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    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN (Ward Rounds: Episode 6)

A pungent smell hits you every time you walk in there. It doesn’t matter what strength of perfume you are wearing or what designer it announces, you can always be sure the smell from the A&E will win. It is a hybrid of sorts, a smell not for squeamish folks or the fainthearted; the imposing smell of fresh blood mixed with diabetic foot that has just presented, sometimes with a lacing of ammonia ably representing the very common urine. At other times, it can be the clean but unfriendly smell of freshly changed linens, or even the antiseptic odour that often typifies hospital’s age-long romance with bleach, spirit, Savlon and Izal. One smell, though not nasally perceivable, always hangs in the air despite the cleaner’s best efforts – the smell of fear. Each person’s fear unique and distinct from the other’s, but nevertheless fear still.

Long before you see the inhabitants of this dreary place, you hear their voices. Usually the shrilly high-pitched ones are decidedly the loudest. The deeper baritone ones, somehow knowing they are no match for Shrilly in intensity and pitch, settle for guttural groans. The former usually a woman’s, the latter a man’s. The effect their harmony produces only accentuates the undertone of fear an incoming tenant will immediately perceive. You are either afraid of all that you hear around you, are in too much pain to hear them, or you are a care giver, and in that case, well-trained to filter which sounds to react to.

Every once in a while, a child’s voice will dominate the voiceosphere, while all the others will quieten in submission. Even when sick, older people somehow realise a child’s right to announce his pain more than they. A mother’s voice will often linger, while all else mellowed, cooing at her child, easing the pain away.

The voices of nurses cannot be missed, they sound a certain way: always authoritative, near-tender but never quite getting there, and loud enough to get the attention of a patient without actually being up to five metres near him.

In a way, what you hear is a mélange of sounds, that of the unwell in various degrees of pain barking frustratingly at their begrudging relatives, willing them to ease their pain; the crying child and his cooing mother; the nurse who knows she’s in charge of the ward; and the doctor whose shoe soles grind against the terrazzo floor as he quickly moves from patient to patient.

When in full view of the long room called the A&E, it is a painful sight. Bloodied heads with turban dressings. Legs with varying thickness of POP or crepe bandage hugging the affected limb. Some people you see with heads or limbs gaping as they expose their anatomy, some you see are already sutured. Urine bags are strapped to beds with their draining tubes disappearing under boxers, wrappers or bed sheets. Oxygen being delivered by face-masks. Porters struggling to lift a body too still to be alive unto a stretcher. House Officers with gloved hands searching for veins. Registrars screaming at nurses from the mini theatre to hand them a major pack for the next suturing job that needs to be done. Needle boxes sometimes in the way. Nurses serving drugs. Relatives looking on apprehensively. Drip and blood bags hanging overhead.

At first, what you see is pure chaos. But to the trained eye, it is the organised madness of the Accident and Emergency Room, and that is just the way it functions to save lives.

Written by Aida Scribbler02

Responses to readers’ questions from previous episodes:

Story: Ward Rounds, Episode 2

Question: Ekemini Joseph – ‘Please explain to me, do Doctors work under Senior Registrars or do they work separately?’

Aida: Medicine is a profession of hierarchy, it is expected that anyone in the system should know their place on that hierarchy. In ascending order – Medical student (included because they are doctors in the making), House Officer, Registrar, Senior Registrar, Consultant, Professor (a consultant who has published enough papers). From the Registrar up are those in a Residency programme (for specialization). Some doctors have gone beyond the House officer level but are not in a residency programme; they are called Medical Officers and progress only on the civil service ladder to Chief MO, Principal MO I, and Principal MO II.

Story: Ward Rounds, Episode 2

Question: Sallie – ‘What about the man that his daughter was ‘spoilt’, whatever that meant?’

Aida: Well, Sallie what did you think ‘spoilt’ meant? As for the man, we don’t quite know. His daughter was treated, stabilized and they went home afterwards. The health care system in Nigeria hasn’t quite developed to that level where patients are followed all the way. It is only those who present at the hospital that can be helped. Unfortunately, this is one of the downsides of the system. Ward Rounds hopes to bring the realities of this system to you; the good, bad and ugly. The question is, what are Nigerians going to do with the truth? Joke about it or begin to ask deeper questions from those who should know?

Story: Ward Rounds, Episode 5

Question: Contactify – ‘Aida, could you have saved the mother?’

Aida: Yes, I would have saved her but the bad guy got there first. Ok, seriously, this may have been fictionalized but it is the truth of what happens in certain quarters. Some doctors (thankfully, there are fewer of these than the good ones) and health workers (e.g. nurses, community health extension workers, theatre technicians and many others) do procedures that they have no business doing. The result is more often than not a mortality. I might as well add that the instability in various parts of the country will only make this worse with time.

Leave a comment


  1. I enjoyed this. It reminded me the day my Officer sent me to deliver a message at UUTH, i saw things i didn’t see in the hospital i worked. Sincerely, you remind me alot.

  2. Ah. Okay.

    Thank you for reminding me why I despise hospitals.

  3. Tosin

     /  October 22, 2013

    Reminds me of each tym I go OOUTH to deliver my dad’s Lunch n wen he’s on Call…..miss those memories ……nyc write up….

  4. you captured the organized chaos well…

  5. sholyb

     /  October 27, 2013

    Keep up the good work.


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