“Hassniy, come and have a look at this riddle. I’m sure you’ll get it like always.”
“Hassanah please, you’re the boss when it comes to these things. Come and help me out.”
Hassan still didn’t hear anything from his twin sister. He stood up from the couch in the main living room and went upstairs to the family living room. She had left. “No wonder I didn’t hear a response”. He thought and headed for Hassanah’s room to show her. He was the one who needed help after all.
“As salaamu alaykum”. “Hassanah!” “Hassniy are you there?” He called out as he knocked at his sister’s door. There was no response. He was sure she didn’t leave the house since they got back from school. They had eaten their lunch, did their assignments, and observed their salât-ul-‘asr together. So, he was sure she was inside.
“She may be in the toilet”. He said to himself.
Then he thought again, that she would have clapped to let him know she was in the toilet. She always did that in such situation.
“She might have slept off”. He said again.
“…. But, Hassanah doesn’t sleep this deep that she wouldn’t have woken up despite my calls and knocks”. Another conflicting thought flashed his mind. Right then, he decided to stop having the thoughts and open the door.
“Not again, Hassniy! Not again! When will this ever stop?” He said as tears began to roll down his cheeks and his voice faded. He lifted the blanket which his sister had covered herself with. It was already hot from her high temperature that was radiating into it. He didn’t need to touch her to know she was really hot.
“Hassniy, get up and go to the bathroom. Go and have a shower please”. He said but she shook her head in disagreement. “Who are you doing that to? Come on, get up. Mum and Ummu Rufaydah always told us never to cover up whenever we’re hot.” He lectured. “Have a shower immediately. No matter how many times or how long. That will reduce your hotness. That’s what they always told us. You know it. So, stop being stubborn and get up”. He urged. “Please sis, please. Should I drag or lift you up? Do you want me to carry you instead?” He managed to tease out of his helplessness. Hassanah looked at him with a ‘You’re a joker’ look and managed to get out of bed. Another struggle was walking to the bathroom, so Hassan held her hands while behind her to give her a push support. He helped her into the bath tub and left the bathroom before she began undressing. Hassan went straight to the living room to get the home phone. He had to tell their mother about his sister’s state of health.
“I’m already on my way, son. I’ll be home in a jiffy inshaaAllah. Tell her to get a shower.” She said.
“Yes mum, she’s in the bathroom. Wish you safe trip home” He replied.
The kind of care Hassan gave his sister was rarely expected of a boy of his age. It was like that of an adult; more like the care of a husband for his wife, but this was definitely between twin siblings.
Hassan and Hassanah were the first children of Sekinat and Taofeeq. The couple had a younger son, Hussain, who was two years old. Hassanah had been the only child that often fell sick. She was prone to Malaria. Her genotype was AA after all, and “AA blood is just like a very beautiful mansion for malaria to live and multiply. But for others who are not AA, it’s just like living in an uncompleted building, so living there will be a hell for the malaria and it won’t be able to survive for long.” Umm Rufaydah, as they call their mum’s Doctor-friend, Saidat, had explained to the twins one day when they asked her, out of being curious about why Hassanah often fell sick.
“We are in Nigeria. Our dear country is full of mosquitoes that cause Malaria, and here’s her share of it.” She did say jokingly. “Besides, reports have always reached me that your dear sister is restless. She stresses herself. That also explains why she gets weak in no time. When she’s weak, the soldiers in her body will also be weak to fight the malaria in her body. So, she gets weaker and sick”.
“Don’t worry, Hassan. She only has a fever. She’ll be fine soon”. Saidat would most times say to comfort him.
Sekinat drove into the compound, got out of the car hurriedly and rushed inside the house. She knew how her daughter could be whenever she fell sick. “As salaamu alaykum”, she said as she entered.
“Wa alaykumus salaam wa rahmatullaah, mum. You’re welcome”. Hassan replied. He had been waiting in the main living room for his mother’s arrival. He collected Hussain from her.
“How is she now?” she asked.
“I don’t know, mum. She’s still in the shower”. He said as they climbed the stairs up to check on Hassanah. She was already out and had dressed up when they entered her room.
“As salaamu alaykum mum”. She managed to find her voice.
“Wa alaykumus salaam. How do you feel now?”.
Sekinat asked as she placed her palm on Hassanah’s forehead and neck to feel her temperature. She was still hot despite the minutes she spent in the shower. Sekinat didn’t allow her to say another word before she opened the wardrobe and grabbed a hijab for her.
“We’re going to the hospital. Hassan, take care of your brother. We shouldn’t stay long inshaaAllah”, she said.
She got Hassanah’s slippers for her to wear, held her hand and led her gently to the car. She allowed her in the back seat so that she could lie down.
“Tunde!”, she called the gateman “Open the gate please.”
She entered the car, cranked the engine and drove out after Tunde opened the gate.
Sekinat drove into the compound of the hospital, got out and helped Hassanah out of the car. As they entered the reception, a nurse directed them to go straight to the doctor’s office. Sekinat had informed Saidat of her coming, so Saidat asked the nurse to allow her in immediately she was around.
“Your daughter has started again” Sekinat said
“She tried this time. It’s four months already. Not the usual two or three months interval. She’s getting stronger, I guess” Saidat replied trying to cheer her friend up.
“I asked you to buy them mosquito nets. Do all prevention that you…”
“Of course I have”. Sekinat cuts. “They don’t sleep without it. You know our gutters are always clean and free of water. The garden and flowers are treated. What other things do we have to do?”
“My dear, you’ve done a great job. That’s prevention. It doesn’t really guarantee a hundred percent freedom though”. Saidat smiled.
Sekinat squeezed her face at her friend’s remark. “Oh! When are we going to be free from you doctors’ games? One time, you’ll say do this and you’ll be OK. Another time, you’ll say you didn’t mean perfect. I think I’m getting tired”
Saidat looked at her friend for a while before smiling. She thereafter asked Hassanah to come over to her. It took Hassanah a while to get her feet down and walk to Saidat. Saidat watched Hassanah closely till she got to her.
“Tell me princess, what happened to you?” Saidat inquired but Hassanah gave no response. She then bent to touch Hassanah’s right foot when she moved the leg swiftly. “What happened to your leg?” She asked again.
“Leg? What do you mean by what happened to her leg?” Sekinat became confused.
“You didn’t notice she was dragging her foot, did you?” Saidat asked. “I thought that was just from her weakness. I didn’t take it as something other than that”. She shrugged and immediately tapped Hassanah who was now looking at the ground and asked her what had happened to her leg.
Hassanah only said she sprained her foot while climbing down the stairs at school that day. She didn’t give the details of how she was running and jumping on the stair case, skipping two stairs at a time.
Hassanah was in JSS3A which was on the ground floor. It was time for long break when she left her class for the dining hall. She had barely finished her lunch before she remembered that her school mother who was in SSS2A gave her an assignment in Mathematics and she was to submit it by break time. She hurriedly finished her food, dashed to her class to get her book and rushed to SSS2A which was on the second floor in another block of classrooms about a meter away from hers. She had scored the highest mark so far, compared with her previous assignments. This implied that she now understood the topic. She was so happy that she was spinning and other senior students smiled at her joy when the alarm rang for the end of long break. This was when she was rushing back to her class. She didn’t want to be late to class. So, she decided to jump and skip two stairs till she reached the end. But as she was landing, she fell on her right ankle.
“Why are you sitting down there? Your mates are working but you’re here sitting on the stairs doing nothing. Will you get up now and run to your class!” The principal scolded while passing during his usual supervision. He noticed how sluggish she was and how she was dragging her foot as he looked back to see if the girl he asked to run to class was out of sight.
” What is wrong with your leg? ” He called and walked back to her. Tears had already filled her eyes when he got to her. She told the Principal that she sprained her foot and he called on a female teacher to guide her to the school clinic where the doctor said she was going to need an x-ray of her leg. The school clinic was not just a sick bay or a first aid administration building. It was a standard hospital with essential medical facilities. The proprietor of the school and his wife who owned the hospital had built the school and hospital next to each other.
The Radiographer took the x-ray of her leg and gave the film to the nurse who brought her for the x-ray.
“Thank God you don’t have a fracture. I don’t know why you have to be this playful as a girl.” The Doctor said after looking at the film. “I have asked to call your parents to get them informed. Your dad’s not picking up and your mum hasn’t been reachable. Make sure you tell them so that you can be taken care of.” He added as he used an ankle splint on her ankle to get the bones back in position.
Sekinat’s phone rang while she was still staring at her daughter. She answered the phone and was quiet. After a while, she sighed.
“She didn’t say anything…. There was nothing on her leg. She probably removed it to hide it from us.” She sighed again. “OK ma’am. Thank you so much” She ended the call and put down her phone.
While she was on the phone, she saw Saidat prick Hassanah’s thumb with a needle and take the blood, putting the drop in something that looks like a thin cassette and added another drops of liquid she doesn’t know. Now, she’s observing the cassette. Sekinat couldn’t hold her curiosity.
“What’s that? What are you doing now?”
Saidat looked up at her. “It’s called Malaria RDT. Rapid Diagnostic Test. A quick malaria test.” She replied. “Who was on the phone earlier? I thought it was about Hassanah.” She inquired.
“Oh yes! It was her class teacher. She said she’s tried to reach her dad and me since noon… Wait a minute! Hassanah, why did you remove the splint the doctor used on your leg? Where is it?”
“I… It…” She stammered.
“Just answer my questions. There’s no point in punishing you with the pain you caused yourself” Sekinat said impatiently.
Saidat stared at Hassanah and shook her head. “The doctor used the splint to get your joint back to its normal state. All you did was remove the splint and stress the ankle. Do you want to worsen it? Answer me!”
“No, ma” Hassanah said as she shook her head. “The doctor said I’ll be fine that it’s not a fracture”
“…And he equally said you should inform your parents, didn’t he?” Sekinat asked angrily.
Saidat looked at the RDT cassette. “She doesn’t have malaria. The fever is probably due to the injured ankle.” She tore a page from the prescription booklet, wrote on it and handed it to Sekinat. “Let her take that tonight after meal, then tomorrow morning as well. It will help reduce the swelling and pain.” She said. “Hassanah, where is the splint?” She asked.
“It’s in my bag” Hassanah replied.
“OK. You’ll have to use the splint immediately you get home. She’ll need to do another x-ray to know the state of the joint. She’s stressed it and the condition might have become different from what the other doctor said.” She said.
“It’s late already. You should come tomorrow morning for that.”
Saidat tried to calm her friend from anger as she saw them off to the car park. On their way home, Sekinat scolded her daughter for the trouble she has caused her when she was supposed to be at home resting after the day’s work.
When they got home that night, she would need to start preparing dinner which would definitely be late. Hussain would be there to trouble her as usual. She was tired and unhappy.
“I’m sorry, mum” Hassanah said as she could read the expression on her mother’s face, coupled with her complaints. Sekinat gave no response. She spotted a mall from afar and when she was there, she drove in and parked at the parking lot. She asked Hassanah to wait for her as she alighted from the car and went inside. Some minutes later, she came back with two shopping nylon bags with a large loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, jam, mayonnaise, beverages and soft drinks in them. These have settled dinner, she thought. She entered the car and drove home.