What you need to know:
- The drawback was that I did not have enough time with Marie as I would have liked, despite the fact that we were courting at the time.
Before I proceed chronologically, I want to narrate three amusing incidents which took place in Dewsbury while I worked there.
One was meeting Munyua Waiyaki (deceased), once a Foreign minister of Kenya, and the facetious warning he gave to Marie against marrying me.
He came to do his elective from St Andrew’s in Scotland, where he was a medical student.
Elective is a device whereby the medical student has to do an attachment for about four weeks to another hospital, preferably a district hospital, to see how it works in contrast to a teaching hospital where he or she is a medical student.
Another relates to Mr Oldfield, a visiting surgeon from Leeds, and the third when heavy snow in Dewsbury during winter compelled me to act as an anaesthetist to save a patient’s life, who was suffering from a life-threatening surgical emergency.
They have all appeared in the “Surgeon’s Diary” at different times in the past but are interesting enough to bear repetition.
TIME WITH MARIE
I will deal with our foreign minister first. I took the Dewsbury post because I needed some operative experience to pass my final fellowship examination, where operative surgery was an important section in the “orals”.
Searching questions were asked there which could not be answered correctly unless the candidate had assisted a good number of operations or had operated under supervision.
Dewsbury did not disappoint me in that respect and I got a lot of elective and emergency surgery.
The drawback of this advantage was that I did not have enough time with Marie as I would have liked, despite the fact that we were courting at the time.
She usually finished work at her hospital at about 5pm and walked over to mine, hoping that we could have the evening together.
Not finding me in the doctor’s lounge, she would ring me in the operating theatre where I was doing a cholecystectomy left for me by a visiting surgeon from Leeds.
After finishing removal of the gall bladder packed with stones, I rang her and said: “Please have tea with the resident doctors and I will join you for supper. I have still got to operate on a couple of cases.”
By now she knew the doctors and they enjoyed her company without me hovering over them and breathing down their necks.
Come supper time and I made the same agonising call and the same apology. “Operating on a strangulated hernia just arrived from the casualty. Have dinner with the doctors. Will join you for coffee.”
Another call from Marie. “Are you coming? Your coffee is getting cold.” “Starting on an acute appendicitis. Please have your coffee and I will walk you home.” I said.
Final call. "It is 11pm and time for me to go home.” My usual lame reply. "Still operating on emergencies. I am ringing the hospital porter to take you home.”
Munyua Wayiaki was watching all this with great amusement every evening, and was once provoked to say to Marie as she was leaving the doctor’s lounge, “I hope you are not marrying this chap. If this is how he treats you when you are courting, can you imagine what it will be like when you are married to him?”
The day of reckoning came on October 5, 1961, barely four years later, when Mzee Kenyatta was going round the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi.
Mzee had been released from the last leg of his detention in Maralal and was familiarising himself with developments which had taken place in the country while he was incarcerated since 1951.
Being a newly-arrived resident surgeon, I was given the privilege of showing him round.
I had never met him before but had read about him in the Indian newspapers when I was a medical student in Bombay, now called Mumbai.
The last I had read about him was that Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister of independent India, had dispatched a prominent Indian lawyer to assist a British QC Dennis Pritt, who was hired to defend Kenyatta at the Kapenguria trial.
He was also assisted by young local lawyers, Achroo Kapila & Fritz de Souza. A road is named in Nairobi in memory of Pritt, to commemorate his service to the Kapenguria Six.
While being introduced to him, I felt a penetrating appraisal being made, dissecting and silently deciphering.
I must admit that I was a shade nervous when I came face to face with him. His beaded cap, well-trimmed beard, a fly whisk in one hand, bracelet on his wrist, a ring with a large motif on his finger, his booming voice and mesmerising eyes completed the charisma.
He hardly spoke and asked pertinent questions and listened intently to my reply. In fact, he was constantly listening and assessing the situation.
He seemed every inch an astute politician who had the fulfilment of his cherished dream within his grasp but was still taking his sweet time before plucking the fruit, which was ripe for picking.
He was walking very briskly, exuding self confidence, leaving his large retinue behind.
The retinue consisted of senior Kanu officials, destined to serve in his Cabinet, when he formed the government of independent Kenya.
Munyua Waiyaki was one of them, now a full-fledged doctor and very-high up in the political hierarchy of the emergent nation.
Since Mzee’s visit was announced, many prominent people, not connected to the hospital either as patients or staff, had asked permission to be allowed to stay on the premises to see the “Big Man”.
Marie was one of them and had accompanied me to the hospital that morning.
As soon as Dr Waiyaki saw Marie, he recognised her and reminded her of his warning delivered in Dewsbury and said to her. “You married this guy, despite what I told you.”
This pleasant confrontation caused slight commotion, to the chagrin of the security people.
As Mzee was wondering what it was all about, I retorted. “Thank God your advice fell on deaf ears!”