The Choice (chapter 28)

Femi sighed as he dropped his phone after ending the call he had just received. He slouched and held his head for a few minutes, his eyes heavy with unshed tears.

Sarah had just told him over the phone that Joseph had been admitted to the hospital. Femi was tired. He was sick of running around. It was either one thing or the other. If Sarah wasn't ill, his son was. Maybe he shouldn't have married Sarah, he thought. Sarah was beginning to be a problem in his life. Femi shook his head as memories filled his mind. Countless times, he'd had to drive Sarah and Joseph to a clinic.

He remembered times he'd had a sleepless night over the child and times he'd had to spend on hospital bills. Femi rose to his feet and walked to his boss's office. He took permission and left the office. Femi sat behind the wheel and drove to the hospital Sarah had earlier described to him.♣♣♣

Femi sat in the doctor's office, his arms crossed. Sarah was seated beside him, staring at the doctor." From the diagnostic investigations carried out on Joseph, it has been confirmed that he has a condition called PDA—short for Patent Ductus Arteriosus," the doctor said. Femi and Sarah exchanged quick glances. The doctor continued. "PDA is a heart defect in which an opening in the blood flow structure in a fetus refuses to close after birth, resulting in an abnormality in blood flow.

Your son's PDA is large. I'm surprised he made it this far without treatment. This condition is the reason he's below the tenth percentile. I mean, that's why he's not what an average six-month-old should be...." Femi tuned out. He had never heard anything of such. How could an infant have a heart problem? He had heard such among old people. But young people? No. And not especially in a child that couldn't even talk yet. Thoughts plagued his mind. This had to be an attack. It had to be related to something Sarah had done or failed to do. "Mr. Faronbi, are you with me?" the doctor said, cutting through Femi's thoughts. Femi exhaled. "Yes. I'm here," he said. "Okay. So as I was saying, the best thing you can do for your son is to have the opening closed," the doctor said. "We'll be happy if you can do that for us. I want to hold my son and nurture him again. Please help me," Sarah said.

Femi shot her a demeaning look. Hatred rose in his heart against her. She was the one who had a child with so many problems. She was becoming a bundle of problems herself. The doctor noticed. "Mr. Faronbi, did you get my explanation of what PDA is?" he said, ignoring Sarah's statement. Femi shrugged. "You said there's a problem with Joseph's heart somewhere." "I was expecting you to ask me what could have caused it. Well, I choose to enlighten you on that. Science has no definite cause for PDA, although there are risk factors such as prematurity and others. So this isn't your fault," the doctor said, trying to correct the misconception he perceived in Femi's gestures. Femi scratched his jaw. "Well, that's not the major concern. The concern is the way out of this mess." Sarah swallowed.

She knew Femi was displeased. Or was it angry? He hadn't smiled at her or comforted her since he arrived at the hospital. The moment Femi got to the hospital and saw Joseph in a cot in the intensive care unit, he walked out and went to the reception. Even when she tried conversing with him, he didn't respond. And when she tried to make him talk, he screamed at her and told her to let him be. She had been left with no choice but to be quiet until they were finally called in to see the doctor. "Alright. Just like I said, the way out is to seal the abnormal opening responsible for all the challenges facing the little boy."

Femi nodded to him to continue. "Okay. You can go ahead and do it, please," he said. The doctor smiled. "Not as fast as that. I'm talking about heart surgery here." Sarah screamed and jumped on her feet. She removed the ribbon that held her braids in a bunch and scratched her head. "What? Heart surgery?" Femi said. "Yes. Heart surgery. But it's not as terrible as you think. We'll refer you to a tertiary health center where such surgeries are done. You either go to a center in Ibadan or Ile-Ife." "Ah! Ah!" Sarah shouted and broke into fresh sobs. "You said the surgery isn't as terrible as we think, yet the boy can't have it in this hospital?" Femi said. "There are centers equipped with necessary facilities and manpower for such delicate surgeries. That Joseph can't have his surgery done in this hospital doesn't mean the surgery won't be successful.

There are many recorded successes in that field," the doctor said. Femi sighed. "Please, Doctor, could you help us make arrangements to do it here?" The doctor sat straighter in his chair. "We don't toy with human lives here. We give quality care and treasure the referral system as appropriate. Our goal is health restoration for our patients, whether it is available in our hospital or elsewhere.

We give advice that benefits the patient more. That's our practice." "I understand. But is there no way around it apart from surgery?" Femi said. "None that I know of. I'll prepare a referral letter. By evening, Joseph should be more stable. You should be able to report to the referral center tomorrow," the doctor said. Femi sighed. "I believe with God on your side, all will be well," the doctor said. Femi bobbed his head. "Do we have to go tomorrow?" "Well, that's up to you. The earlier, the better. Your son should be fit for transfer soon. I will give you the letter tomorrow," the doctor said with finality in his tone. Sarah opened the door and ran out, weeping. "Alright. Thank you," Femi said and rose to his feet. "You're welcome," the doctor said. Femi walked out of the office. He ignored his wife, who was crying at the reception and walked to his car. He sat in the driver's seat and placed his head on the steering, his brain seemingly whirring in his skull. What was he supposed to do? Would he leave his job, which met the need of his family, to go sit at a hospital in another state? He definitely couldn't do that.

Sarah would have that responsibility to bear. She was the mother of the child, he thought. But what about the money for the surgery? Almost all of his savings had gone into having an elaborate wedding with Sarah. He was just recovering from that when he had to spend a huge sum on the surgery Sarah had to deliver Joseph. And since then, it had been one expense or the other. He had only enough to foot household bills and catered to his family. Femi swallowed. From where was he supposed to get the money? Would he take a loan for the surgery? What if the child didn't survive the surgery? Wouldn't that pose a double loss? He had to take action. If he did nothing, Sarah would stop at nothing to force him to act. Tears welled up in his eyes. If he had known, he would have left Sarah as advised by his mother. Maybe he wouldn't have been facing problems now. But what if there was an inexpensive way out of this? His mother had always said Joseph was his ancestor. Maybe his mother and father could find a way of saving the ancestor. That way, Femi would have less of the responsibility to bear.

To be continued...

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