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They say memory works best by association- that you tend to remember bits of information that are coded with particular events, people, or objects. The concept of mnemonics is based entirely on the principle of association. I believe this totally. I mean, in retrospect, I sort of recall & even perform better in those subjects that I had female teachers- talk of association at its peak!

One of the subjects I vividly remember so well is my secondary school geography. Perhaps, because my teacher had interesting ‘associations’, to aid my memory. I can almost re-live and re-cite several of her teachings, but as I put pen to paper, one stands out foremost in my mind.

She was describing the process of exfoliation & the consequence this had on rock formation. “This event is triggered by repeated heating and cooling” she said, trying to act like our focus was on the lecture & not her. “With heating comes expansion and with cooling, the reverse happens. This tends to exert extremely contrasting pressures on the rock and they end up filing up into sheets like an onion”. My intention is not to bore you with any further geography. But I’m worried. I’m worried because I see a similar trend happening to me in the realm of my emotions.

Looking at the last five years that I’ve spent living in this hospital environment, I see this ‘repeated heating and cooling’ effect so often. I am particularly worried about the proximity of the labour ward to the intensive care unit (ICU). The doctor has just declared to this man that his wife gave birth to a set of twins! The joy on the face of such a man is indescribable- almost palpable! And while you are still trying to tune in to the frequency of their euphoria, you take a few steps & there you are- family members crying. They had just manufactured a hundred thousand naira for ICU admission only to be told a few hours later “we’re sorry, we did our best”

Now let’s take a trip to the accident & emergency. Here, outcomes are multi-factorial! “Thank you doctor, oh thank you, you just saved our dad’s life, thank you doctor”. At the next turn, you hear something like “Nurse! Nurse!! Nurse!!!” “I’m not a nurse, excuse you, I’m a doctor” “whatever you are, my mum has been here for two hours now, and nobody has seen us” “just hold on, I’m sure someone will attend to you” . And then you step outside to see people groaning and crying in sad-looking taxis. “Somebody please help us” “we’re sorry there’s no bed, there’s even no chair”

I didn’t realize the effect this was having on me until very recently. I had just returned home for the weekend. Walking into the room I saw my mum, not looking too happy. “Mamo, how far?” Looking up, she said “Son, how are you? Uhmm, Mr. XXX just passed away.” “Wow! What happened?” “Well nothing significant, he was just feeling funny in the morning and passed on before they got to the hospital”. “Oh sad” I said now approaching my room. “Is there any food in the kitchen?” The silence I got after suggested to me that I should have been a bit more sensitive.

We’re trained to be detached- trained to empathize and not sympathize. Well, whether it’s empathy or sympathy, there’s still pathy, pathos, that word means something. It means we’re affected. It means we feel- feel your joy, and your pain too, we feel. And though it appears we don’t, please forgive the anaesthesia. We’ve been numbed by the pressure. But we feel.

And maybe I should speak for myself.

Dayo Olakulehin

© 2012

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