Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Diary of a doctor

Perpetual Enefuwa Salami
Benin City, Nigeria


Image by Macro Vector on Freepik

The following is a work of fiction.

It was my first day working as a resident physician at Emis Clinic. I recall crying my eyes out the day I finally received a transfer letter. I was elated, accidentally booted my dog to the next room whilst dancing in excitement.

I’d been chasing this dream for years—ever since I turned on the news one morning and learned of the high mortality rate in Emis, a rural town, due to meagre healthcare services. I belonged to a group of medical professionals called the Patriots who frequently took it upon themselves to fight for quality healthcare, particularly in rural areas, and the rights of medical personnel. Together, we pushed for the establishment of a medical facility in Emis, until it became reality.

The clinic was not massive and lacked some key provisions, but it was a start. It was located in the heart of the town, thousands of kilometers away from where I grew up. I was aware of the heavy load in my hands. I was leaving everything behind. My family, my friends, my home…Nevertheless, this was a higher calling.

I’d anticipated that my first day would be less demanding. Naturally, the reverse was the case. Although there were two doctors and six nurses assigned to the clinic, only I, a nurse, and the dispensing assistant showed up. The clinic was crowded. Luckily, most only suffered from minor bacterial infections.

After a week had passed and no one else had come to help, I became concerned. I contacted the Patriots, and they said they’d get back to me. When they finally did, the information I received was shocking. The government had lied. “Eight medical professionals have been assigned and all amenities have been provided in Emis,” they’d declared on media platforms. In actuality, only two nurses and a doctor were assigned, not mentioning that most of the required medications were unavailable in the dispensary unit.

I was told to conceal the situation and put up with it for a while…until they found a way to solve it. No one wanted to press the subject further as they’d been threatened and did not want to lose their jobs. I understood. The majority of the Patriots worked with the public sector. The government could make our lives as doctors a living Hell. So I laid back. For a while.

The mystery about my life in Emis began after I unexpectedly visited my father and discovered he had malignant cancer. He’d been seeing a physician for a year and undergoing therapy, and he’d never disclosed it to anyone.

I felt miserable. I was a horrible daughter. How did I not know? I was a doctor. I realized at that point that I’d been too busy helping others; I had neglected my own family for years.

I stayed with my father for a few days, then resumed my work at the clinic.

The days that followed, I barely got any sleep. I requested for a locum doctor but I was ignored. No one arrived…as expected. I’d grown accustomed to the indifference of the government.

Getting up from bed daily was torturous. I was passing through mental health challenges, but I knew I had to get to the hospital.

Weeks after, I fell ill. And although, I didn’t want to go to the hospital, I had no choice. Two women had due dates that day, and someone could die because of my absence.

I attended to a few patients…reviewed some patients, administered some medications, delivered two babies, and so on. I became weaker by the second and was losing consciousness. I couldn’t afford to commit a serious mistake, so I decided to leave.

I resumed work some days later in a better state. The first thing I noticed was a sizable crowd at the entrance of the hospital, larger than normal. People stared at me strangely, like I had no clothes on. Some were even cussing me out. Thankfully, security led me into the clinic, else I might have been beaten up.

I was welcomed with a letter, sent to the hospital two days earlier. The content? I was being sued regarding the death of Kylian Moti, a boy I’d attended to recently.

I was perplexed. No youngster had died since my arrival. They had to be mistaken.

The news had gone viral with the headline “Doctor Kills Boy in Emis Hospital.” Apparently, the boy came from a highly influential family; he’d come to visit his grandparents in Emis…according to the blogs. The bereaved family was prepared to take me down until I was imprisoned for killing their son.

I finally recalled the boy’s name. He was one of the patients I’d attended to the day I’d become ill at work. The boy suffered from anaphylaxis and was allergic to a constituent in one of the medicines I had prescribed. I realized that the boy had come with his medical file and I had never checked for allergies or other complications in it. I only went by what he said his symptoms were.

I wished he’d been rushed to the hospital sooner; epinephrine would have been administered and he would not have died. Regrets notwithstanding, it was all my fault to begin with.

I had no chance to explain that because I’d been bogged down with stress and was ill, I had made a grave error. The few times I did, questions like “How could you attend to a patient when you were ill?” came up. Why did I?

I had failed again. Once as a daughter and now as a doctor. My life was crumbling before my very eyes.

I tried telling my side of the story. Some listened while others merely assumed I was a reckless doctor. And blogs helped tremendously to spread false stories.

Once the government realized I was a part of the Patriots, the issue escalated. They hoped to use this against them. It turned into a battle with the family of the boy as the Patriots would not give me up while the family was ready to take me to the ground.

At the end of it all, I lost my medical license. It was either that or I went to jail.

I left the profession devastated and confused. But I knew that if I had stayed, I would never be truly happy working as a doctor anymore.

I never understood how and why I experienced what I did. Even now, I don’t understand why some things happen. Yet I realize: that is life. It’s a bed of roses and thorns.



PERPETUAL ENEFUWA SALAMI is a medical student, writer, and entrepreneur from Edo State, Nigeria. She dreams of success in her medical and writing careers, as well as in all other paths she may take in life. She desires to always help others and touch their hearts through her works.


Spring 2023  |  Sections  |  Africa

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