Doctor Parker’s Dilemma…

the book

Dr. Franklin Parker walked into the little hut in the middle of the jungles of southern Sudan to check on his seventeen years old patient. He found Mtamba awake and sitting upright in his bed made up of a ragged straw mattress on the floor. He said with a smile, “Hi Mtamba, I am so glad to see you are improving so fast”

The young man answered happily, “Thanks to you Dr. Parker. If you were not here to remove the bullet and treat my wounds, I would have certainly died.”

The Dr. started to take his pulse as he said, “Thank God the bullet did not pierce your heart…and you must be grateful for all your mother’s prayers. You must focus now on regaining your full strength because we need you.”

The conversation went on as the Dr. sat down on the straw mat on the floor of the hut. “Tell me Mtamba, how do you like your school?”

Mtamba thought for a moment and then slowly said, “I like it very much Doc. But you know…the war going on here, I mean…I have to miss a lot of classes when my turn comes to stand guard and__”

Parker nodded and waved his hand assuredly, “I understand. But if you were to go to another country and study, you wouldn’t have to stand guard anywhere. Do you think you might like that idea?”

The emaciated teenager was visibly agitated by the suggestion. He didn’t know how to respond. After a long silence, the doctor asked again, “would you like to go to America to study?” when he got no answer again he stood up and said cheerfully, “Just think about it. I have been thinking about this idea for a while. I can sponsor your trip and your stay there but you must be willing to put in the energy and the effort. I can see that you have great potential and it is a shame that all this talent goes to waist.”

As he was about to leave, the young man said in a shaking voice, “But I would be betraying all my kinsmen by leaving them when they badly need me in this war”

Parker stopped and turned to face him, “Not at all. Education is a greater weapon than any gun. You can help your kinsmen much better as an educated man. What if you become a lawyer or a doctor? Can you imagine how much more you can help all your tribe?”

Mtamba’s face lit up with a smile and said, “That is like a dream Doc.”

“You can make it come true my son.” The doctor said encouragingly and then he walked out.

In his bigger and better furnished hut, the good doctor was stuffing his suitcase with some clothes when Mr. Anderson came knocking. Olaf Anderson was the head of the UN troops in the area. He walked in and immediately started to speak, “Dr. Parker you performed a miracle by saving the life of that young rebel.”

“Miracle…?” the Doctor shrugged his shoulders laughing; “miracles like this are done hundreds of time everyday where you or I come from”

Olaf looked at the suitcase, “Going somewhere?”

“Yes. I am going to Nairobi,” Answered the doctor.

Olaf approached him. He was reeking of alcohol, “Don’t mind me asking. Are you coming back?”

Parker was surprised. He answered, “What makes you think otherwise?”

Olaf sat down at one of the low stools and took his time before talking, “nothing in particular, but…you see…in your condition and… I mean… this God forsaken place can take its toll on even a very healthy man. It is__”

Parker stopped what he was doing and turned to face the drunken officer, “Mr. Anderson, I don’t like what you are implying. I certainly hope you don’t mean what I think you mean?”

Olaf seemed surprised at the strong reaction. He began to speak incoherently and finally managed to spit out a few words, “…I mean people with Aids usually have difficulty to…I think may be…it is obvious…”

Parker grinned sarcastically and sat down at the edge of his small bed, “Why does it bother you that I have Aids? I am fully capable of working in any challenging environment. And I shall continue to do what I have set out to do until my last breath on earth.”

Olaf staggered to find the words again, “…this is… really…I mean… commendable. I do wonder how someone in the medical profession could catch such err…such…a …”

Parker was almost caught off guard. He moped a little and then bemoaned, “I wonder about that myself sometimes”

Olaf saw his break, “Really Doctor, I don’t mean to intrude but__”

Parker shook his head and smiled, “Sometimes I do feel sorry for myself. It was a simple mistake on the part of one of the nurses. She forgot to put the used needles in the hazard material receptacle. I was working on a bleeding patient in the emergency operatory. I was focusing on saving the patient’s life during the procedure and I got my hand punctured by one of the needles. Almost an hour later when I finished that case, I realized what happened”

Olaf was now staring at Parker in disbelief, “What…did you do to that nurse?”

“Nothing…” Parker said casually and went back to finish packing.

“Nothing…? I would have killed the….” Olaf said furiously.

Parker answered without looking at him, “Why? Don’t you ever make a mistake?” before Olaf could speak, Parker continued, “Besides, what would I accomplish? The poor wretched girl almost died because of her guilt feeling…and nothing would change…the damage was already done.”

Olaf walked to him slowly, touched his shoulder and blurted, “Is this why you left the US and came to this God forsaken place in the south of Sudan?”

Parker closed his suitcase and sat on it. He looked at the officer interrogating him and smiled, “Partly yes. You know what happens to people when they learn that you have Aids. They are immediately divided into two groups, those who want to avoid you at any cost and those who feel sorry for you. I had no use for either. I had to go to a church where nobody knew who I was. One time I was attending the service and the Bible reading was about the man born blind. That eternal question came up then…who sinned…This man or his parents so that he was born blind?” The divine answer which followed got me thinking. Everything happens for a reason. I kept wondering, what could be the reason God allowed this happen to me. A few days later, I saw one of the brochures from a missionary group, which supports the persecuted Christians in different parts of the world like the southern Sudan. Somehow I knew deep inside my heart that that was where I should go. As a doctor I could be of some help. I had so much money I didn’t know what to do with it. So I might as well put it to good use. And so…here I am… Satisfied?”

Olaf’s eyes were wide open and his jaw dropped. He finally found the words, “I would have done things completely different. I would be mad at the whole world. I would use my money to enjoy life instead of coming to this nightmarish place…I would__”

Parker interrupted, “Hold your horses man… stop. Thank God, you are healthy and strong and your duty here will end in another six months. Right…?”

“Five months and twenty days” Olaf corrected.

Parker moved his suitcase closer to the door, and asked the officer, “Now, will you help me get the pass to Nairobi?” Before the officer could answer, they heard gunshots at the distance. They ran out of the cottage to investigate. They saw young Martha running towards them screaming, “Dr. Parker…Mr. Anderson…Help…help…..”

Little Martha stumbled and fell as she was screaming hysterically and begging for help. Parker and Olaf ran to meet her. She struggled to speak coherently, “They shot my father. They took Marco and Betty away…they shot …oh help me…Please, my father…” Olaf immediately ran back to his Land rover and drove away in a hurry. Parker helped Martha to her feet and wiped her tears gently,

“Show me. Where is your father Martha?” they hurried back to the scene of the tragedy. Parker’s heart was pounding fast now. He realized it was too close to Mtamba’s hut. Martha was explaining what happened on the way,

“They came suddenly as they always do, and they pulled my sister Betty as she was coming out from church with Marco. When Marco tried to stop them, they took him too. Betty was screaming…and father ran out to meet them. As soon as they saw him, they started shooting at everything and everyone.”

They arrived where the wounded man was laid down. One look was enough. Parker hugged Martha gently and shielded her from the gruesome scene. She was frantic. She yelled,

“Doctor you made a miracle; you saved Mtamba before, so please save my father. Please save my father…?”

Parker had no words for this. He pulled the grieving girl away and delivered her kindly into the arms of her weeping Mother. He asked the men who gathered around to take the body of the dead man away. Then he remembered Mtamba. He ran to the hut. The frail youth was on the floor bleeding. His mother was trying to help as he was groaning in pain. Parker pushed her aside and carried him to his bed on the straw mattress. He could see the big hole which the bullets made into the flimsy walls of the hut. Mtamba’s mother was trying to speak through her tears, “He stood up and… tried… to run… out to help…”

Parker snapped interrupting, “Please run and fetch Mike and ask him to bring my bag from my hut…hurry… hurry” Mtamba tried to speak,

“Doctor Parker___”

“Shshsh…don’t say anything please. Conserve your energy and relax…everything will be fine. I promise”

He was trying desperately to stop the bleeding. The young man smiled and managed to speak again,

“Oh doctor you saved me once, but it seems it is time for me to go.”

Parker pleaded, “Please Mtamba stop talking. You shall be fine.., you must. Understand? You must help me…keep quiet.”

But the patient wouldn’t hear it, “I shall go to Jesus instead of going to America…that is much better. Isn’t it?”

Mike arrived with the doctor’s bag. He opened it immediately and started getting out the different instruments. Parker was kneeling down and tending to his patient. Mike stretched out his hand with a syringe when he saw the doctor break down and weep bitterly as he held the limp body of his lost patient…He kept repeating, “Why…why…why…”


         After the funeral services were over, Dr. Parker walked out of the church with Olaf and Mike,

“Mike, I must trust you while I am away to take care of our friends here. If you need anything, you can contact Mr. Richard or Mr. Anderson. I should not be away for long. OK?”

Mike answered reassuringly,

“Of course Doctor…”

Mike was a native who was trained by Parker to be his assistant. He also doubled up as the head of the choir at the church, in addition to being a farmer in his family’s field. He saw Parker ride in the Land rover with Olaf and disappear in a cloud of dust along the dirt road.

         “You still insist on coming back?” Olaf started “after all this.”

Parker was charged with rage and sorrow,

“Now more than any time before…my trip is more urgent now. I was planning to contact my lawyer to make arrangements for Mtamba’s scholarship. Now I have to make arrangement for buying back the freedom of Betty and Marco…”

Olaf got mad and shouted at the man sitting next to him,

“This must stop.” Parker was astonished. Olaf continued, “Each time such exchange happened, it encouraged more and more raids into the south because it becomes a lucrative trade for those bandits.”

It was Parker’s turn to yell,

“What do you expect me to do? What do you want these poor people to do? The only alternative is to conduct similar raids into the north to free the hostages or get some hostages and make an exchange.”

“Listen Frank, this is madness. This is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. We must end this lunacy.” The officer yelled.

Dr. Parker now had control of himself. He quietly answered the officer,

“Indeed we must. If you guys do your job and stop the infiltration of these criminals you call ‘bandits’ through your lines, such heinous crimes would be stopped…no, no, no Wait let me finish…because those ‘bandits’ are actually organized soldiers in the army of the north…you know it, I know it and everyone knows it. They have the weapons and they have the training. They only leave their uniforms behind.”

Olaf’s face was flushed, “We have clear rules of engagement. We cannot go beyond that. Otherwise we are going to be pulled out. You know how it was before we came here…need I remind you?” Parker closed his eyes as if to escape the vision of the horrors of the past few years. He finally blurted,

“I need you to do me one more favor please. Get in touch with Richard the preacher; he couldn’t be here for the funeral. Let him know that I shall be away this week.” Olaf did not answer immediately. At last, he nodded,

“OK, I like that preacher. He goes from village to village and obeys whatever instructions we give him.” Parker smiled and kept his peace. He was happy to find that the secret scheme he devised with Richard to smuggle food and medicine across the border to the needy Christians in the south was not exposed. More often than not the UN aid trucks and planes intended for the south were either shot down or snatched by the ‘bandits’.

Olaf dropped Parker off at the dusty airstrip, which the small planes of the UN use. The doctor did not know when exactly his transport would arrive. So he sat down outside the small dilapidating building on a wooden bench. He went through his handbag to see that he had all the necessary papers. He found that he had more papers than he needed. The scholarship papers he prepared for Mtamba were next to his Bible. He picked up Mtamba’s picture, and as his eyes filled with tears, he could hear him say, “Instead of going to America, I am going to Jesus now…that is much better doctor…isn’t it?” Parker’s lips parted to whisper,

“Yes, my son…Please pray for me…”

Previously published in the book “Echoes in A Mystical Mind” 2011 ©

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