THE HOTEL at which I stayed on the western outskirts of Accra served breakfast as part of the accommodation fee. As for the rest of the day’s meals, they operated a restaurant. Since it was a small hotel, the meals were prepared to order. In other words, one could not just go there and order a meal that could be served after a short wait. Instead, one had to place the order several hours ahead of time. It may well be that they had to go shopping for the required ingredients before preparing the whole meal from scratch. The main cook of the hotel was an elderly man whose age I put at around 70. One evening when he came to serve my dinner, his eyes caught sight of a few copies of African Village lying on the writing desk. In doing so he noticed my name on the front cover. “Did you write that?” he inquired. “Yes I did. That is the reason I am in the country. I am trying to get the authorities to recommend it for use as a supplementary reader in our schools.” “May I have a copy?” “Yes of course.” Saying that, I handed him an autographed copy. In the ensuing conversation, he told me something about himself, among others that in the early 60s, at the time of President Nkrumah, then Ghana’s president, he used to work at the Peduase Lodge, the presidential holiday resort situated on the top of the Akuapem Ridge, about 40 kilometres to the north-east of Accra. “That is very interesting. I guess there came a time when you came close to him?” “Yes indeed.” “Why are you still working” I ventured, adding diplomatically, “at your age?” “Well, I can do without the meagre income I earn here”, he conceded, and explained, “My children have, however, advised me to keep working to keep fit.” On my return from the day’s trip to the Central Region, I rested in my room for a while before heading for the reception to order one of my favourite local dishes. The seasoned cook as usual prepared a delicious meal. Though he had on all occasions been generous, he was even more generous on this particular occasion. The meal was so plentiful I decided to enjoy half of it and leave the rest for a later time. A look at my watch after I had finished eating told me it was 7:30 p.m. local time, which was 8:30 p.m. in the UK. (Ghana is in the GMT or universal time zone. The country usually shares the same time with the United Kingdom; this only changes in summer when the clocks in the United Kingdom are set an hour ahead of GMT.) Since my arrival in Ghana I had made it a custom to call my family around that time. Thus I began to look out for my mobile phone with the goal of repeating the daily ritual. Just as I got hold of it and attempted to dial our number, the device began to ring! A look on the display revealed where it came from—home!
The conversation with Rita was not out of the ordinary. I told her about our day’s trip and the encouraging response from the heads we visited. She on her part reported on issues revolving around our children, the unstable UK weather and matters of general interest. I was enjoying the conversation with my other half when I began all of a sudden to experience a peculiar sensation in my head, a feeling difficult to put into words. It was a kind of burning sensation, of the type one experiences in the mouth after eating a hot spicy meal made with chilli pepper. The burning sensation soon gave way to a kind of hotness, a hotness that engulfed not only the whole of my head, but also spread to the rest of my body. As if that were not enough, shortly after the onset of the weird symptoms I had a feeling as if someone was shaking my heart, like one would swing a pendulum to set it in motion. Moments later my heart felt as if it were jumping to and fro in my chest, as one might experience on hearing an exciting bit of news. Soon my heart was not only “jumping around”, but accelerating, accelerating rapidly, as if in a bid to set a world speed record for the Guinness Book of World Records! The result of the abnormal activities of my heart was that, soon, I began to feel not only dizzy, but very bad indeed. Moments later I was barely able to keep my balance on the chair I was sitting on as the whole world began to spin before my eyes! Rita was in the middle of narrating an exciting event that had happened during the day. Not wanting her to get a hint of what was happening to me several thousand kilometres away and so as not to cause her distress, I sought an opportunity to end the conversation as quickly as I could. Happily, she soon ended what she was in the process of narrating. I saw that as an opportunity to end the conversation. “Okay, let’s end it here. I will speak to you about the same time tomorrow. Good night!” I said and placed the phone on the desk. Meanwhile I felt like collapsing to the floor. With all the strength I could muster I made it to the bed a few metres away. With my whole body feeling as if on fire, the world spinning before my eyes and beginning to experience some difficulty breathing, I felt for the first time in my life that I would probably not make it to the next day. What was I to do? Call the reception for help? What help could they offer apart from attempt to take me to hospital? I had since my arrival in the country heard reports concerning an improvement in the health sector. I had learnt that in contrast to the situation that prevailed in the country when I resided there several years ago, there was a quite well-functioning ambulance service. I realised however that getting to hospital from the hotel where I was staying was not going to be easy.
The hotel was far removed from the next available hospital. Besides that, the main roads leading from the hotel were terribly congested for the most part of the day. I reckoned it would take several minutes, if not hours to get to the Korle Bu hospital, the nearest hospital capable of providing any decent medical assistance. In the meantime the weird symptoms worsened instead of improving. At that moment I decided to consult the only Doctor available at every time and place, the Great Physician of our age, the Best Help in time of trouble—yes, the Doctor Who Knows No Bounds, He who is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. With all the strength left in me I began to pray: “Save me Lord Jesus, save me Lord Jesus; in your mighty Name, save me!” I recited those lines over and over again. I kept doing so for several minutes thereafter.
About half an hour after the onset of the symptoms I began to notice a gradual improvement in my condition. Both the hotness in the head and body reduced in intensity. My heart, while still beating fast, was not going as fast as before. Finally, about an hour after it all began, I felt strong enough to sit up on the bed. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for though art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me!” I encouraged myself with these words from Psalm 23. After sitting for a while, I decided to lie down again. Soon I was overcome by sleep. When I woke up it was a few minutes past midnight. I felt very strong again. As suddenly as I had experienced the burning sensations and giddiness, so had they also vanished! The able hands of the Living Lord had indeed carried me safely through the valley of the shadow of death. I just could not express my gratitude to the Lord for His intervention..................................