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You should be dead. Yet, you are amongst the living, walking around with an emptiness inside your soul; languishing in a deep sense of loneliness and working-robotically in this hospital.

You attend to patients daily, men, women and children. You dislike attending to geriatric patients, they remind you of death and how unfortunate Ugo was to die young and not be able to live up to their age. You always send them to the junior nurses. You’re the head nurse. In this private hospital you hold a lot of power. 

Today you feel depressed but that’s the term you reference whenever you are sad. You ponder if you should seek a psychologist or resume counselling sessions with your family’s pastor like you did in the early days after Ugo’s death? The sessions awakened a spiritual consciousness that left you with questions; about the meaning and purpose of your life, about your faith in your religion, and doubts about the calling. 

The calling; three pastors divulged to you over your thirty years of life. First, by your family’s pastor. The incident in your village, where you and your family spent Christmas holidays, triggered his vision. Ugo had almost drowned in Ikwe; the deep river in your village, whilst saving you. You did cardiopulmonary resuscitation like you’d studied in the medical books you read, after some villagers pulled him out of the river. 

They; the villagers, your parents and extended family said you gave Ugo a second chance at life. No one cared that it was your fault he almost drowned. He warned you not to follow him to the deep end of the river but you did, and when you started to drown he noticed and swarmed you. He tried to keep you both afloat but you were frantic, this resulted in you making him lose his own momentum, but somehow he managed to get you out of the deep end before he lost his strength to remain afloat.  

Your parents had phoned pastor Ola, and told him of the incident, singing praises and thanksgiving to God for saving Ugo. When you and your family returned home to Lagos, after the holidays, pastor Ola came to visit. He informed the family of the vision he had. He said the incident caused him to go into deep prayers for your family’s protection and that was when he got the vision that you were destined to save lives.

You laughed so hard, and insinuated to Ugo that pastor Ola had seen no vision but only claimed to, because he was aware of your admission into the university to study nursing. 

“You may be right oh,” Ugo said to you in his bedroom, he’d dragged you out of the sitting room to prevent your father from disciplining you, for the way you laughed out loud mockingly, after pastor Ola’s revelation. 

“But you shouldn’t have laughed in his face. Learn to control your emotions, Nke.”

You shrugged; “I couldn’t help it. I reacted. Besides, what he said was very funny. Me, Nkechinyere Anyawu—lover of things of the world—destined to be a servant of God?” At sixteen you were in the prime of your teenage years; influenced by your older brother, you loved partying with reckless abandon and consumed excessive alcohol.

“As in, I’ll be a pastor,” You continued, “maybe own a church and hold sermons for my congregation and perform miracles like Jesus Christ?” 

You threw your head back in laughter and momentarily bumped the wall your back rested on, seated on Ugo’s bed. 

“Ouch,” You shouted, rubbing the back of your head with your hand as Ugo laughed.

“That’s what you get for your blasphemy. And for cutting your long hair to rock this low-cut hairstyle. I don’t like it. It makes you look like a boy.”

You rolled your eyes at Ugo and from where he sat at the desk in his bedroom, he threw a book at you but missed. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring up your hair-cut, since you’d cut it months ago. And he was right, the low-cut gave you semblance to a teenage boy. 

You were a gangling teenage girl, with hard features, especially your face. You hit 6’ft at sixteen, a couple of inches shorter than Ugo who was two years older. You often had a flippant remark when your mother prayed for you not to grow taller; she said a woman shouldn’t be too tall, as it could keep potential suitors away. God answered her prayers, you didn’t grow taller. 

“I don’t care that you don’t like it. I like it.”

“Stop hanging around my friends and I so much, because it has made you become a tomboy. You don’t wear dresses, always on boy shorts and shirts, mine for that matter.”

“You should be happy that I, the one with the calling to be a servant of God, gives my time to mere commoners like you.” Ugo scoffed, “Instead you’re being unappreciative. Okay oh, I’ll leave you alone. When I move to my hostel once the school year starts, you’ll never hear from me. I promise you that.”

“You and I know that’s impossible. We’re going to be in the same school and even if we’re not in the same department or hostel, I know you’ll find a way to follow me around like a lost puppy.” Ugo poked fun at you in his playful manner, but his words offended you.

You’d the secret insecurities, this was why you towed the tomboy path, to find a means to uplift your self-confidence. You lacked social skills, and as such had few friends, most of your friends were Ugo’s friends. You were very close to your brother; you both shared a bond that went as deep as it could ever get. His words that day felt like mockery and your feelings were hurt. 

Deeply upset, you gathered yourself to leave Ugo’s room, but he stopped you by the door, when he called out your name. 

“Are you seriously offended by what I said?”

You waited by the door for an apology, when he gave none you left his bedroom, with a determination to prove to him that you were more than his sidekick. When the school year started a few weeks later, you made true to your words, you distanced yourself from Ugo and his friends. 

You focused on your studies and made friendships congenial to the new you. You embraced her femininity; wore dresses and hair extensions, enjoyed shopping, spa treatments and other girly stuff that you used to find silly. Your rich parents funded your lifestyle. You flirted with boys, and your smart and sassy nature made you popular amongst them and the rest of your peers. 

Today, lost in reverie, you wish Ugo apologized that day in his room, your disconnected relationship could have been avoided. He would have remained your favourite companion. Maybe you’d have been with him, when he was struck by a hit and run driver, as he crossed the street by his hostel.

You’d have known the necessary steps to save a road accident victim, unlike the bystanders who watched him die. And maybe you could have saved his life again?

The second pastor who told you about your calling, said he’d seen a vision; You were hesitant to the cause and you couldn’t save the one you loved the most. You believed this pastor. You were seated in the denseness of his congregation, when he got the vision. 

A friend took you to the church, she said the young pastor was great at counselling young people and guiding them, so you went with her. You’d graduated and you were feeling lost, unsure if you wanted to practice nursing, because you struggled to get employment in a decent-salary paying hospital in Lagos. 

You waited after the church service at the pastor’s instruction; the person in his vision was to stay back to receive a clearer message from God. And so you waited, more so to please Jennifer, she was a good friend, steadily worried about you and your mood swings, since the death of Ugo, while you were both in first year of the nursing department. You went through school together and she always had your back, as did you.

You found it strange that ten other people waited in the reception of the pastor’s office.

“Do you think these people are also waiting for the pastor because of the vision that is supposed to be about me?” You asked Jennifer seated beside you in the waiting room.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so. I mean, the message is clearly about you and no one else. You said a pastor told you when you were younger that you’re supposed to be a servant of God. And you didn’t take it seriously, then Ugo died—"

“So did God take Ugo because I refused to be his servant?”

“Well, we’ll find out from the pastor. All I know is his message was clearly about you. You couldn’t save the one you love the most—Ugo. The pastor is clearly gifted and I think he can guide you.”

“Don’t mention to him that my brother is the one dead. If the vision is about me, then he should clearly see it, if God is indeed speaking through him.”

When it was your turn for an audience with the pastor, you were nervous but your face was void of any emotion. You sat opposite the pastor at his office desk, with Jennifer beside you, and you trained your mind to listen objectively to the pastor’s words. You removed doubt from your mind and yearned for an intricate connection to the higher power.

You were raised in a Christian home, you attended church services and you were taught to uphold the moral obligations of your religion, such that they structured your way of life; if you are good, you’ll make heaven, and if you’re bad, hell awaits you on judgement day. Yet, you couldn’t find in your religion the answers to the many questions that roamed your mind and left you feeling hopeless and worthless, since Ugo’s death. 

“There’s a breakthrough about to befall your life. You’ve to be prepared, sister Nkechi. You lost a loved one. Tell me his name.”  

“The loved one I lost is Ugo. He died five years ago.” You said.

“Ah, I see so much pain. You were planning to get married, Ugo was the love of your life and you haven’t been able to move on.”

You and Jennifer stared wide-eyed at each other in shock. 

The pastor, oblivious to your reaction, continued; “God says not to worry, he sees your pain and knows your heart. Ugo wasn’t the one. You’ll meet the one soon. God says you have to pray, there are forces working against you  keeping you from your true calling.”

“Which is what exactly, pastor?” You asked, although you were doubtful of him. 

“To serve God. To help people. And you can do that by donating some money to the church’s foundation for saving the poor from hunger.”

You scoffed, as you stood up, done with listening. 

“Is there a problem?”

“Pastor Ugo was her brother, not her boyfriend.’ Jennifer said, her gaze fixed on the pastor and a hint of disappointment in her tone. 

“Hmm... Well, sometimes we need more information to decipher the message from God. You should’ve just said Ugo was your brother.”

The fact that he was defending himself pissed you off. Without another word, you stormed out of the office, and never went back to the church. Jennifer lost her faith in the pastor, but not in the church, she continued to attend. 

You made your feelings towards the church known; You felt they were fake and only interested in making money off their congregation. Jennifer felt you attacked her religion and she hated that you made her question the beliefs she was used to. It affected your friendship. She started to avoid you, and you both drifted apart.

Did God speak through that pastor? you still wonder. 

The third pastor, you met in the hospital. He came in to pray for an in-patient, Mr Ajayi; a middle-aged man with diabetes, who developed a foot ulcer on his right foot. You were treating his injury in his private room when the elderly pastor struck up a conversation with you. He said you’d a kind soul and God was using you to save lives. 

“I’m a nurse, Sir. It’s what I do.”

You said dismissively, dressing Mr Ajayi’s sore foot with alginate and foam materials impregnated with antimicrobial agents and your hands gloved. The sore made some nurses retch when they attended to him, but not you; you showed no emotions.

“My foot will be fine, right? The doctor says amputation may be the next line of action if the ulcer spreads to the bone. That’s why I called my pastor here to pray. I don’t want to lose my foot.” Mr Ajayi said dejectedly.

“We’re doing all that we can to prevent that, sir. Your foot has good circulation which is why Dr Philip was able to perform the debridement procedure. Now we’ll continue to monitor, care, and dress the affected area, also to make sure to prevent infection. If all goes well, the ulcer will heal sir.” You said to Mr Ajayi, hoping the last words would become a reality. 

You listened, as the pastor assured Mr Ajayi that his predicament wasn’t impossible for God to resolve. You shook your head in pity for the patient; vulnerable and susceptible to the pastor’s words, which you perceived as lies since your last encounter with a pastor.

However, the prognosis of the foot ulcer presented an outlook of healing if the blood circulation remained adequate. 

Weeks went by, with the best wound-care provided for Mr Ajayi, the ulcer started to heal, and on one of his visits the pastor sang you praises. 

“I saw it from the first day. You’re a healer. You’re not a care-giver by chance. It is your calling. In your hands Ajayi’s foot has gotten better.” He sat on the available chair beside the bed in Mr Ajayi’s room. He got a resounding agreement from Mr Ajayi lying on the bed with his affected foot in a cast. 

“We all did our best sir. I haven’t performed any miracles.” You said, gathering the dressing materials you had used for Mr Ajayi’s foot and you were pleased with the progressive healing. 

“In another nurse’s hands, this injury wouldn’t have healed. God is using you to do great things my dear. I see a special kind of light shining within you.”

“I’ll check on you later Mr Ajayi. Dr Phillip said we may discharge you by the end of the week, if all continues to go well, and if you’ll comply with all the home-care instructions.” You addressed your patient and ignored the pastor deliberately. 

“I surely will comply, and pastor is right, I’m well because God used you to heal me. I’m grateful to nurse Nkechi. I received the best care from you.” Mr Ajayi said.

“Sir, please I haven’t done anything special—"

“Stop fighting it nurse Nkechi, God is using you. You are a chosen one. Chosen to be God’s servant here on earth. Listen deep within you, block out the noises and listen to your soul.” 

The pastor’s words are ingrained convictions in your mind. But you hate being special or a chosen one. You hate this because of the guilt over Ugo’s death. You wonder why you get to live and Ugo died at only eighteen. You feel unworthy that life chose you. Ugo was the perfect son and brother, your parents doted on him, so much so it made you feel like the bonus child they didn’t care for. And since he died, fourteen years on, they grieve still like it happened yesterday, and this left you feeling they would’ve preferred you died and not him. 

The unworthiness you feel has set you up to search for a sense of connection to something sacred; something deeper than your career as a nurse. It should serve as purpose in life, but you are lost; striving for answers to your endless questions birthed from emotional and physical stress. 


Your attention is drifted to the present by the incessant tapping on your shoulder from behind you. You swing the rotating chair you occupy to focus on the source of your disturbance. When in your cubicle in the nurses station, on lunch break, you hate to be disturbed especially when you’d made sure to allocate duties.

“What?” You barked at Titi, one of the junior nurses, hoping at the back of your mind that your lunch break wasn’t over.

“I’m sorry ma, but I need help. There’s a problem with a patient.”

“Go and meet Blessing. She can help you with your problem.” Without another word, you rotated your chair back to Titi and leaned into the chair with your head on the head rest. 

“Ma, please... even Blessing has tried but she can’t handle it.”

You sighed heavily, then turned again to face Titi.

“Handle what?”

Her facial expression of fear; rather than desperate, stimulated your curiosity.

“None of us on duty are able to... to...”

“To what? Titi, what’s going on?”

“To intravenously administer drugs to a patient. It’s almost like the syringe won’t just go in—"

“That is ridiculous. So none of you can find a vein?”

“Ma, it’s not that. Please come and see for yourself.”

You stand up from your seat and motion with your hand for Titi to lead the way, you’re her superior she respects you and because of your usual steely demeanour; the one developed after Ugo’s death, she fears you. You follow behind her out of the nurses station on the ground floor of the hospital, through a corridor, up the stairs to the first floor then to the general ward. 

She stopped at the entrance, pulled out a face mask from the front pocket of her scrub and placed it on her face, covering her mouth and nose. You did the same. Since coronavirus, safety measures are strictly adhered to, and you are known to sternly reprimand those that break the rules. 

You both enter the ward, arranged in a traditional hospital ward-style, with beds—all occupied by patients—lined in rows. You followed her to the end of the room, to a bed with an adult-male occupant. 

“He passed out again. One, amongst the two nurses you met standing beside the bed said. A young woman beside them cries; “Is he dead?” She asked.

“Please go to the waiting room.” Titi said to the woman, she moved to her, and tried to lead her out, but the woman flared up instead.

“Leave me alone o! I’m not going anywhere. Wake my Ade up. What is wrong with him?”

You are confused about the situation, before you went on a break, the male patient hadn’t been admitted. 

“Someone, put me up to speed.” You said checking the monitoring system attached to the patient's beside the bed; his vitals were normal.

“What’s the problem?” You observed the syringe, in a drug-tray on the locker beside the bed. 

“Ma, we can’t inject him. The needle isn’t penetrating his skin.”

“What does that mean?” You retorted at the nurse that had spoken to you. 

“Please save Ade my love. Don’t let him die. He said it was stomach pains. I bought some pain relievers for him, the pain persisted, he has been vomiting and lost his appetite for days, so I drove him here.” 

“What is your name, madam?” You went to the woman and placed a hand on her arm, to pacify her distressed state, whilst the nurses resumed their attempts on the  patient. 

“Ife, I’m Ifeoluwa, Ade’s girlfriend.”

“Okay Ife, please calm down and give us space to work. You have to wait outside. Go with nurse Abby,” you nodded at the nurse who focused her attention on you when she heard her name, ‘and give her all the details of Ade that we need to know. Please.”

Ade Samuel, was admitted in the short space of time, you were on break in the solitary of the nurses station. He was visibly in pain; wailing and clinging to his abdominal region, while his girlfriend registered him at the front desk of the outpatient station. 

There were several patients before Ade waiting for consultation with a doctor, but for his severe pains, he was placed as an emergency patient, and taken to the general ward. Titi was instructed by the doctor in charge of the ward, to administer a pain reliever medication to the patient to alleviate his pain.

“Where is Dr Temi now?” You asked, as Titi ended her narration of the events leading up to the moment. 

“He said I should call him once I’ve administered the drug, while he rushed to round up with a patient. But ma, I haven’t been able to. That’s why I rushed to call you. Dr Temi said his symptoms are of appendicitis. He ordered me to administer the drug to stabilise the patient, so he can perform an imaging scan.”

“One of you, go and get him, the patient is unconscious for God’s sake!”

“He is coming in and out, ma. But Blessing already went to get Dr Temi.” 

“So between all of you, you can’t administer drugs intravenously?” You stared, disappointed at them, and admonished.

“You all should be ashamed of yourselves.”

You reached for the patient’s hand, geared up to administer the drug yourself. You heard a soft groan escape the semi-conscious patient, and looked up at him. His eyes were open staring straight at you. 

“Mr Ade... how are you feeling? I’m about to give you drugs for the pain. Please hold on.”

“Where’s Ife? Where’s my girlfriend?” Ade asked but your mind was on your task, which you were failing at and it was unbelievable. 

“Ah... that hurts. Stop!” Ade shouted.

You could see veins on his arm, you even instructed him to clasp and unclasp his fingers, yet you couldn’t make the insertion, the needle wasn’t penetrating his skin. What was happening? 

“See! We told you ma. It’s not going in!”

“This is strange and diabolical.” The nurses clamoured around you.

“Shut up all of you.” You scolded them, irritated and angry at your incapacity to perform your job. 

You stood, bewildered, staring between the syringe and your patient, wondering, what the hell was happening?

“My stomach still hurts, please help me.” Ade cried.

“What’s happening Nurse Nkechi?”

You turned to face Dr Temi as his question announced his presence.

“Help me doctor, I’m dying here. The pain is too much. Please.” Ade said, crying out loud, and gripping his midriff with his arms. 

Dr Temi reached for the patient to keep him steady. “Help me keep him steady. Have you administered the drug yet?”

“Dr Temi, I can’t explain it.” You said, as you informed the doctor of the situation, that had left you in a total state of shock. 

Dr Temi admonished you, as you had your junior colleagues, and like you, he tried to inject the patient as well, to no avail. You watched as he struggled, watched as the patient continued to agonize. The situation was bizarre, it didn’t seem real but indeed it was happening.

“Tell Ife to call my mother, she needs to lift the fortifications.” Ade said gasping; he was enveloped in pain. He continued, “that’s the only way your metals can get into me. My mother’s native doctor prepares special charms for my protection.” 

The junior nurses gasped in shock; lowered their gazes away from you, as they tried to maintain professional ethics by hiding their confused and astonished state in the presence of the patient. 

You instructed one of the nurses to deliver Ade’s information to Ife. Mixed reactions; fear, shock, gossips, erupted amongst the staff and some of the patients in the general ward privy of the mysterious case of Ade. You found yourself overwhelmed with a different kind of feeling; determination to solve the mystery.

Ade was moved to a private room, the nurses attending to him were cut down to themselves and Titi to assist the doctors; Dr Temi and an intern doctor, to keep the situation contained. But the news of him, like wildfire, had already spread within the hospital. 

Ife informed the team designated to treat Ade, that she was unable to reach Ade’s mother, however, she wasn’t going to stop trying. Ade’s mother was in a different state far away from Lagos.

Necessary imaging tests were performed by the doctors and the patient was diagnosed. Ade suffered from appendicitis, an emergency appendectomy was ordered, and as the patient was prepared for surgery, everyone wondered if Ade’s fortifications would permit the surgeon’s blades. 

“Stop... please stop.” Ade begged, lying on the bed in the private room, Ife by his side on the bed, crying. Titi was trying for the umpteenth time to inject him with medications to no avail. “The metal won’t go in until my mother lifts the charms off me. Ife, you've got to get her, please. I doubt they would be able to do the surgery on me.”

“Okay my love, I’ll keep trying her number. I’ll try your cousin again and ask him to look for her.” Ife said as she left the room.

You stood beside the bed, observing the patient, he’d been administered pain relievers orally, and he seemed to be in lesser pain; he is void of emotion, unmoving, unblinking, unlike when he’d been wailing in the general ward. Briefly, he touched his stomach, the movement of his hand was tortuous, then he brought it back to lie at his side, staring at the ceiling, breathing in and out heavily. 

“My older brother died when I was fourteen.” It’s just the two of you in the room, he isn’t looking at you, but you sense he is speaking to you. “He was killed by a stray bullet. My mother out of fear of losing her only surviving child has been protecting me, with her native doctor’s charms. She brings a concoction for me to drink every month end. Now, her protection might be the cause of my death, if Ife doesn’t reach her to undo her charms.” 

You watched him shake his head, thinking of the irony of his predicament; semblance of emotions returning to him. You feel pity and sadness, as the familiar pain of losing a loved one clouds your senses. The pain that affects your wellbeing and leaves you unbalanced, discontent, and unsafe. 

“I had an older brother too. Since he died my life hasn’t been the same.” You hold his attention, as he focuses on you, and you see the pain common to the both of you in his eyes. 

“You feel like you’ve to compensate your parents for their loss by being as good as him? You feel you should’ve been the one that died and not him. You wonder why life chose you?” 


He sighs. You sigh.

He brings his hand to his stomach again, the excruciating pain takes back his attention.

But you think about his emotional wellbeing instead, and yours, you ponder if you share more similarities; same emptiness within, and the yearning to experience balance in body, mind, and spirit and feel connected to purpose, people, and community. You ponder if in search of a connection he has resulted to accept a calling he doesn’t believe in, but has to because pastors have told him he possesses a special gift.  

“The surgeons are ready. But I met Ife outside, she still hasn’t reached your mother.” Titi said as she entered the room, dragging an Intravenous-bag pole with an IV bag hung on the hook at the top. “Dr Temi ordered me to up your dosage of the antibiotics. He says we should connect the IV bag to the patient.” She stopped beside the bed.

“Connecting the IV bag is still with a needle, right?” Ade asked. 

“Yes, I’m afraid so.” 

Titi replied, giving you a look you perceived as her pleading for you to take over the task, but you stayed unmoved, prompting her to inhale and exhale deeply, then she reached for Ade’s hand to make the connection.

“Let me try.” You said after a silent prayer, as Titi smiled and handed over to you the tube for the Intravenous connection. In one jerky movement after disinfecting the back of Ade’s hand, you made the insertion successfully.

You heard Titi and Ade’s excited screams, you blocked it away as you focused on completing the task. It wasn’t until you were done, that it hit you, you broke the fortification. 

You didn’t consider it victory, not when the nurses and the doctors praised you. Not when you heard from Ife that she hadn’t reached Ade’s mother yet and she also praised you for breaking the charms. Not when during Ade’s surgery, the surgeons insisted for you to be in the operating room, so as to have a smooth-sail operation. It was a victory when Ade's appendectomy was successful despite his mother’s unavailability. 

Ade’s mother showed up afterwards with a native drink— her protective concoction— for her son to disable the protective charms, and she was informed that Ade had already been operated on successfully because of you, and she came to you with gratitude and apologies for being unreachable.

The encounter awakened in you a reflective tool to discover what gives you purpose; A mindfulness that allows you to explore beliefs, perspectives and experiences. This leaves you in a positive state of mind and fills up the emptiness with peace, contentment, gratitude and acceptance of your calling and worthiness of life. 

Lucy Chiamaka Okwuma is a Nigerian from Anambra state, based in Lagos, Nigeria. She is an optometrist, with a passion for writing. Her debut Novel- Neglected, was self-published in 2019, a novel which centered on positive awareness to mental health disorders. Neglected was longlisted for 2021 NLNG prize for literature. She dived into short stories, with her publications in short stories websites. She is constantly working on telling more impactful stories.


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