THE STORY is told of a man who visited the zoo and saw a giraffe for the first time in his life.
He took a close, lingering look at this long-legged, long-necked animal, and then exclaimed incredulously, “I don't believe there is such an animal in the world.”
We say “Seeing is believing.” Obviously, to the zoo visitor, seeing was not believing. After hearing the story of Dr. David Abdullah, and seeing him on television, I find myself in the same position as the man at the zoo. In other words, I am still trying hard to believe that Dr. David Abdullah exists as a flesh-and-blood human being.
Indeed, if a person had written a novel with Dr. Abdullah as the central character, that writer would have been ridiculed as someone who knew nothing about the craft of fiction.
The novel has been described as “a long, fictitious prose narrative, in which imaginary characters and events are presented in a true-to-life or realistic manner.”
To make the characters and events true-to-life, the novelist employs verisimilitude, so that as we read the novel, we feel as if we are reading of actual human beings and actual events. We go into what is known technically as a “willing suspension of disbelief.”
It is only when I see the story of Dr. Abdullah as a fairy tale, that I am able to go into a willing suspension of disbelief, even though I know I have been confronted with incontrovertible facts. Take this.
As the story has come down to us, we can only describe Dr. David Abdullah as a miracle.
Dr. Abdullah is the sole survivor of the eleven children of a poverty-stricken mother and a father, who (that is, the father) later suffered from leprosy. The other children died of poverty and disease-related causes.
At one time in his life, young Abdullah had to look for food from garbage heaps. He was lucky to eat even once a day. It was through the care and benevolence of Catholic priests, and others, as well as the enlightened educational policy of the governments of the day, that the young man managed to go all the impossible way from the basic school to the medical school.
Dr. Abdullah has been called “the mad doctor” by some of his colleagues, an accolade he has cheerfully learnt to accept. And why should he not be called the Mad Doctor?
After all, many of us see the acquisition of formal education and training as an opportunity to escape from deprived backgrounds.
In our society, a medical doctor enjoys social prominence. With hard work, and a bit of luck, he can earn good money, especially if he sets up practice in cities like Accra and Kumasi.
What Dr. David “The Mad Doctor” Abdullah decided to do, was not to pick his doctor's bag, run away from his background, and escape to where fame and fortune beckoned. He decided to set up a place which would be more of a hospice than a hospital, for the desperately poor or such sick people as lepers.
Why would he not be seen as a mad person when he chose to work for the benefit of “social outcasts,” and even spent his own money to care for them, instead of setting up a private hospital to care for the elite in society?
I cannot describe Dr. Abdullah as someone who is giving back to society what society gave him. Even though society contributed to his education and medical training, I think he has given, and continues to give, to society far more than he took from society.
I cannot also describe Dr. Abdullah as just one of our doctors, and his establishment as a hospital to treat the sick. He treats the sick, he literally feeds the poor and deprived, and he makes sure that as many deprived children as possible, go to school.
He says his establishment (I hate to call it a hospital) treats patients who go there. He says that every patient has to take his turn, unless that patient is a VIP, in which case, that patient can jump the queue. Who is a VIP?
In popular Ghanaian usage, the term “VIP” stands for a Very Important Personality. When we use the term, we think obviously of presidents, chiefs, ministers of state, certain prominent individuals, etc.
Dr. Abdullah's VIPs are totally different. They are the destitute, the lepers and, generally, those we might consider as social outcasts, with whom we might not even share a greeting. These are his VIPs.
These are people who do not have the wherewithal to pay for the kind of service Dr. Abdullah renders them. Yet, it is these very people who attract the attentions, sympathy and care of the “Mad Doctor.”
What keeps Dr. Abdullah going? He says it is his faith in God, and his love for fellow human beings. Love of God! Does that make him dogmatic? Far from that!
At his establishment, one can see a mosque, a church and another building with the Star of David. The structures represent Islam, Christianity and Judaism, three of the world's great religions. I am sure that if Dr. Abdullah could build as many religious houses as there are religions, he would cheerfully do so.
By bringing aid and comfort to the poor, the sick and the distressed, Dr. Abdullah has achieved a great deal for himself and society. His “VIP's” are happy people.
The amazing thing is that Dr. Abdullah has remained a simple, honest, hardworking philanthropist. There is nothing sanctimoniously pious about him. He is so natural. He is so selfless.
As one watches him on television, one sees an adult with a child-like innocence. He exudes a humility that touches you and humbles you. No pomposity. No condescension.
For example, when Kwaku Sintim Misa (KSM) interviewed Dr. Abdullah on his (KSM's) programme on Metro TV, Dr. Abdullah kept saying “Yes Sir,” in answer to some of the questions. And when ZAIN recognised his achievements with gifts for his establishment, and promises of further aid, that child-like, disarming and delightful quality of his shone through the natural happiness he showed.
My daughter and I have seen and heard Dr. Abdullah on television. From time to time, as I think of this amazing man, I would turn to my daughter and ask her, “Maame Tiwaa, do you think there is such a person as Dr. David Abdullah?” Of course, there is such a man. Unfortunately, like the zoo visitor, my small mind cannot duly comprehend this phenomenon called Dr. David Abdullah. I can only see him as one of the greatest miracles of God. We are lucky to have him.