Occupational Hazards

“Yo, babe. I thought you’d stop by my lab today?”

Felicia was the senior Laboratory Scientist in the hospital, and she was also a great cook. So naturally, I assumed her reverse invitation was to come chop.

Ah, Fells mama! I had no idea you were bringing us a feast na” you could hear the grin in my tone.

“Feast? Not at all o.

I haven’t found a replacement for my market errands yet.” She paused and hesitated a little “It’s been months since ur scare. I thought you’d be anxious to put it behind you”

Felicia is a good friend. How else can you explain this current conversation. I tell her I’d be with her in a bit, pack up slightly and jog down to her lab.

When Felicia is in professional mode, she is crisp and patient. I hardly hear all the pre-talks she is giving me because I’m wondering *where is my friend,Felicia *

She takes my blood sample and directs me to go sit on the seats in the hallway, outside her laboratory.

I tried to make a call but the network didn’t think I should. I propped against the wall and began my wait.

I thought of Chrissy Teigen’s tweet, where she showed off (more like shared a picture of) her bruised knees, & captioned it “occupational hazard”. As with most of her tweets, it stirred activity; retweets and replies…I didn’t stick around long enough to find out if it got confirmed as a meme.

I imagined sharing a selfie on my social media accounts, holding up the white A4 paper containing ink wont to redecorate my future, and tagging it “occupational hazards” too. I’m not an internet celebrity, the anticipated reaction would vary from ignore, to some pity, to maybe condemnation from strangers who do not know my story. I sighed.

Why was Felicia taking sooo long now?!

I stared hard at the doorway, hoping to channel my inner superwoman and see through the doors of the laboratory. It didn’t work, so I heaved. The echo made me shake a little, it was late and as a result quiet, in the hallway. The middle-aged lady sitting down the hallway raised an eyebrow at me, as if to ask if everything was alright.

On a normal day, I would have smiled my assurance at her, but there was absolutely nothing normal about today. For the first time in my 4 years of practice I was waiting in the hallway of the hospital laboratory to pick up test results, instead of  having them emailed to me as is usual.

Plus it was a Retroviral Screening post-exposure.

This isn’t my first RVS ever. I actually cannot remember what number on the list it would be.

But this one is different.

Four months ago, I had taken custody of a newborn, who lost his mother to the disease.  It was somewhat okay, health wise for the baby until I noticed the baby was jaundiced. I quickly brought him back to the hospital to have my paediatrician colleague attend to him.It was during one of the sample collection that we had an incident.

My boyfriend (who is now my husband by the way) called. I took out my gloves to take his call, because we had just gotten over a call-related stiff. Someone walked in and I unconsciously picked up the needle I had just used, to get it out of the way, when I pricked myself. It was deep and painful, but the real pain started when my friend-doctor informed me of my baby’s new HIV status.

It took all my years of study,  practice and volunteer work for PLWHA to remain calm. I got a screening done and it came out negative. I was counselled and got a diet upgrade. My baby got started on his ARV’s and we all went back home happy.

I got married a month later and two months earlier than I’d planned because Mr. Husband wanted to prove he wanted me, HIV and all. Life was pretty decent and even normal until Felicia’s call.

As if on cue, Felicia opens the door and she walks over to the other woman, hardly acknowledging me.  I roll my eyes. Why is she doing this to me?!

She discharges the woman who is clearly relieved, and then walks back to me.

“I would have been very upset if there was a chance that you’d be stealing your baby’s ARV because you were to lazy to go get yours!”she said.

Wow. What a way to break the news Fells. I smile in relief though. I can’t help it. I think I whooped a little and hugged Felicia, jumping around the hallway.

That night I posted a selfie on social media. It was a picture of my husband dozing at my shoulders mid movie night, and my baby sleeping while still feeding. Of course I captioned it “occupational hazard.”


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