The day after Tunmininu died, Mama Demola called Lydia to break the news to her. The two of them had been in constant touch since Demola’s death. She screamed and was close to tears. The thought of anything happening to Demola jnr, her only hope, made her cringe with fear. Long after Mama Demola dropped the call, she was still troubled, not by Tunmininu’s death, but by a fact she recently stumbled upon.
Demola jnr had been sick and she took him to the clinic, where all manners of medical tests were conducted on him. One of the results was a puzzle to her; it showed that Demola jnr’s genotype was AS.
“It can’t be. I am AA and his father is AA. The record given to us in the hospital after his birth also recorded his genotype as AA,” Lydia had told the doctor.
“We have never got it wrong, but for you to confirm, we will run it again. It is possible you have a wrong record. I am sure you are thinking that is impossible because this is the UK, but I can tell you medical hands here are not immune to errors,” the doctor had said.
And when it was run again, it came out the same and it got Lydia thinking. She was a virgin and remained so until Demola deflowered her. Her puzzlement saw her doing internet searches to see if there was any chance of parents with AA genotype having a child with AS genotype. All her searches confirmed what doctors told her. She could not bring herself to give Mama Demola such information. She would have to keep it to herself until she was sure of what the problem was. But her consolation was that she never slept with anyone other than Demola. The new man in her life, Roy, only came into the picture a few months ago.
My phone rang. I closed the book. Truecaller revealed the intruder as Lakeside.
“Hello,” I said, weakly.
“Can I talk to Mr. Olukorede S. Yishau?” he said.
“Good afternoon sir…”
“Good afternoon. I am Professor Henry Lakeside from the University of Port Harcourt. I will like to invite you to the Literary Festival being hosted by the university in September. It will be an honour to have you read to us from your book, In the Name of Our Father. If you send me your e-mail, I will send you the details,” he said, even before I accepted.
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I had no reason to say no. So, I ended the call and sent my e-mail. I felt thirsty, made for the fridge, grabbed bottled water and gulped it down my throat. I soon returned to Lydia’s world.
She was getting fond of Roy, a British lawyer and divorcee from east London. She had met gangling Roy at a Tesco store in Abbey Wood where she was an auditor. After minutes of staring at Demola jnr’s picture on the wall, she decided it was time to face her fears by involving somebody. She thought of Roy. She thought of Jayden, her Jamaican friend and colleague at work. She ruled out Mama Demola. There was little she could do from Nigeria, she told herself. She settled for Roy and dialled his number. His phone rang out. She dialled again and left a message on the answering machine.
Please let us speak as soon as possible. It is pretty urgent.
Some minutes later, Roy called back.
“Hi Love, what is happening? Your message scarred me,” Roy said.
“You need to come over. It is not something we can talk over the phone.”
“Okay, give me a few minutes to clear my table,” Roy said.
It was a Saturday and she was off-work. Demola jnr was at Jayden’s to spend time with her son, Hank. Immediately she let Roy in, she said, “I think there is problem about Demola.”
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“What problem could that be? I thought the doctors gave him all clear last week,” a confused Roy said, untying his red-and-pin-stripe tie and pulling his black pairs of shoes.
The two of them sat with their bodies touching on the couch.
“There is a high possibility that he is not my son…”
“Whaaaat? How can that be?”
Lydia told him about the doctors’ shocking find.
“That is serious,” Roy said, holding her hand as if to take away some of the pressure from her.
They fell silent for some minutes.
“What do you think I can do?”
“What hospital did you have him?”
When she mentioned it, Roy screamed, “Jesus Christ! That hospital is notorious. There is a report of an enquiry, which greatly wrote off the hospital. I think I have it on my phone.”
Roy scanned through his phone and gave the report to Lydia to read.
We found a lax approach to checking babies’ name bands. The head of midwifery at the hospital, in Chapel, did not have an explanation for this development, which means babies can easily be swapped and mothers can go home with wrong babies. There were possibilities of even giving medication meant for one baby to another.
There were not enough midwives on the delivery suite to provide safe cover.
Mothers told us that they are treated as childish. There were some intra-cultural issues and some bullying behaviours between midwives and patients. We also discovered that doctors and midwives referred to patients by their bed numbers rather than by name.
We were shocked to find grievous errors at the Chapel Hospital, such as a surgeon leaving an object inside a patient after finishing an operation, a dentist extracting a wrong tooth, patients getting wrong implants, and patients receiving incorrect medication.
There was a general lack of a safe and secure environment for new-born babies. Something urgent must be done to address the lapses.
Lydia was shaking by the time she finished reading the report. Roy held her tightly as the tears came.
“So, if Demola is not my son, where is my son?”
“That is what we need to find out,” Roy said.
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“First, I think you should take samples from Demola and we will get a DNA done to see if the two of you will match or not. There is a probability that his father was not AS like you believe. So, for us to be sure, let us do the DNA and if the DNA shows you are not the biological mother, your late husband could also not have been the father,” Roy said, cleaning off a droplet of tears on her cheek.
“I am scared, Roy!”
“You will have to calm down until Monday. But in the meantime, get the samples ready as soon as Demola comes back home. I will call a friend who is a medical doctor to get me the kits. I will take the samples to the laboratory myself on Monday and will get the result for you,” Roy said.
“I will like to go with you. I will call in sick. I need to be involved,” Lydia said in a voice that told Roy he had no choice but to accept her wish.
“Okay, no problem.”
Roy called his friend who gave him direction about where to pick up the kits and what should be done thereafter. After delivering the kits to Lydia, he returned home but kept calling Lydia who was not herself throughout the night. She looked at Demola jnr and wished her fears would not be confirmed by the result of the DNA. She also thought of what the development could do to the boy who had known no other mother than her and who in the last few years had known her as his only parent.
That weekend was the longest in her life. She found herself researching more on the matter and found a December 2016 Telegraph report on The Royal London Hospital titled “Maternity ward chaos left mothers at risk of going home with wrong baby, report finds”. She would have argued that such was not possible in the UK. Reading the report, she found that the hospital was forced to make changes. Her fear made her unable to sleep. She was tossed and tossed on the bed, telling the pillows stories that they could not comprehend. On Sunday, in church, she had only one prayer: God let this test confirm Demola as my son. On Monday, she was up by 4am, dressed and waiting for Roy who would not arrive until 10am.
Long after Demola jnr had left for school, she paced the sitting-room, looking at his picture and praying things should turn out the way she wanted. At 9am, she called Roy to ask where he was.
“Cool down, love, the laboratory is on appointment and we were given 11am and it will take only 20 minutes to drive there from your place, even when traffic is heavy,” Roy said and hung up.
At exactly 10am, Roy arrived and she insisted they should leave immediately. He wanted to laugh at her desperation, but he knew it would be insensitive so he led her to his BMW X3.
And my phone rang again. This time, it was my immediate younger sister, Bukola. We had not spoken for some time. As I tried to pick the call, it rang out. I called back and all I got was: The number you are calling is not available at the moment. Please try again later. I dropped the phone and returned to the drama of Lydia’s life. I put the phone on silent and threw it on the dining table. I wanted to read the short story in peace.
The result eventually came out and her prayer was not answered. The boy she and her late husband named Demola jnr was not theirs. The truth brought her tears the day she and Roy picked up the result. She started crying immediately the truth came out. It took Roy a lot of efforts to get her back into the car.
While driving home, Roy knew what next. He would write Chapel Hospital intimating its management of the fact that there was a baby swap in the hospital. He would get the details about Demola’s birth from Lydia and do the letter immediately.
Demola jnr was not yet back from school when they got home so it was easy getting all the needed details and doing the letter without raising any eyebrow. Roy dispatched the letter, which was on his law firm’s letterhead, the same day with a clear threat to sue the hospital if no reply was given on time. He attached a copy of the DNA result.
Roy was still with Lydia when Demola jnr arrived from school and he could see how she struggled to contain her emotions.
“You didn’t hug me, mom,” Demola jnr said.
She would cry if she did, she told herself and lied: “I have a boil in my armpit.” But no sooner did Roy leave when she hugged her son as though she wanted to hold him enough before she would lose him and take in another child, who would for a long time be a stranger.
“Has the boil gone so soon?” Demola jnr asked her. Lydia did not answer him, she just held on.
A letter from the hospital later confirmed that Demola jnr was really not hers. There was a swap with the only other boy born that day, and the hospital had been able to trace him to Republic of Benin where his mother was serving on a Christian Missionary Board.
Weeks later, Lydia, Roy and Susan Welsh, a medical doctor at Chapel Hospital, were on their way to Kpedekpo community in Benin Republic, where Mrs Maduemesi, the real mother of Demola jnr, and Johnwest, Lydia’s real son, had been living for one year.
The hospital had contacted Mrs. Maduemesi through the UK High Commission in Benin Republic but gave no details. An official of the High Commission, Anne Wesley, joined them in Benin Republic from where they headed for Kpedekpo, a land notorious for raising children for export to Nigeria as house helps.
They met Mrs Maduemesi at an orphanage in the notorious community. She received them warmly, but there was something strange and sombre about her appearance. She was dressed in black. Lydia looked for sign of a boy that looked like her or Demola. Then she saw the picture on the wall and had no doubt in her mind that this was her son. His resemblance to Demola was beyond doubt. She smiled and her heart beat faster.
The High Commission official, who Lydia did not bother about her name, explained why they were there to Mrs. Maduemesi, who burst into tears.
“Why are you crying madam?”
“I lost the boy you are talking about yesterday.”
Lydia jumped off her seat and came to where Mrs Maduemesi was sitting. Roy walked up to Lydia and held her.
“He was bitten by a dangerous snake and died even before help could come,” Mrs Maduemesi said and broke down in tears.
“If you go inside, you will see some women from the village who have come to keep me company. It is because I am mourning him that I am in black. So, are you people saying my own biological son could be somewhere in London?”
Lydia was already on the ground. She never prepared for this. What she was planning was how to make it up to her son whom this woman and her husband named Johnwest. Now, she said he died.
“As at the day the High Commission contacted me, he was still alive, even though I never knew he was the reason for the call. Please are you saying my biological son is in London?”
Susan answered in the affirmative and Lydia collapsed on the floor, not sure whether to cry or laugh.
“I will need to see him,” she said, as Roy led Lydia back to the car that brought them.
“Please come to Cotonou tomorrow; the High Commission will make arrangement for you to return home and do a DNA match with the boy and we will know what next after the result.”
Lydia lost it on the way back to Cotonou. She had to be restrained from jumping out of the car. She was closely monitored on the flight back to London, where for the next few months a psychiatrist had to attend to her.
There were tears in my eyes, but it soon dawned on me that I was only reading a piece of fiction, which somebody just concocted. I dried my tears, but for weeks Lydia, DNA and death kept chasing me all over.
Photo Credit: Verywell Mind
About the Writer
OLUKOREDE S. YISHAU is the author of IN THE NAME OF OUR FATHER. He was the NMMA Columnist of the Year (2015), NMMA Entertainment Reporter of the Year (2015), NMMA Capital Market Reporter of the Year (2013), NMMA Aviation Industry Reporter of the Year (2003), Finalist, NMMA Columnist of the Year (2016), Runner-up, Union Bank’s Banking and Finance Reporter of the Year (2003), Runner-up, Olu Aboderin Entertainment Reporter of the Year (2001),Runner-up, Print Journalist of the Year (2005), and Runner-up, Political Reporter of the Year (2006).