Obieze Nwanna Nzewunwa TRUE LIFE STORY:
In December 2009, I walked into the emergency department
of FMC, Owerri, I had just started my internship. I was not
on call but I was just passing through to check on my
patients. I saw a man, he wasn’t my patient, but he was in
bad shape, gasping, humbled in the face of death with his
head resting on his wife’s lap and his children,
apprehensive and confused, were running around outside.
The nurses refused to attend to him because a few hours
prior to this he had signed the form to leave the hospital
against medical advice (most likely because he was not
comfortable with the kind of care he was getting).
There he was, I can still remember the look of resignation on
his face, he had accepted his fate. Knowing that he was not
my patient and that he had been discharged against medical
advice, I still chose to take the risk to treat him. (Let him
survive, then I can ask questions later). I did my best,
called my superior for help we struggled for quite some
time to even find a vein to resuscitate this man. Eventually,
we could only get a miserable access: only the tip of the
cannula was inside the vein. I held the cannula while Dr.
Ben pushed in the drugs and infusions. As weak as he was,
the man kept his eyes fixed on me, all through the time. The
first thing he said when he could muster a breath was, “do
you know me?”, “Do you know who I am?” I replied “No sir!”
and continued what I was doing. When I finished, the wife
tried to smuggle N1000 ($7 at the time) into my hand,and
she was shocked when I refused it with an appreciative
smile on my face.
Fortunately, he survived and then told me who he was and
said, “I wish I had something to reward you with”. “Don’t
worry, I will show you who I am”.
Two weeks later I was having ward rounds, then I got the
most abrupt phone call of my life, “Come to Madam’s
office!” Madam was the Chief Medical Director of the
hospital. Turns out that the patient wrote a strong letter of
commendation, on my behalf, to the CMD and copied my
consultant. In his words he said, “I WANT YOU TO WRITE
HIS NAME IN GOLD IN THIS HOSPITAL”. I personally felt
that was a bit dramatic (I must confess) but typical of the
Nigerian setting, nothing really was done. The CMD called
me to her office, read the letter to me, and gave me a
handshake with a rather sardonic smile (after she read the
“write his name in gold part”) and that was all. The same
person rejected my residency application when I applied
there (Irony of life. Hahahaha). Nothing was done, but I
smiled and left feeling that my true reward was that I saved
5years and 5 months later at the University of California, UC
San Francisco (UCSF) , on this day, the 15th of May, 2015,
the Chancellor of UCSF has chosen to “WRITE THAT SAME
NAME IN GOLD” on the walls of the University and my
family name will remain on those walls till eternity and it
makes me believe that it could only have been the prayers
of that dying man.
Today, I am being honored with the prestigious Chancellor’s
Award for Public Service, at the University of California San
Francisco and my name will be written alongside many
great people, who have achieved things beyond my mind’s
fathom. I have only God to thank but I have learnt
1. Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, work at it with all
your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
2. As a health provider, “DO YOUR JOB, AND MONEY WILL
FOLLOW”. Money isn’t everything, your deepest satisfaction
should be to see people get better. You may suffer (yes) you
may lose sleep and get insulted etc. (never lose focus as
these are temporal )
3. The best reward you can get is from those who can not
give you anything especially the poor, elderly or vulnerable.
Prayer and blessings surpass riches.
4. I rejected the money I was offered by that patient but
today I am receiving an award that may come with an
amount that is more than 400X the amount the patient
I have not written this to show off. I have written this in the
hope that it will inspire others who suffer in daily their
work. There is true reward for diligence, that reward may
not come when or how you imagine it, but I will come. The
blessings may not fall on you, it may fall on you children,
but it must surely fall.
Remember this, we are here on earth for only a short time,
no matter how much you cling to life, you will still lose it.
The best life you can live is one that you live helping others.
Nothing else makes as more sense. We are all connected.
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