Have to confess that initially I wasn’t too fond of him. His tongue in cheek attitude and sarcastic answers got on my nerves at times especially when I was the butt of them. It was also not the best thing that we had to listen to him pontificate at 6.30am every morning because we had to get up early for rounds. Must have made the best of us quite irritable. He had a confident manner of walking and expected us to flank him even though he walked very fast as he dished out information as he talked. He was very knowledgeable, and you could not help but be impressed by his encyclopaedic knowledge. It would have been very nice if he only shared knowledge, but he percussed us regularly on the rounds and expected us to match up to some level of his knowledge. He had a way of lifting his eyebrows and sarcastically saying; “Really?” when we gave him not too accurate answers. He made funny comments about our answers, all the more powerful because they were brilliantly, cleverly constructed. I wished I could have given him a carefully worded blow just one time (God forgive me). Unfortunately, he seemed to grow more obnoxious as he rose in the surgical profession, and one day his fellow resident, a lady by the way gave him the worded blow I was incapable of handing to him and I thought ‘well, that’s ok.’
One day one of our classmates fell ill and had to be admitted to hospital. I was struck by his tender nature when he heard and took it upon himself to visit the student. On another occasion when he heard I had written a book, he gave me a cash gift. I respected him even more after that.
He was a case. The man was big, boisterous like a grizzled bear. His build and bearing reminded me of a successful ‘brother’ who had hit it big. He had the accent too of a ‘well cultured brother.’ But he spoke Yoruba like no man’s business. He was most intriguing. He was loud and he knew how to make the sternest matron melt. Other doctors might have used euphemisms but Dr Labyrinthine used little of them. He said everything straight. An ass was an ass, however you put it. He had this wonderful habit of saying: “Yeah,” when he was talking. If it was in the States, he might have been sued on one occasion. We had a ward round and this patient, a female had a rectovaginal fistula so while he was examining this very delicate part of the human anatomy, the good doctor exclaimed: “Yeah, yeah, baby I can feel it!” with an expression of rapt pleasure on his face. We could not help laughing at the incongruity of it all. He let us learn by asking us questions and letting us say everything we knew about the question even if it was gibberish. He allowed the residents to do a lot of surgeries while he acted as the assistant (a rarity) and big as he was he could still say yes sir to other consultants. I think he had a double dose of charm. He could make everyone fall in love with him due to his gift of gab. When all materials in the theatre were said to have been finished, when was operating, they appeared as if by magic. And then he would blow her a kiss and tell her how much he loved her lipstick and the woman would be all smiles. He was great at breaking down defences.
He and the one of the other house officers referred to one of the other consultants as the boss as if they were in a mafia type setting where the person in question was warlord. He made the unit so lively we felt sad to miss him. And the interesting fact is that he could easily change moods, one minute he’s joking with you, the next dead serious. And you’d think he’s still joking until he barks at you. But after he shouts at you once, you become his best friend. I think we all loved him and I think he loved us too.
On first glance, despite her small stature, she looked like she can handle anything. Petite though she was, her voice was anything but small. It was as clear as a bell and rang across the room. Each time she comes for a ward round, a lecture or a tutorial, she makes everyone want to sit up. It’s like she’s silently screaming: alert, alert, you have to be alert. She expected us all to work hard. I mean, she took it for granted that we would work hard. And when we were with her at least, we had no choice. And her questions… she was persistent. She could go on and on asking one person different questions (give me 20 causes of oedema) until she had percussed to her hearts content. She never abused anyone though or even shouted at us but it was easy to know when she was not pleased with the way her questions were being answered. She never wanted us to cram things. She did her best to make us understand. She was also one of the few consultants that knew us by our names. I do not know if she had any favourites or not but it was no secret that she liked guys who were well dressed, who answered her questions with alacrity and who were gentlemen. (I have a suspicion that she also appreciated dimples) She expected a lot more from the ladies. I think she expected twice as much from the ladies than the guys. We were always impressed by how much stuff she knew. She was one consultant that really tried to instil in us the virtues of hard work.