Get your own
 diary at! contact me older entries newest entry

Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2005 - 1:32 a.m.

The boy did not know about the dress code, so he turned up in a roomful of suits and evening dresses, wearing a quasi-phallic t-shirt with the graphic of a girl fellating a tank barrel. He was seated in the University's Great Hall with two hundred people, all of them old. The University was conferring an honourary doctorate on a single woman, a seventy year old doctor who had graduated during World War II, and most of the audience were her contemporaries. Earlier, he had just left the library when he saw the academic procession of twelve professors enter the Great Hall's stone arches, in their full regalia. There must be free food at the end of that, he had thought, and so he followed the procession of swaying yellow mortar tassles and the flowing animus of black robes.

He slid into an aisle seat in the last row as the academic procession reached the end of the red carpeted walkway, and climbed the small wooden steps onto the stage. The Dean of Medicine gave a short speech, and then the Chancellor awarded a certificate to the old woman standing next to him. She looks so frail, the boy thought. After the applause and camera flashes, she crossed over to the speaker's dais and began talking about her work in Ethiopia.

After graduation she worked with her husband in a large Australian hospital, when they answered an advertisement in the Lancet, for doctors to work in Addis Ababa for six months. They went and stayed forty years. During that time, they built a hospital for fistula patients and operated on over twenty thousand women, repairing the wombs and bladders broken by pregnancy, with their careful, ungloved hands. The women came to them, exhausted from the failed childbirth, walking four days of hills and dusty roads, leaking urine all the way, and bearing the unbearable waves of vaginal pain. She saves them because there is no other way. No one else will. After the operations, she gives each one of them a new dress and returns them to their villages. Her husband died in Ethiopia a few years ago, and his memorial plaque at the Hospital of Hope quotes the gospel of Matthew: what you did for the least of these, you did for me.

The audience stands as the academic procession moves down the walkway to exit the Hall. She does not notice anyone in the audience as she crosses the fold of the stone arches, because all she can think about is her husband. The doctorate does not matter to her; only her work does. As the old lady passes him, the boy, a first year medical student, looks at her. She too, was once in the same Great Hall awaiting graduation, though she had sat in a different seat. History will look back on this moment, this passing of bodies when the boy and the old lady were almost shoulder to shoulder.

He wasn't sure of what it was but the boy felt something formidable pass to him from the old lady, as the two of them were watched by St. Matthew and all the silent words of Christ.

note: Obstertric fistulas are a predominantly third world phenomena. Pre-pubescent girls are sold as wives, quickly become pregnant, and the foetus is unable to exit their immature pelvises. The stuck foetus dies in the birth canal, and the continual pressure of its head against the blood vessels to the bladder, rectum and vagina cuts off the oxygen supply to these tissues. Afflicted girls cannot control their urine, feces and walking, and are almost always abandoned by their husbands and families.


previous - next


about me - read my profile! read other Diar
yLand diaries! recommend my diary to a friend! Get
 your own fun + free diary at!