I haven’t seen flowers or peonies being sold outside hospitals. Perhaps this is the reason why I haven’t seen any of my patients being brought a bouquet in the hospital. Or perhaps the real reason why my patients are never visited with flowers is because they have no healing value (shrugs shoulders). Perhaps it is because their family and friends have a large list already and flowers will never make it.
Where I work, people are visited with food containers, jerry-cans of water, blankets, bed sheets and drugs. Hospital food is horrible, and when it is not horrible, it is too little. I have seen a man’s eyes water after being served a river of soup, a handful of Sukuma wiki and ten to thirty grains of rice. This is a man taking care of his sick son wondering just how many spoons of that food he is allowed to eat before feeding his son. Hospital water is unreliable. Most times, there is never drinking water, let alone some for flashing poop down the drain. So you can imagine how a latrine will look like in a ward that has three patients with diarrhea and vomiting, patients who visit the toilet every seven minutes and in the twenty-first minute, they’ll all clash at the toilet door.
Many times, hospitals don’t have linen. There is always a different reason each day. Some days it is the water, no water in the hospital and so dirty linen wasn’t washed. Other days it is the patients who are too many, more than the number of beds, bed sheets and blankets. I have seen patients sleep on cold mattresses because the hospital had no extra linen, and so relatives have to carry blankets to come cover their sick.
Where I work, there is no such fantasy as privacy. Doctors have to discuss a patient’s condition as the others listen. Because when two sick people share a bed, then you have no option. In a public hospital, you choose between letting the doctor and whoever is close enough to have a good look between your legs and privacy. When it comes to discussing your problems as a patient, then it is never between you and your doctor, it is between you, your doctor, your bed mate, and the four patients sleeping next to your bed, the two on your right and two on your left.
New mothers are never congratulated. We are always anxious to whisk them away from the delivery couch so we can deliver the next mother. A labour room is little worse than hell. Up to three very pregnant women share a bed that is meant for one person. Each woman is always lamenting and cursing and wailing in tongues. That, mixed with the cries of newborns makes every labour ward a little worse than a hell on fire.
After we certify death, we move swiftly to the next patient. There is never time to recover from a loss that is a luxury which we can’t afford in a public hospital given the large number of people who die and the equally large number of the living who are waiting for you to attend them. So we move very swiftly from among the dead to the living. We leave from the dead to the living even before we erase the evidence of death from our eyes and hearts. Duty always demands. You cannot afford to take a break, not even mortality. No matter how shaken you are, you must be strong enough not to let tears pool in your eyes, and if they pool in your eyes, then you must never let them fall, and if they fall, then you must be quick to dash them away soon enough .
This is how things are….. we pray for change