What terrifies you?
I’m not talking about a Walking Dead kind of zombie apocalypse, or the masked psycho in your favourite horror flick, or that spooky moment when thudding imaginary footsteps jolt you from sleep.
I’m talking about true terror. I’m talking about the fear of losing a child. The fear of watching your 10-year marriage crumble like a house of cards. The fear of waking up one day only to realise that your 30-year career was all meaningless.
I had one of those quite recently.
My heart hammered in my chest as I wiped off the beads of sweat across my forehead...trying my best to suppress a shiver.
“What is my life for and what am I going to do if this goes wrong?
I don’t know and I’m afraid”.
These were my exact thoughts as Derrick (my colleague) and I sped along Thika Superhighway at around 8:30 p.m. on April 18.
It was one of those days that tattoos itself across your very soul. A day that brought me face to face with everything I’ve ever believed in. A day in which I engaged these beliefs in a life-defining 10-hour battle.
As the entire nation was talking about Purity Mwambia’s Guns Galore exposé, I was racing towards an emergency room.
The “WEE-oww-WEE-oww” sound from our police car pierced through the cold and rainy night, with Derrick hell bent on setting a new time record on how fast one can drive from Kasarani to a hospital along Limuru Road.
I had just gotten word that my wife (Sheila) had just been rushed into the ER. She was 8 months and 17 days pregnant.
Just as we took the exit off Wangari Mathai Road, I saw my life branching out before me like an ancient baobab tree.
From the tip of each withered branch, I caught a glimpse of my entire history. Dangling on the very edge.
One branch was me. John Makaka, a respected detective attached to the Special Crimes Unit, and another was a doting husband and a happy home, and another was a hopeful father-to-be wailing like a deranged soul outside an emergency room.
My inner voice that had been squashed for so long in fear of a repetition of the last time I had been in the very same situation, rose up from my gut and shrieked one last word.
“I have a pretty good feeling about this,” Derrick blurted out...a welcome distraction to my current train of thought.
“If it’s a boy, I think Derrick is a pretty cool name,” he added beneath a masked chuckle.
In between jumping out of the car and making our way inside the hospital, Derrick had somehow managed to order some food using his Co-op Visa card.
I have zero idea how he did it with the ongoing curfew...let’s just say nothing comes between him and chicken.
I have to admit it. My colleague had this ability to remain ice cool in moments when every fibre in your body is screaming PANIC! It was an infectious trait.
As we raced through the brightly lit hospital hallways, I couldn’t shake off the agonising memories.
I had been here before. Twice.
My Sheila and I had been married for 9 years and our previous pregnancies plunged us into a cold and dark abyss.
My inner voice screamed again, as we finally got the front desk.
The attending nurse was this bubbly woman.
“We are here for Sheila Makaka,” we babbled out in unison.
Horizontal wrinkles formed across the nurse’s forehead.
“Kuna shida?” she muttered out, her gaze fixed firmly on a bulge protruding from Derrick’s right hand jacket pocket, just along the waistline.
“Hapana...hapana, hakuna shida. My name is John Makaka, Sheila’s husband,”
“This is Derrick,”
Producing my service ID seemed to have reassured her that we weren’t hoodlums as she soon directed us to the ER.
“I’d advise you to just wait it out as she’s just been carted in for the surgery,” she said, pointing towards a lounge area across her desk.
“One other thing, Sheila used Co-op Visa to cover the emergency treatment,”
“Alisema you’ll fill out all the necessary insurance documents once you get here,” she added.
My hands trembled as I filled out those familiar forms...Not again, Please. Not again...I thought to myself.
I still struggle to find words to describe the next 10 or so hours.
At some point I remember mumbling incomprehensible words to myself, pacing across the room for an hour or so, and Derrick engaging in a heated conversation with a food delivery guy.
Just before the break of dawn, I saw him. His face giving nothing away as he made his way towards us.
“It’s a girl,” Dr Owiti (our personal physician) announced.
By the time he got to congratulating me I was already on my knees, drenched in tears.
For some reason Derrick was clasped in the tightest embrace I’ve ever seen with the good doctor...both his feet off the ground and wrapped around the physician.
Hysterical laughter soon echoed throughout the hallway as my 6 foot colleague disentangled himself and found his footing.
“There’s one more thing,” the doctor stuttered...this time his face gave everything away. his voice was edged with fear. A fear that almost unmanned him.
My terror was back.
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