Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Time Flies

I remember a time when… I used re-sealable plastic bags only once, then threw them away. I could bought cheese without laying down ten bucks for 250 grams. potholes were mere inconvenient bumps in the road, not black holes that could swallow the whole front end of your vehicle. the majority of people in my town carried things in bags in their hands, not basins on their heads. a seemingly unending range of coffee always lined the shelves of pretty much any supermarket I entered; no need to buy three months worth in advance. Sam and I used to travel and return without our luggage filled with five tubes of toothpaste, three jars of peanut butter, various spices, new clothes, and any number of other items, often in duplicate or triplicate. I couldn’t look out my window and see mango and banana trees, and a mountain with Christo Rei on top. Driving to work didn’t involve dodging multiple stray dogs in the street. Mosquitos were only pests that made you itch, not things that can and do actually kill people on a daily basis. Football was called soccer. Going out for dinner didn’t cost at least $40, no matter where you went. There was electricity every day, all day and night long, and no one ever wondered at how absolutely marvelous that was.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Attack of the Malaria: a Reprise

I sit here on a beautiful, sunny and cool Friday morning, having just swallowed my cocktail of 8 pills for the morning. Yes, I once again have malaria. And amoebic dysentery. Fun. This time it hit hard at night with fever and chills and abdominal cramping and trips to the bathroom every hour. I thought to myself, “This feels rather familiar…” When morning finally I came I dragged myself out of bed and took a shower. That took all the energy I had, so after that I lay down and promptly fell back asleep for another hour and a half. When I woke up I got a ride to the hospital and saw one of the docs who ordered a malaria test and feces sample. Then began the worst part of visiting the hospital for tests – the WAITING. CEML is always busy. Which means a severe lack of places to sit. When you’re sick and just want to lay down, finding a space on one of the hard wooden benches may not exactly be comfy, but the prospect is certainly better than standing or sitting on the cold floor. The hospital is understaffed. There are a handful of doctors, some of which are actually surgeons, who do double or even triple duty as general physicians, ER docs, etc. There is a tiny lab with a few technicians who take in the paperwork, and draw the blood and read the test results. The little window to the lab is crowded with patients waiting to hand in their papers to have blood work done, or waiting to pick up their test results. I’ve been through the process at least 4 or 5 times now and I still can’t quite figure out if there is a system for who gets helped next or not. After waiting 20 mins or so to get someone to take my paperwork so they’d know I needed tests, I finally took the Russian approach when someone came sort of near the window - I reached through the window and thrust my paper in front of them. It worked. She took my orders and within 2 mins I was sitting in the chair in the lab getting my blood drawn. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that my orders were stapled to the “employee beneficiary” paper you get at the payment window that shows that you are a relative of one of the doctors or staff there. So I must say, that part was rather quick. But next came the waiting for the results. In the 4 or 5 times I have had tests there I would say that the average wait for results in about 3 or 4 hours; which seems like an eternity when you feel horrible and don’t have anywhere but the floor to sit or lay down. This time, however, God provided a much more comfortable option. It so happened that a friend’s daughter had been admitted the hospital the night before (also due to malaria) and they had a bed right near the lab. I was invited to come share the much more comfortable place and was able to have someone to pass the time with too. Soon it was past noon and my friend and her daughter were being released, so bye bye cushy hospital bed. However, it does pay to have friends on staff. Nurse Audrey saw my pitiful-looking self and ushered me into the clinical director’s office (which pretty much doubles as the dr’s “lounge” or “break room” of sorts, complete with an exam table, which, while not as comfy as the bed, was a HUGE blessing. I lay down and promptly fell asleep waiting for my results which were “going to be ready in fifteen minutes”……RRRRRRIGHT. About an hour later….someone from the lab comes into the director’s office apologizing profusely, something about unclear results. Another finger stick, another slide, another “fifteen minutes”. But then, hallelujah! Results. Malaria, check. Amoebas, check. Prescription, check. Now, into town on the adventure called “finding-the-pharmacy-that-has-the-medications- you-need”….