A drop of sweat that hung down Chika’s wet chin fell off it and onto one of the glass slides placed on the white cabinet she was working on. Definitely, with the way she had her attention buried in the specimen she was examining under the microscope, it would be over-thoughtful of her to take note of that single contamination of one of her samples. But if she did, no doubt that the sample would also have ended up in the trash-can like several others. After the heavy losses the project had cost her, it was only normal that she avoided leaving to chance anything that could rob her of the ground-breaking success she hoped to get from it. Which at that moment, was the only wedge that kept her from breaking down.
Chika’s focus stayed on the microscope lens she was peering into as she replaced the slide on it with the one right in her front. The one her sweat had dropped on. She adjusted the equipment and stared on. This was her eighth night in there alone carrying out horrendous work on hundreds of samples of cell cultured Human Immune viruses that yielded more conflicting than reassuring results. Others she worked with had long given up. Yet, she seemed most determined to see its end. The last time she found herself brimming with this much hope while working on a project, was when she was close to discovering the drug cure for cancer while still working with Arafin Ltd., her former firm. Then, suddenly, she had been relieved of her duty. The rest of what happened after then had been an unforgettable history. Arafin Ltd. had in the end earned the glory for the discovery of the drug. But she learnt her lesson. That while working with firms that were too willing to break through you to stand, break through them first. In fact, just like it happened before, already, news about laying off ‘unproductive’ workers in the firm was floating about.
Moments later, she was staring with mouth agape at her specimen. The viruses she was observing had taken up the colour of the Olugbu-Akilu reagent she’d been trying to stain them with since the past seven days, which was the exact success she was making at. At last…at last! She whispered. She peered again into the electron microscope, taking great care as she adjusted the lens, to make sure that the reaction she was witnessing wasn’t her making. It was real! The nucleotides of the viruses were swelling and bursting from imbibing the reagent, an extract from herbs that grew at her backyard. When she began to search her memory for an exceptional thing she actually did to get such result, she couldn’t remember any. But one thing was certain. She had recorded ground-breaking success. And if she experimented her findings and it worked, then, voila! She would be the discoverer of the cure for the dreaded HIV!
Surging with emotions, Chika wiped her palm over her wet eyes, pulled out of her overall and began to put away the equipment on her table. She was heading straight home to get the best night-rest of her life. And then awake to a new life of fulfilment, and celebration, and…she sighed. First things first. Home. On the way, she would find a most suitable name for her new drug. She’d been contemplating on Kachincillotin. A name she made out from her deceased daughter’s name, Kachi. The little girl had died from the dreaded HIV out of negligence on her part while on this project, and she knew no better way to pacify her gentle spirit. Then, as for her run-away husband…
Carefully, Chika removed the success slide from the microscope and placed it in a separate petri-dish which she wrapped in a foil and placed inside her bag. Then she locked up.
The sack came sooner than Chika expected. As soon as it happened, she retired to her house where she had set up a small lab. The first guinea-pig she used for her project was herself. After three weeks of taking her drug, she tested negative to HIV. But, when she tried it on several HIV positive volunteer patients, it yielded no positive effect. It was then she knew why her firm which she later found out had stolen her findings before laying her off, hadn’t published anything on it yet. They too, just like her, were at crossroads as to the actual working of her drug.
Eletrika Powers. Akure. Nigeria.
What if the cure for the dreaded HIV was just right there with us, that is, inside the herbs that grew at our backyard, and just a drop of the infected individual’s fluid was needed to activate its effectiveness?