We had just started driving when I saw a young girl out of the corner of my eye scream while looking toward the back of our car. She had suddenly appeared from around the front bumper, such that it would have been impossible to see her. The girl was screaming because her friend, whom I later learned was 3-year-old Aisha, had just emerged from near the rear wheel of our car and was now lying on the ground. Oh no! What had happened?
I jumped out of the car and ran back to Aisha, picking her up from the ground and holding her. She was screaming, but there were no visible injuries. Her dad took her from my arms and rushed her on a motorcycle to the clinic. I followed on a different motorcycle taxi and arrived shortly after. They rushed her into a room, and the nurse started to examine her. She was still screaming, but the nurse was unable to find any broken bones. She gave her an injection that I later learned was an antibiotic (Jawaclox). I approached and carefully spoke with Aisha and encouraged her to hold my finger and point her toes. My hope was to determine superficially if anything was broken. She quieted down at the site of a white man gently coaxing her to move her joints. Benjamin arrived shortly after.
There were lots of conversations in a mixture of Arabic and Kugama (also known as Wam or Gengle). I didn’t understand a word and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. I eventually turned to the nurse and asked about her assessment of Aisha. In sign language and very broken English, the nurse confirmed for me that Aisha was okay. There was nothing broken. More Arabic and Kugama ensued with lots of gestures. Eventually, Aisha’s mom entered and held Aisha briefly before handing her to a different woman to hold. Next, an Imam entered the already crowded room and examined Aisha in the same way that the nurse and I did. He came to the same conclusion, that she was okay. Aisha wasn’t quite so sure and continued to cry uncontrollably save for a moment when she declared to her mom that she would stay away from cars in the future. Everyone laughed quietly.
Next Aisha was taken to a different room with a trained health worker – Dr. Sule. Everyone who works in a Nigerian clinic, at least every male who works in a Nigerian clinic, is called a doctor – regardless of the amount of official education that is commonly associated with that position in the rest of the world. Dr. Sule concluded that Aisha needed some medicines from the pharmacy: children’s multivitamin, Ibuprofen (Philoxicam), a type of heat rub, and a pain reliever (Diclofenac). I was sent to go with the motorcycle taxi to purchase the prescribed items. The first “pharmacy” didn’t have them all but I rounded them all up between the three “pharmacies” I visited (I use the term very loosely to mean a shop that sells mostly over-the-counter medicines. Back at the clinic, I re-entered Dr. Sule’s office, and he explained the prescriptions to the mom and then instructed me to pay the equivalent of 6-7 USD for the antibiotic injections – which would continue for two additional days.
Next, I went on a motorcycle taxi to the police station to fill out a police report. However, the police were on break so I could return and wait at the car. However, I was informed in no uncertain terms that everything was okay and I was no one was in trouble. In less than 15 minutes I went back to the police station and was ushered into a small room. The father was asked to be in the room as well, along with several others on the police staff. In broken English I was asked to share my perspective I said there was no need, what had happened everyone had seen, and the father was welcome to share his perspective first. Following the father’s explanation, the child was called for and the father went to fetch her while the official asked me for all my particulars and carefully wrote them down in his notebook. When Aisha appeared she was examined again, this time by the head of the police. Again, lots of conversation ensued but eventually, the head official informed me that everything was in order, and I was free to leave. There was no problem or further concern. He only requested that a picture be taken of the father and me in front of the vehicle.
Neither Benjamin nor I, nor even Terry or Graydon from the car behind us, were certain exactly what happened. For some time, however, the situation was very tenuous. From stories of African accidents, never mind Nigeria, it was my understanding that when an accident like this happens, the community gets riled up and decides the fate of the driver regardless of guilt or innocence. After Aisha’s health, this was my greatest concern. However, none of these fears materialized. In fact, while scary at the time, in the end, I am very grateful nothing more serious had happened and for the seemingly just system to handle the accident.
- I am very grateful that foremost, there really was nothing critically wrong with Aisha. I confirmed this fact the following day when I reached out to Dr. Sule to check on Aisha. Codiwomple has big wheels, and it is a horrific thought to consider what could have happened.
- I’m astounded that there was a healthcare facility in such a remote location (at least a day’s drive from even a small town) and that (aside from the antibiotic) they had some practical options for Aisha’s care. I was assuming I would have to drive Aisha to a hospital many miles away. Again, I’m so grateful that there were no broken bones.
- This was an easy scenario where a Nigerian scam could have occurred and the situation blew into epic proportions in order to gain financial advantage. This never happened. I was quite happy to pay for the prescriptions and the medical care.
- I was baffled by the lack of care from the mother. She barely even held Aisha much once she arrived at the clinic.
- The police department was remarkably just. They wanted to hear both sides of the story and create a police report based on both party’s perspectives. In the end, they assured me that everything was fine and I was free to go.
Before leaving, I had a local walk me to Aisha’s house, where I bid farewell to Aisha and gave her some money (remember, she is 3, so while I put it in her hands, it wasn’t going to her). However, I was glad to give it into the care of the women in the household at the time (there were at least 10 gathered) and not to the father. (While the father might have put the money to good use, women in poverty are far more likely to be good stewards of money than men are.)