Somewhere in 2002 at the eye clinic at the old Sunyani Municipal Hospital in the Bono Region, I sat together with persons we all shared a common problem. We all had problem(s) with our eyes in one way or the other.
While we waited patiently to go see the optometrist – individually – a young man of about 28 years old walked into the eye clinic with newspapers. He was selling them.
“Yes, Graphic, Ghanaian Times […],” the man announced his presence. He wanted us or perhaps any of us to buy his papers. The man, whose name I did not know, paced up and down the eye clinic till a patient – an old man – called him.
“Krakye, bra ha,” the old man said in Asante Twi, to wit, gentleman, come here.
When the newspaper vendor got to where the old man sat, he stooped to listen to the message he [old man] had for him.
“You are selling newspapers at the eye clinic? Do you think patients here have eyes to read the papers even if they bought them?”
The old man’s questions to the newspaper vendor got almost all the patients laughing their worries off. It is, indeed, true that when the bush is on fire, grasshoppers have not time to say goodbye. When some people constantly ‘watered’ their eyes with drops and others their eyes bandaged, one did not expect them to have patience at trivialities as reading newspapers which were fully-filled with political lies.
Wherever you are in the world reading this, I hope you are in a stable health condition. Health, the popular adage goes, is wealth. And one would appreciate the importance of good health probably when they get knocked down by sickness. That was how I got to appreciate good health more as the single most important commodity on earth. I think what comes next to good health is a peaceful mind.
On December 24, 2017 while I had about 17 minutes to go read the news on 3FM [92.7], I suddenly went shivering. I felt as though I was in a refrigerator. Then, I called a colleague named Anthony Jackson that he had to rush to radio to read the news for me. The show was Newsweek [news analysis show that spanned an hour]. Before AJ [as we affectionately call him] could get to radio, I had left with an Uber.
The danger of living in a ‘foreign’ land like Accra without any relative around looked me in the face at these times of need. Getting home from work that Sunday, I had to sleep a while and later go to the hospital.
Laboratory tests said I had typhoid fever. If I had died, it would have been out of negligence – I think – as for about a week or so I felt symptoms of what appeared to be malaria and ignored till I ate oil-containing food on the Friday before that fateful day.
Interestingly, a man who could eat balls of banku to satisfaction now had no appetite for any food. I had food in the refrigerator including tilapia ‘light soup’ but still had no appetite for such. Me? Solomon could not eat just half of Nfante Kenkey? Certainly, one must not wish even their arch-enemy ill!
A man who weighs 58kg was reduced to 49kg. Typhoid Fever medication, I realized, requires good food intake but I could hardly swallow a morsel of food.
At a hospital in Ga South in the Greater Accra region that I attended, at a point, I wanted to use the washroom there. I asked and was directed to the washroom. Walking rather slowly than the pace of a tortoise while clinging onto the walls, I opened the washroom’s door. Trust me, I was too weak to check whether it was that for males or females!
Right in front of me when I opened the door was a young lady of about 19 years of age. The beautiful lady sat on the water closet naked, her panty and skirt pulled down, piece of cloth haphazardly folded on her thighs and she leaned her head and right shoulder to rest on the washroom’s wall and bandage and plasters – so I remember – tied a little beneath the left arm like a captain of a football team. Perhaps, she was receiving drips and needed to use the washroom too or whatever.
We looked at each other, dumbfounded by sickness. Within me, I felt I should have said, “I’m sorry for bumping into you.” But, I could not. I was shivering. My lower and upper lips kept slapping at each other and I trembled in pain. Again, I did not even feel I had seen a naked woman. Grasshoppers, indeed, have no time for goodbyes when the bush is on fire!
By God’s grace, today, I am still alive. I triumphed and survived typhoid fever. This harrowing account of 2017 has taught me lessons. One of such lessons I have espoused on valuing life of a healthy living.
Another lesson I would want to share with you is the lesson of not enshrining your trust in material things. You just won an award? Bought that car? Built or rented that beautiful house? Purchased that expensive perfume or perhaps fantasizing over that phone? The truth is, none of these things would cross your mind when you are knocked down by illness [that which I pray should skip you].
Your cry, should you fall ill, will be that God speaks so you could live a healthy life once again. So, why don’t you – now that you are in good shape – make God the bigger picture? This is not, in anyway, to say I am holy before the Lord. I only believe in serving God one day at a time while keeping at the back of our minds the need to make the day a glory unto Him. Such could help us avoid lifestyles that could get us ill.
My third lesson is, do not rely on your fellow humans as admonished by the Bible. Dear reader, I can say without fear of contradiction that many people who saw me in my skeletal frame or heard of it and expressed shock never ever bothered to call/text to ask how I fared. A mention, however, could be made of family and a handful of friends. I do not begrudge whoever ignored me in my trying times. The title of Ahmadou Kourouma’s book, Allah Is Not Obliged, says it all. Remember, nobody is obliged to wish you well in life.
The sad narrative, however, is that people who ignore you while you languish in life will be the same people to fight, at your funeral for space to read pages of heart-touching tributes of how dear you were to them.
The fourth lesson has had me praying for the sick every blessed day. As I write this, the time is at 1:54am and I had paused on my writing to pray for the sick in Ghana, Africa and the world at large. I believe someone somewhere who never knew me but prayed for the sick, in general, coupled with my prayers and other loved ones’ got me back onto my feet. The world, I believe, needs our prayers.
And my final lesson, we all know. Death! December 2017 taught me that no matter what, just one day we all will leave this earth. In one of his songs titled Mukyea, the Black Chinese Ͻboͻba J.A Adͻfo wisely says that if you fall ill and you do not die, it does not mean you will not die again. While we live on borrowed time, I have the opinion that the best mansions must not be built on mother earth rather in the hearts of our fellow humans and even animals.
Reach out to the needy if you can. Let’s place human life above any other thing but God. Yesterday, June 27, was my birthday. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk,” Peter says in Acts 3:6.
I should have invited you to a huge birthday party but silver and gold have I none. In the near future God willing, there will be abundance of ‘bread.’ For now, all I have are these words encouraging you to let God lead and love your neighbor wholeheartedly for this life is crazy. May He continue to be our guide and guard. Shalom!
By Solomon Mensah
The writer is a broadcast journalist with TV3/3FM. Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization.