“The same person who sees our nation as
inferior has come running to us for safety,
something his infamous nation couldn’t give
“First, we are going to discuss
misdiagnosis,” Stella said. An air of
confidence swirled around her. Elegantly
clad in her white uniform, her composure
flaunted her job satisfaction.
She moved in a dignified way, head held
high, eyes stable as she addressed the
students before her. “Like I said, it’s an
interactive lecture. Who can say a thing or
two about misdiagnosis?”
I let my mind wander as she swept her eyes
around the hall. Who could have thought
that I, Victoria Brown, the esteemed late
comer of Western High, would be early
enough to witness Stella’s pre-class
“Yes, you.” She pointed at a junior. His face
didn’t ring a bell. Then again, who said I had
to know everyone in my school?
“In my own words, I think it’s…em…” the boy
said. “I really don’t know how to put it.”
I rolled my eyes. Fools will always be fools.
Why had he raised his hand in the first
“Anyone?” Stella asked. “Anyone? Yes. You.”
“Misdiagnosis is a form of clinical
negligence,” a girl said. “Simply put, it is a
“Brilliant!” Stella said. “Brilliant. Simple and
accurate. What is your name, please?”
“Stella,” the girl said. I could feel her grin.
Murmurs snaked around the hall.
“Ah, my namesake. You should take after
me. Major in medicine.”
“I plan to be a physicist,” the teenage Stella
“Oh, that’s a fine choice.” Holding her hands
behind her back, Stella stood still, staring at
the chattering students with an exaggerated
scowl. “Are you done now?”
It took a moment for the noise to subside.
“Brilliant. Now, let’s proceed. As she rightly
said, misdiagnosis is a form of clinical
negligence. There are two main forms of
misdiagnosis. One, undiagnosis. And two,
incorrect diagnosis. Both of these are
equally harmful. Let’s take the first one,
undiagnosis. As the name implies, it refers
to when a condition is completely
undiagnosed. For example, Mr. A has a
certain health problem and visits his doctor,
but the doctor is unable to diagnose his
“What could prevent a doctor, qualified as
he is, from identifying a person’s health
problem?” From the boys queue to my right,
a classmate’s high-pitched voice sailed to
my hearing. Alex. Cynthia’s heartthrob. Until
Raheem came into the picture, stealing her
over with barely even a glance.
“What is your name?” Stella asked.
“Alex. As brilliant as that question is, do you
mind saving it for the end of this lecture?”
Stella asked, the softness of her voice
pleading ‘no offense’.
Although she had made it clear from the
start that questions would only be
entertained when she rounded up, I had
hoped Alex’s well-thought question would
make her compromise.
“So, where were we?” she asked, eyes
locked on mine.
Anxiety reared its ugly head. I turned
around, hoping Stella had directed her
question at Flora who stood directly behind
me. But Flora’s blank face made hope
crumble at my feet. Grimacing, I turned to
“Mis…misdiagnosis,” I muttered.
“Great,” Stella said. “I mentioned that the
second form of misdiagnosis is—?”
“Incorrect diagnosis,” I said, hating the
thinness of my voice.
To my relief, she returned to her lecture,
“Incorrect diagnosis, as the name implies, is
a totally wrong diagnosis. You are diagnosed
of one thing, when in reality, you have the
other. Forms of incorrect diagnosis include
underdiagnosis and overdiagnosis. These are
easy to explain. When you hear
underdiagnosis, what comes to mind? Do
you not think of under treatment? And for
“H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine
and director of the Center for Medicine and
the Media at the Dartmouth Institute for
Health Policy and Clinical Practice said
something about overdiagnosis. He posited
that the biggest problem is that
overdiagnosis triggers overtreatment, and all
of our treatments carry some harm. What do
you think of that statement? While you try to
assimilate Gilbert Welch’s words, let’s listen
to Victoria Brown give an example of
Lost in thoughts about how my life had
dramatically changed for the better—at least
to an extent—my head snapped toward
Stella at the mention of my name. She had
just asked me to speak. But about what?
“Sorry, what’s the question?” I asked Flora.
“An example of incorrect diagnosis,” she
“Oh, that.” I returned my focus to Stella.
What example could I give? My mind drifted
to the last injury Cynthia had inflicted on me
during a football practice session. I had
sprained an ankle. There. The perfect
“For example a fractured ankle is diagnosed
as a sprained ankle,” I said.
“Did you guys hear her?” Stella asked.
“Noooooo!” the students roared in unison.
“Come over here. Maybe then you can be
heard.” Stella gestured me over with her left
pointer. I found it bossy. But what could I
I cursed under my breath. She no doubt
believed this would force my real self out of
hiding. And I feared it would. She smirked
as though sensing my discomfort.
Tentatively, I moved to stand before the
crowd. Eyes pierced through me, holding
different expressions. Mockery. Attention.
Quiet descended upon the hall as everyone
waited for me to speak. Eyes held the
intensity of sunlight, blinding me. I squinted.
I remembered the words Stella had told me
on our way from the hospital yesterday.
‘Remember this. Always let your voice be
It wouldn’t hurt being me for a moment,
would it? Shoulders back and lifting my chin,
I faced the crowd. “An example of an
incorrect diagnosis is the diagnosis of a
fractured ankle as a sprained ankle. Another
example is being diagnosed with tumor
when in fact the person has no tumor. He
probably has an infection or abscess. Even
metabolic conditions could cause tumor-like
soft tissue masses to form. These and
others can easily be mistaken for tumors.”
“Fine examples,” Stella commended. “And
what would that be? Underdiagnosis or
overdiagnosis? We’re starting with the first
I wished I had chosen a less complicated
answer. I wished I had used sore throat and
cough as my example. Stella seemed to
understand my plight.
“First, tell us how to tell a fracture from a
sprain,” she said. “That way you can figure
out if it’s underdiagnosis or overdiagnosis.”
“A fracture refers to a break in the ankle
bones,” I said. “These bones include the
tibia and fibula of our lower leg and the
talus of our feet. They meet at the ankle,
and are held together by elastic bands of
tissues called ligaments. An overstretching
of the ligaments holding these bones in
place is called a sprain.”
A deafening silence accompanied my last
word. I looked over to Amarachi and found
her gaping at me with folded hands. My
at me like a second head had sprouted from
my neck. They had matching looks in their
eyes. A look I could easily recognize.
Respect, admiration, and for a few
unfortunate ones nicknamed the triple
goddess, envy. I focused on one emotion.
Respect. And I loved the feel of it. I just
might get used to it and never return to my
Stella’s face swelled with pride, igniting a
new kind of flame within me. She had
changed my image from unfavorable to
favorable. She had turned me from zero to
hero. How could I ever repay her?
A clap broke the silence. First, a pair of
hands. And then two. A roar filled the hall
as everyone—except the triple goddess who
folded their hands in defiance—joined
Amarachi and Flora in the applause.
My head swelled with pride, an
overwhelming feeling I dared not push aside.
Welcoming this feeling, I let a smug smile
stretch my lips. I had awakened as an
ordinary girl. But here I stood before a great
crowd, hailed like a star.
“You are so well informed,” Stella said. “It
baffles me that you are not a science
student and you know this much.”
That’s what you get when you have a
Biology teacher as good as Sir Andrew. I
spotted him down the hall, beaming at me. I
had made him proud. I smiled back at him,
and against my will, my smile broke into a
Ushering me back to my line, Stella went on
with her lecture, “Do you know that incorrect
diagnosis rates range from eight to forty
percent? Let’s look at b—-t cancer
screening for instance. A research review
states that one in three of the cancers
detected are overdiagnosed. This brings
more harm than good. Do you know what it
means to receive treatment for a medical
condition you don’t even have? Think of the
inconveniences of rescheduling
appointments with doctors, the higher health
care costs, drug side effects, surgical
complications and of course, the
psychological detriments involved. When
there is nothing to fix, doctors in their
desperation administer treatments, inflicting
great harm. And in a few unfortunate cases,
death is a sure thing, sitting around the
corner with its legs crossed.”
“Is it dressed in black?” a student asked.
Stella’s eyes roamed the crowd, and for a
moment I feared she would take offense.
But then she smiled when her gaze settled
on the student. “Yes. The blackest of
“Carries a pitchfork?” another asked.
“That too,” Stella said.
“Wears a cloak?”
“That too.” More seriously, Stella said, “Stop
self-diagnosis today. Schedule appointments
with your doctor at least twice a year. Be
health conscious.” The roar of applause and
side-talks muted her next words.
She held out a hand, retrieving the lost
quietude. “Now, please, hit me with your
Her gaze rested on Alex. “Your question was
about how a qualified doctor could make a
wrong diagnosis, yes?”
Alex nodded. I glanced at my watch. In five
minutes time, the bell would ring for first
“I’ll allow you answer it yourself,” Stella
said. “I’ll guide you to the answer though.
Let’s see…A hospital wants to expand the
market for its existing drugs, how do they
“Sell more drugs,” Alex said.
Stella nodded. She seemed to be expecting
more answers though.
Alex thought again. “Admit more patients?”
“Does this answer your question?”
“In a way, yes.” Alex bent his neck to the
left and then to the right. He always did that
when he organized his next line of thoughts.
It slightly amused me, though. It seemed as
though his head overweighed him and he
had to bend his neck every now and then for
a measure of relief.
“Actually, there are two aspects to my
question,” he said, gesticulating in a way
that spoke of his intelligence and esteem.
“First aspect. The doctor brings up a health
problem when there is none. This you have
already clarified. Now let’s move to the
second. The doctor sees no problem where
there is one. What causes this?”
“A number of things. Incompetence of
“Don’t forget we are dealing with a very
qualified doctor,” Alex cut in. I could hear
the challenge in his voice.
“As qualified as your doctor is, what
happens when he relies on inaccurate
laboratory test results, radiology films, and
the likes of them?”
Folding his hands, Alex nodded. “Oh, I get it
now. Curiosity satisfied.”
Poor Alex if he thought his comment would
dismiss the case. He would shrink
underneath the weight of disappointment.
Stella had obviously taken this personally.
She went on, “On one hand are instrument
associated errors, and on the other are
human errors. While instrument errors
involve the use of faulty diagnostic
equipment, human errors involve
contaminated samples, improper procedures
employed by technicians, incorrectly
interpreted test results, omissions in CT,
MRI, X-ray or pathology slides. Does this
answer your question, Mr. Alex, or do I have
to go deep?” She shot him a challenging
Alex smiled. “Let’s leave it at that.”
I noted how a simple smile transformed
Alex’s features from handsome to super
handsome. Now I could see why Cynthia had
agreed to date him. How would he react to
her ditching him for the white guy?
Cynthia had a reputation for dating the
cutest, richest kids in school. With Raheem’s
coming, Alex would fall in line with her other
exes. Although Raheem had put up an out-
of-your-league show, I knew it would only be
a matter of time before he became
Cynthia’s new boytoy.
I scanned the 12th grade boys queue as
subtly as I could. It held no sign of Raheem
Kadir, giving me one more reason to smile.
It appeared he would not be in school today.
Thirty minutes into first period and still no
sign of him. Every now and then, Cynthia
would glance toward the door, a distressed
look on her face. The look a wife wore when
her husband had not returned from war.
Sir Amadi spoke on and on about a topic
we’d been considering since last week.
God’s dealings with the children of Israel.
Meditating over the thrilling miracles that
had taken place back then would sure prove
faith strengthening, but I would appreciate it
if we progressed to another topic.
Reluctantly, I wrote down the things he
Scribbling on a piece of paper, Amarachi
passed it to me. It read: Shud I fry u an egg
b4 u tel me wat lottery u hav won
I don’t understand. I wrote back.
Bn smiln all mornin. Wats d secret? Hw r u
Once Sir Amadi backed us to write
something on the board, Amarachi grabbed
my arm and yanked me toward her grinning
face. “I want the full gist.”
“Not now,” I whispered. I squeezed the
piece of paper into a ball and rolled it off
the desk. “I will give the full gist in due
“Leave out nothing.”
“No. Swear it.” She held out her pinky.
With a smile, I linked my pinky with hers.
“Pinky swear.” We disentangled our pinkies
just before Sir Amadi returned his focus to
the class. He resumed his dictation.
“He’s here!” Cynthia’s squeal cut through
me. The sheer excitement accompanying
her words only meant one thing. Raheem.
“Raheem!” she echoed, her voice painfully
Face pinched with resentment, I fixated my
gaze on my book. My grip on my pen
tightened, turning my right pointer and
middle finger red with blood concentration.
More stories @ www.chorusman.com
Amarachi touched my arm. “Are you alright?”
“Allow me introduce the newest addition to
this class,” Sir Amadi said, ushering Raheem
into the class. “Raheem Kadir.”
Obviously, Sir Amadi had given in to the
charm of Raheem and his mother, leaving
me alone in my voyage of hate. It would
make no sense if I hated Raheem for no
reason. But I hated because he first hated
me. So, the unreasonable person here would
be him, hating a stranger for no reason. I
had seen it in his eyes on our first meeting.
A hate so intense I could see the color
“You are late,” Sir Amadi said.
“It’s early where I come from,” Raheem
said, his air of pride contaminating the
“When you are in Nigeria, act like the
Nigerians,” Sir Amadi grinded out the words
between clenched teeth. “Do you
“I guess.” Raheem’s rudeness lingered.
Sir Amadi turned to face the class.
“Unfortunately, there is a raging war in
Baghdad, Iraq, with the death toll rising by
the second. I’m sure you all saw the news.”
“Is this really necessary?” Raheem asked,
counting his words with impudence.
“Had it not been for the war, we would not
have to tolerate you in the first place,” Sir
I gasped out a chuckle. Clearly, Sir Amadi
had not been bought by the Kadirs. Ask me,
I’d say he’d been coerced into
accommodating Raheem in this school. A
logical explanation would be that Mrs. Kadir
had reported to someone in position to force
this on Sir Amadi. And who better than the
director of our school?
I raised my head and found Raheem
scanning the class with those monstrous
green eyes. His lips curled with disgust.
My jaw tightened. And at this point I didn’t
try to hide my indignation. “How ironic. The
same person who sees our nation as inferior
has come running to us for safety,
something his infamous nation couldn’t give
Eyes turned in my direction. Voices rose
from every corner as everyone beheld the
part of me they had never seen.
Taken aback by my abrupt comment,
Raheem gawked at me. He assumed his
usual pose, standing straight as a ruler with
his hands shoved into his trouser pockets.
“Pardon?” he said, squinting as though trying
to block out light.
“Victoria, this is no way to speak to a new
student!” Sir Amadi chided. “Have you lost
As a matter of fact, I had.
Bolting to my feet, I pointed a reproachful
finger at Raheem. “He is racist, sir. You
heard him the other day. You heard him
demean our educational sector. He
obviously has no regard for our nation. So
why does he show his face here? He should
try returning to the former school he is so
proud of, and in just the twinkle of an eye,
he would be blown into bits.” I snapped my
fingers to emphasize the swiftness of his
“Self control!” Sir Amadi said. His voice,
although calm, sounded like a soldier’s
command. “Where did it go?”
“Sorry, sir.” Lips pursed, I sank down on my
“You just keep unwrapping new packages for
us today? Hmm. First, an end to your late
coming, thank heavens for that. And then
the well-informed talk, and now you have
expressed your view of racism. My view is
no different. Racism is a disease eating at
the fiber of humanity.”
He glared at Raheem, transmitting an
unvoiced message. Amarachi and the rest of
the class gaped at me like I had something
unnatural on my face.
“You changed overnight,” she said, shaking
her head. “I barely even recognize you right
“Isn’t that a blessing?” I hadn’t changed one
bit. All along, I had this in me. The fearless
part of me. My inner demon.
In me lived a creature whose tongue lashed
like a whip, consumed like fire and pierced
like a sword. When it took over, keeping a
tight rein on my tongue stood impossibly far
off from me.
For this reason I had it caged in an abyss
where light never peeked through. Once in a
blue moon, though, it would rip apart the
chains I’d used to bind it and crawl into the
light. It would neither hurt nor bite, but
would only spit out injurious words. Today, I
let it bask in the sunlight for way too long
that my bestfriend could barely even
recognize me. To be honest, I could barely
even recognize myself.
“Do I not get to sit, sir?” Raheem asked, his
voiced laced with discourtesy.
Sir Amadi’s eyes roamed the class. Thirty
seats. Sixty-one students. Now sixty-two.
The limited number of seats had caused the
triple goddess to sit together. Now, Raheem
would have to play third wheel with two
unfortunate seatmates. Bless their souls, for
evil would be unleashed upon them in the
form of an Iraqi boy, his name, Raheem.
“Find a place to sit,” Sir Amadi said. Picking
up his textbook, he returned his focus to the
class. “This is where our class ends today.”
Just as he walked out of the class, the bell
for next period rang. Sir Amadi sure had a
clock in his head. I hadn’t seen him glance
at his wristwatch or the wall clock beside
the whiteboard. I couldn’t be too sure
though, considering that my eyes weren’t on
him for more than half of the time.
Rising to her feet, Cynthia touched
Raheem’s arm as he made to walk past her.
A smile lit up her face. “Raheem, you can sit
here.” She gestured to her seat. “I’m sure
one or both of my friends would be honored
to sit elsewhere.”
She shot Nancy and Precious a glance that
sprung them into action. Grabbing the books
on their desks, they shoved them into their
backpacks and waited for the right moment
to vacate the seat. They didn’t look too
thrilled by their mistress’ decision, but what
could they do?
Raheem’s face tightened. Chin lifted
defiantly, he turned to look at Cynthia. He
dropped his ominous gaze to the spot where
Cynthia’s hand met his’. Before Cynthia
could get the message, Raheem shrugged
off her hand. Sharing my sister’s
embarrassment, I cringed. The rest of the
class exchanged hushed whispers. I heard a
few of them chuckle. My face bloated with
But then, a part of me smiled that Cynthia
had landed in this mess. Now she knew
what it felt like to be the object of
everyone’s amusement. Especially when the
audience consisted of our ruthless
classmates who cared about nothing but
whatever brought laugher to their otherwise
Raheem adjusted his collar — an action
uncalled for. “And you are?”
Although Cynthia stood with her back to me,
I could swear her face wrinkled with
exasperation. She had told him her name
“Cynthia,” she said. “We met yesterday.”
“Cynthia.” Raheem leaned toward her like a
lion would a squirrel. The rise of Cynthia’s
shoulders told me she drew in a deep
“What places you in a position to tell me
what to do?” he asked, his voice cold as
death, his nose only a few inches away from
For a split-second, the class fell silent. But
then, savage laughter took over. Before the
end of today, news of how Cynthia drooled
over the new guy would reach Alex. I
doubted he would be astonished when he
learnt of Cynthia’s huge crush on Raheem.
He sure had seen it coming.
Cynthia’s gaze flitted from Nancy and
Precious to Raheem. “Uh…sorry, I just
Whatever she had to say, Raheem didn’t
find it worthy of his time. He sauntered
away from her, and through rows of desks,
towards me. An unsettling silence
descended upon the class. Eyes turned in
his direction, and out of the corner of my
eye, I saw Confidence puffing out her meaty
chest. Tearing my eyes away from her, I
wished I could fix them on something
beautiful to make up for the unthinkable
defilement she had brought upon them.
Raheem’s frame filled my vision. I
remembered Amarachi telling me he had sat
on my seat yesterday. Tightening my lips
into a thin line, I clenched my jaw.
“Hmm,” Amarachi said.
Placing his bag on my desk, Raheem looked
past me and let his gaze linger on
Amarachi. I got the message: I worth
nothing. And I hoped it stayed that way.
Better nonexistent than put to shame like
Cynthia and other girls he must have
“I believe I sat here yesterday, yes?” He
awaited Amarachi’s answer, but it never
came. “Ask your friend to vacate this seat.
Can you do that for me?”
Amarachi kept mum. We’d been bestfriends
for close to four years to perfectly
understand each other. We had a number of
rules, existing not on paper, but carved into
our hearts. If either of us had an enemy, the
other would see him as an enemy as well.
And if either of us had a friend, the other
would embrace him as a friend.
“I believe when your new friend sat here
yesterday you told him the seat was already
taken, yes?” I asked her. Her eyes darted
between Raheem and I, but she wouldn’t
say a word.
I parted my lips to speak again, but
something thumped in my head, cutting me
off. A dull, yet throbbing pain I knew all too
well. And I had thought my medicine had
gained victory over it. It hammered on an
on, as though avenging itself for the pills I
had swallowed in a quest to quell it.
“You could all sit together,” a classmate
named Maxwell said. Simultaneously,
Raheem, Cynthia and I turned to glower at
him. He shriveled under the intensity of our
“Let’s pretend I didn’t say that,” he said.
Shaking his head, Raheem scooped up his
backpack and strapped it on. “Very well.
Let’s have it your way.”
I glanced at Amarachi, the victory in her
eyes mirroring mine. We had kicked the
conceited racist out of our seat. We had
gained the upper hand, or so we thought.
Had not sixty pairs of eyes been staring at
us, we would have celebrated our victory
with a high five.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that
Raheem had not stepped away from beside
our seat. Instead, he moved close to the
wall and lowered himself to the floor. There
he sat with his legs crossed, padmasana
style. Leaning against the wall, he let out a
noisy breath and slammed his eyes shut.
His audience, including Amarachi and the
triple goddess stared at him. I, on the other
hand, only gave him a slice of my attention.
My headache flared as the class prefect
slammed his meaty hand on his desk. My
classmates sprang to their feet. Slowly, I
joined them. I didn’t want to upset my
headache anymore. But the good morning
shout to Madam Charity, our English/form
teacher, threw this goal far off from me.
Standing up brought a vertigo-like sensation
as though I had been spinning my life away.
I leaned back and grabbed my seat to sturdy
“It isn’t everyday one walks in to find this
place as quiet as a graveyard,” Madam
Charity said, sauntering into the class. Her
pepper-red lips curved into a short-lived
smile. “Mr. Parish is inescapably absent. So
I’m standing in for him.”
Placing a literature textbook on Cynthia’s
seat, she advanced toward the wall opposite
the door. Eyes framed with false lashes
swept around, her scrutinizing gaze resting
on us, one student at a time. Just before
her eyes met mine, she noticed him.
“Why is he on the floor?” she asked.
Raheem pried his eyes open. His gaze
traveled along Madam Charity’s full length.
From the waist-length raven hair on her
head, styled as a full fringe that made her
Nicky Minaj’s twin, to the pair of suede
matching her tucked-in purple long-sleeved
shirt and the black skirt stopping just above
From the near-smile on his otherwise stony
face, I concluded he liked what he saw. Who
wouldn’t? I wouldn’t be surprised if rumors
spread about Western High picking its
female staff from beauty pageants.
Raheem looked up at me, his eyes accusing.
Returning his gaze to his eye candy, he said,
“She kicked me out of her seat.”
Madam Charity scowled at me. “Is this
“There are twenty-nine otherL seats,” I said,
scratching my itchy eyes. “I don’t see why
this one is hot cake. He could sit in front
with Cyn like she offered. She’d be more
than pleased to tolerate him.”
Madam Charity’s gaze returned to Raheem
who now stood on his feet. Sensing her
unvoiced suggestion, he said,
To be continued