10th April 2019! Started as a very busy day for me. I had 2 different features to work on before the weekend….. There I was seated behind the computer trying to as usual add honey and milk to my script. (Typical Me)
“Nancy, I need you to go speak to a woman and her child at the reception”. That was Fred Smith, my News Editor standing 5 meters away from me.
The look on my face spoke louder than words. Look I was busy!
“Who are they and what do they want?” I asked. I wanted to know if it was worth my time because there are lots of ‘serious’ work I had to do.
“I don’t have the details, just speak to them. I’m sure you’ll figure it out”
Well I lazily got out of my seat, descended the stairs to the reception.
There were so many people there, but I saw a woman in a green faded African print carrying a baby at her back. In front of her was a little girl in a perfect colour block attire. A pink cap, pink skirt and a white shirt with roses dotted in it.
These might be the people Fred was talking about. I went closer shook her hands and asked her why she was here. (there was no coronavirus)
“I need help for my Daughter Bertha, she has kidney cancer…… ” she couldn’t end her statement because her eyes were already filled with tears.
At that moment I knew this was a story worth doing. I bent my knees and spoke to Bertha
“how are you?”
“how old are you”
“I’m four years old”
She didn’t sound sick. I thought…. But I noticed she had blood clots at the corner of her eye. I was worried.
I told them to give me few minutes to get a camera.
Thankfully I found Jonas. One of my favorite Cameramen! In 10 minutes he had his camera and tripod ready.
“I think we should do the interview at radio”. Jonas, pointing to Joy FM which was across the street.
I took Bertha’s little hands and crossed the road. We found the Joy FM waiting area was empty!
“Perfect” I thought. I was handed a letter she had brought from authorities of the Child health Unit of Korle bu. (the letter is up there).
Just when I read the last paragraph, Jonas signaled, he was ready.
I took the microphone and asked my question about what their story was. This interview was close to twenty minutes. Let me summarize
She and her husband brought Bertha to Korle bu from a village in the Volta Region a year ago. The same day her husband was returning to the village to get money he died in a car accident. She knew nobody in Accra and was pregnant.
The doctors detained Bertha in the ward while she slept on the corridor in the same dress for a year. She begged on the streets…other times the nurses and doctors gave them food.
In fact the nurses were paying for Bertha’s treatment. But now the nurses are also drained. She needs GH¢4000 to finalize treatment! (Wiping tears from her eyes with her cloth)
Yeah… Unbelievable! I was moved too… How can life be this cruel?
I took the microphone close to Bertha and asked her what she wanted to be in future
“A doctor” she whispered. At this point I was moved to tears. Everyone, including camera man had to wipe tears… It was just too much!
The interview was done. I had to see them off… But I was never going to leave them without anything.
To be honest, all I had in my account was 100 Ghana Cedis. I went back into the newsroom, took my debit card and cashed out 50 Cedis and gave the money to Bertha
“What have you eaten today”? I asked them
“I had 5 Ghana Cedis, I bought porridge for the children. I have GH¢2 on me now” she said, trying to hold back tears.
“Please from here, take Bertha and Korle bu (the name of the child at her back… Because he was delivered there) to any eatery and buy whatever they feel like eating… Eat like today is your last day” I smiled.
We exchanged contacts and she promised to keep in touch…. I bade Bertha goodbye by giving her a hug and assured her she was going to be fine….. I stood and watched them walk away till they were out of sight. “Wheew”!
I told myself this story must be aired on Monday! A must go! Because cmon, 4000 Ghana Cedis? That’s someone’s chicken change…. So yeah I vowed.
I did write the story on Saturday. I was excited! Bertha was going to get help!
At 4:45am on Sunday, I was awakened by a call. I wondered who the uncultured person was calling at that time. I took the phone and saw it was from Bertha’s mom. I jumped out of the bed and quickly answered
“…. sister, me ba nu awu oo” […. My daughter is dead] she cried…..
“Jesus” I screamed. I was on the phone….. Speechless…….. In tears…. And not finding the right words to tell a grieving mother.
She went on to tell me how few minutes ago the nurses called to say her daughter’s condition had worsened… When she went to Bertha, the only thing Bertha said was that SHE WAS TIRED. She gave up her ghost right after those words.
Friends…. My life hasn’t been the same ever since…. I became depressed because I blamed myself. If only I had that 4000 Ghana Cedis. If only maybe I hadn’t told her to eat like it was her last….. Maybe she could have lived.
DEAR angel Bertha….. I promise to take care of mom and your little brother….. Forever in my heart.