How The Old Man Died and Other Stories

He was a very respectable man.

He had been involved in politics and governance for more than 48 years – almost as long as his country’s existence as a polity.

He was fabulously wealthy, and although his wealth came from his government roles and connections, he had managed to mask that fact so cleverly that people swore he came from pre-colonial money and that corruption had nothing to do with his numerous assets. Only his wives and children knew his real origin story – he reminded them anytime he thought they were being ungrateful, which was all the time.

He had a mild heart condition… Comfortably under control… Monthly visits to the best private doctor in all of the United Kingdom guaranteed that.  His health was top priority, so he took the best drugs, ate the healthiest meals and exercised regularly with his highly-recommended French personal trainer.


He was currently driving on the softly rolling hills of the village which was more or less his property. It was a cool afternoon, and in a fit of boredom, he had uncharacteristically decided to drive himself.  It had been well over a year and he had missed the feel of the subtle subtle subtle hum of his brilliantly-restored Rolls Royce beneath his fingertips. As he drove, he wrinkled his nose in distaste at the poorly appointed hovels along the red dirt roads. From time to time, he would pass by a farmer on her way home, her head supporting an oversized load, and reluctantly nod almost imperceptibly in response to her frenzied sycophantic smiling salute.

“Poverty is a state of mind” was something his pastor always said, and in those moments he agreed wholeheartedly. He was hardworking, and even though he started life like them, his perseverance had brought him far.

With a self-congratulatory smile, he passed by the swirling brown river that split the village into two and thought about the payment he should have received about a week ago from the Italian mining outfit. With a slight frown, he decided he would instruct his lawyers to send them a stiff letter as soon as he got back home – he did not like people who did not pay their bills on time.

It was in that absent-minded moment that disaster stuck.

A group of little children suddenly dashed into the road, chasing a small animal and not bothering to look around first – cars were, after all not often seen on that village road. He swerved sharply, and his body released a cocktail of stress hormones, narrowing vital arteries and causing his not-so-strong heart to skip several beats. He had the presence of mind to brake just before he crashed into a tree, but had no extra energy to signal the boys, who were at this point staring wide-eyed at the car and it’s mysterious occupant.

The eldest amongst them grabbed the hand of a girl who was about to run towards the vehicle. “Don’t you remember what grandma said?! He doesn’t like it when people go near his car. He will arrest you oh!”

And so they stood uncertainly as he sat for about ten minutes and then slumped forward in the seat. When the staring game got boring for them, they ran off to find another rat – the nice fat one they had smoked out was long gone now.

It was almost 4 hours later when a yawning Ama told her mother the weird story… and 8 hours after that when Ama Maame mentioned it to her friend Adjo on the way to their farms… and another 6 hours till Adzo told Kingsley, the cook from the big house who was gossiping away in the market as usual… And because the big house was so big, and the old man didn’t like how the servants smelled, it was another 5 hours before Kingsley heard that the old man was missing.

By the time they found the car, he was barely breathing. As there was no doctor at post in the little community clinic he had “donated” some ten years ago, he had to be rushed to the nearest city hospital. There were no beds in the first one they got to, and his son Maxwell, doctor and Chief Director of Public Health wasn’t answering his phone, and so he was rushed to another hospital.

 

There, they sat – secretary, cook, driver and old man in a Gye Nyame plastic chair, for 2 hours… until a distraught Maxwell ran in, barking orders at nurses and orderlies.

He secured a VIP ward for his father in less than 20 minutes.

 

It was too late.

The old man died.


 

 

other stories…

The autopsy showed that the death was quite avoidable. Apparently the simple, nonsurgical procedure that would have saved his life could have been performed by a 5th year medical student. It was such a pity that the community clinic was not resourced with basic personnel and equipment.

Maxwell and his siblings were devastated. They resolved to make sure a thing like this would never happen again.

Each sibling immediately started making arrangements for personal clinics and doctors for their mothers’ house.

Selina, the youngest, also a doctor, started the first air ambulance company in the country.