her child. They would not know that Urenne giggled so sweetly, that she was a fighter who survived her two days of complicated birth, that she had sworn to stay, even when her father could look at her chubby cheeks and innocent eyes and say he didn’t want her.
This was what her baby had become, what people would think of her child: a hashtag on social media. #SayNoToFakeDrugs.
Chiamaka Ejiofor is a medical student, who dreams of becoming a better writer.