Thu. Feb 15th, 2024

Voice

.

Continues..

“The same person who sees our nation as

inferior has come running to us for safety,

something his infamous nation couldn’t give

him.”

***

“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

address?

“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

place?

“Anyone?” Stella asked. “Anyone? Yes. You.”

“Misdiagnosis is a form of clinical

negligence,” a girl said. “Simply put, it is a

wrong diagnosis.”

“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

said.

“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

problem.”

“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.”

“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

face Stella.

“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

overdiagnosis, overtreatment?

“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

incorrect diagnosis.”

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

whispered.

“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

example.

“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

do?

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.

Attention. Pity.

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

heard. Always.’

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

example.”

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

schoolmates—especially classmates—gazed

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

other personality.

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

full-teethed grin.

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

blacks.”

“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

questions.”

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

period.

“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

achieve this?”

“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

medical staff—”

“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

look.

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

dictated.

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

evn early?

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

time.”

“Leave out nothing.”

“Sure.”

“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

sweet.

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?”

“Yes.”

“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

black.

“You are late,” Sir Amadi said.

“It’s early where I come from,” Raheem

said, his air of pride contaminating the

room.

“When you are in Nigeria, act like the

Nigerians,” Sir Amadi grinded out the words

between clenched teeth. “Do you

understand?”

“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

Amadi said.

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

him.”

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

your mind?”

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

destruction.

“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

seat.

“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

now.”

“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

rage.

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

boring lives.

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

yesterday.

“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

breath.

“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

hers.

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

thought—”

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

encountered.

“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

fiery eyes.

“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

myself.

“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

her knee.

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

true?”

“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,

“Hypermetropia.”

.

To be continued

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