Remembering Paul… (2)

Dr. Paul Mensah. Very passionate about voluntary blood donation. Photo Credit: Moja


It’s hard to eulogize someone when the very process feels like ceding to a mutual enemy, but this is important. It must be done.

Ours was not a chance encounter. Earliest I can remember, my mom would always encourage me to aspire to more and to be more. Disease was not a limitation, illness was not an excuse. She would talk about a doctor who was braving the storms and beating the odds despite this infirmity. I could be like him if I really wanted to.

In no time, we met, and there I sat, in awe. I too could be a doctor. Yes, I may miss a lot of school, probably miss an exam or two, maybe get held back in school. I might even be discharged from the emergency room on the morning of major exams or worse still write them in there, but, by God, I could be a doctor if I really set my heart to it. I could, because Dr Mensah had.

And thus, the friendship was struck. We’ll meet and mostly talk about health. Dr Mensah I’m tired of the drugs. I keep taking them, but I’m still falling ill. I’m just tired. And the simple response?
Enam, think about the consequences. What happens when you do not take your medication? That’s all I do. I think about the consequences, I shut up and I take what they give me. It was that simple, but that message was effective, because those consequences, boy, are they dreadful.

The last time we met was at the Sickle Cell Clinic ( Institute of Clinical Genetics). I was attending to my dissertation and he was there I presume, on official haematology department/ blood centre business.

We had to talk, we always did. How was life, school, health? What about the blog, when would the next post be released? Life was amazing, school was hell, my health could be better and the blog was on break. More accurately, my entire life was on a hold. I have finals, and you know how our health can be, I told him. Just a little stressor and we are in all kinds of trouble, hence the break. I even came up with a nice tag-line for it. I was #waitingtograduatetograduate. Everything would resume after the exam, I promised.

Then came his idea. You know, Enam, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, I just got busy and never got the opportunity to meet you. Remember that post you did on blood transfusion, how about I edit it a bit and submit it to one of the newspapers?

But of course Dr. Mensah, please. Do add your name, I will love to co-author something with you, I told him. Ok Enam, I’ll download it off your site when I get back to the office and start working on it. And that’s how that conversation ended. I had to rush back to my lectures. And then life happened.

Now here is the kicker, I thought up a counter offer. An amazing one, actually. One I never got to share with my mentor, friend and counselor because I also was too busy. All I had to do was graduate, and I’ll have all the time in the world to offer my skills and time to the blood bank, while reading 5 books a week, blogging, starting a business, traveling, revising fluid mechanics and building rafts with all the free time I was about to come into. But then, huh, life happened!

The post Dr Mensah spoke about, like the others I do, was inspired by personal experience. He had called one evening when he was in a bind. Well, just a bit of a bind, I must say. His team was all set but needed a few more hands to go with them on their monthly voluntary blood donation exercises at the Accra mall. I jumped on it as if I had been training my whole life for it and got a couple of friends to come with. It was amazing. And without warning it was as if we had been thrown into a haematology viva as people asked questions about transfusion medicine when we approached them to well, stop what they came to the mall for and go donate blood. People asked if they could donate if they had partied the previous night or had malaria 2 weeks prior to that and many more. They shared fears of their blood being tested for HIV and just, general reservations about blood donations and transfusions. It really was the kind of learning experience I wish I had more of. The kind of learning experience I was blessed to have, because I had Dr Mensah as mentor.

That was one experience, and there I was thinking, how about we do a series of posts on the experiences of Dr. Mensah and his team at these voluntary donation exercises. How about we bring up the questions raised by the donors and address them in our series, how about we educate people about the advantages of voluntary blood donation in a laid back manner and how about we find some people who have all but felt the life seep out of them and share their stories of how transfusions saved them. How about that?

I guess not, because well, life happened.
I have cried many tears, asked even more questions and have had to pull myself out of a downward spiral.
Whatever happened to “with early diagnosis and effective treatment, prognosis is good?”
What happened to all the medical knowledge, skills and access? What happened?
Of what use is this struggle, if it makes no difference when it really counts?
This is not how these stories end.
Dr Mensah does not die now.  He keeps beating the odds and all the while inspiring the lot of us.

But I console myself knowing that God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts, because I know that is what Dr Mensah will expect of me.

40 years might seem short, but these 40, were well lived.
The impact will continue to be felt for many year to come and this is a promise.

RIP Boss. Friend. Mentor. Counsellor.
#guardianangelsaremuchcoolerthanmentors because that is what makes me sleep at night.
Rest in Peace.

By Dr. Sefakor Enam Bankas

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