I plan ahead. Way ahead sometimes I don’t stop to imagine that not a single day in our lives is guaranteed. But I plan anyway, because I hate last minute decisions. Short notice plans trigger my panic mode, which is not a very good state to be in. Let me in on a plan and change it the day before and I swear I’ll be so mad at you and depending on how close we are, you might get a lecture…or rant. Chances are I won’t attend an event whose invite I get about 24hours or less to event time. I’m not spontaneous. Except for therapeutic purchases. 🙂
So anyway, weeks ago when I saw the hope ward run flyer, I immediately made a mental note to go for it. I even mentioned it to some friends that I hoped to go for the run with. Fast forward to the week of the run and I was sick. The weather hasn’t been good to me and my immunity isn’t the strongest. So I will catch a cold from a bank teller from all the way behind their glass, and have effects ten times a normal person’s cold; and I’m not even exaggerating. Such was the case and I was pretty much in bed the entire week leading to the weekend of the run; so I decided midweek that going for the run wasn’t going to be possible after all.
Side note: this post might contain so many some-what unrelated paragraphs and sentences.
The run was on Sunday 15th November, 2015. Whereas I had planned other things for this day, the universe had something else altogether.
The day before, my maternal grandmother had been brought home from the village because she was ill. It was an emergency really, but by the time she came home she was so exhausted from the journey, as well as the treatment she’d received earlier in the day from the first hospital she’d been taken to…and it was getting dark. She requested she be allowed to rest and we think of moving to the next hospital the next day, Sunday 15th.
Sunday morning I went to Church, and the sermon was on faith and asking God for what we need and being precise about it. Telling him exactly what we want and not holding back. And then believing for it. My need at that point was my grandma’s healing. I honestly didn’t ask for anything else…and yet I have plenty of requests, but at that point nothing else mattered. Earlier this year, I lost my grandfather. He was my friend and more importantly, mother’s best-friend. I was broken in ways more than one.
After church, the old lady was still in bed weak and not in a hurry to go anywhere. When reminded that we needed to go to the hospital, she replied, ‘they work 24hours.’ She was right, because she knew the hospital we wanted to go to and yes, they do work 24hours. She took her time, she wanted to. We let her.
Eventually we set off for the hospital, all packed because we knew she was definitely going to get admitted; besides, in case they didn’t find it necessary to, then we’d just come back with our luggage. It would definitely be better than going and finding out she had to stay then having to go back home to pack what was required. See….planning. 🙂
When we got to the hospital, as my mum started on the paper work, I held grandma and almost immediately a nursing attendant brought me a wheel chair for her. Now hospitals are not my thing. Entirely. I get the urge to cry as soon as I walk into any hospital gates. The idea of people in pain just doesn’t do it for me. Complete strangers trigger my tear glands! Medicine was never my calling. I couldn’t even force it. I remember choosing my A’ level subjects and staying away from anything that would directly or indirectly lead me along the medicine path. So anyway when the nurse asked me what was wrong with grandma, as I told her, I was near-tearing. Thank God she was actually on her way elsewhere and when she realized I was doing okay with the wheel chair, didn’t stick around long enough to get me wailing. It’d have been such a scene!
To advance from one stage to the next, one had to make certain payments; moving back and forth to the cashier. A really old lady seated next to us at the triage commented that back in the day, in this same hospital, one would only part with any payment after the admission was even done. They’d first ‘check you in’ into the hospital then compute your bill. I don’t know how far back she was talking about, but here we were paying right from the registration desk.
The paper work and the first patient observations took a bit of time but before long, she was wheeled to the ward where she was to be admitted. My late granddad was in this same hospital around May this year, same ward but the male section; so walking in again felt like visiting a familiar place. My tear glands misbehaving all over the place.
See, grandma was so sure about the ‘they work 24hours’ like she had some sort of appointment with them! At no single point did we stay stranded because we didn’t have one of the hospital staff attend to us. It was late, but everyone was working with a smile on, I won’t say enjoying what they do because I don’t see how you can enjoy having to deal with so many sick people, but working like they are glad they are helping, whichever way they could.
At the ward, the doctor in charge suggested an ultrasound gets done immediately so he’d know what he was dealing with and make some urgent decisions. I thought he was bluffing. I was thinking, right now??? He didn’t say the next day, or next week, but immediately and this was a time of the night that’s past my bed time. (Also, I’m not a late sleeper) But what I’m saying is, grandma said ‘they work 24hours’….she didn’t panic, she didn’t rush, because she knew whatever time we got to the hospital, they would be there. In our Uganda, that is not a very common thing. Such faith in a system that leaves us wondering where we went wrong as a country every other day???? And no, we were not in an international hospital….but in a ‘traditional’ one that you’d probably put in the same boat with the ‘traditional’ missionary schools we have.
A request for ultra sound was made and she was scheduled to be taken for one. The doctors in that section of the hospital were actually there and were going to receive her. But first, for the blood tests, blood had to be drawn (of course). There was light in the ward but not so bright for the doctor to see the point on her arm where he needed to draw blood from. He hadn’t come with a nursing assistant so he asked me to hold a torch for him as he did. It took forever finding veins and the whole time I was facing the other way and my eyes were shut. I couldn’t watch all the pricking. At some point I realized the doctor (and grandma) had stopped talking to me and when I looked his way, the torch was in his face. As I shut my eyes the torch light shifted off her hand to his face and I didn’t know…because I wasn’t looking there so here he was looking at me like look at this crazy girl. She told him, ‘you better leave this one, she fears hospitals.’ I resigned from the assignment immediately because I’m simply not cut out to treat people, or help to treat people. When God was distributing that level of bravery, I must have been outside playing hide and seek with other people like myself. At the point of my ‘resignation’ I was so drowsy. That’s how much hospitals and I don’t connect. I was requested to sit aside lest I passed out and created an emergency. My mother then took over the torch duty.
When grandma was wheeled away for the test, I stayed behind and sat on her bed. Well, what was going to be her new bed for the next couple of days. That’s when my what-had-been-a-planned-chilled-out-Sunday took a twist I never would have imagined.
As I sat there, a loud wail came from one of the rooms. And then a couple of minutes later, another from another room. I’ve had traumatizing experiences but at that moment this was probably the worst. I turned and looked towards the direction of the rooms and saw the people crying. The doctors rushed to the rooms each time with their gadgets and then came out and the rest of figured what had happened. The patients had passed on. My mind was blank!
I sat there on the bed staring at everyone in the ward trying to ‘study’ their reactions. The doctors, the other patients, the people of the deceased pacing in and out of their rooms…and then the security guard whose role on top of being the security person was to try and contain the mourners. I was trying to ‘understand’ whose position was hardest at this point.
Another doctor (who btw was so hot…don’t judge me) came to do his round around the ward checking on all the patients and taking notes and it so happened that the first book he had belonged to the bed I was seated on. He came towards me and asked how I was and I told him I wasn’t the patient and that the ‘bed owner’ had been taken for ultra sound. He then told me, ‘oh but you look unwell yourself. You look traumatized!’ Now in my head I was embarrassed that a hot guy had seen me in my shocked state. I must have looked like a zombie! See my priorities. *covers face* Well, at least he helped me snap out of it.
He went on to do his round and I sat there trying to mentally read everyone in the ward. The doctors had now moved on to attend to other patients. See, the world continues. Even when someone passes on, sadly, the world keeps moving.
One of the doctors had finished his shift and was now leaving, he went and changed, took off his doctor clothes and came back in his Cranes jersey! The Uganda cranes had just won Togo 3-0 earlier in the day. The world keeps moving.
The team from the morgue came to take away the bodies and I watched them and tried to ‘understand’ how they possibly remain sound minded having to do this every other day. They got in and left just as fast as they came.
The bereaved then one at a time carried things out, beddings and utensils and all the stuff they needed while looking after their patients. I watched them. With a blank stare.
My parents had gone with my grandmother to the ultrasound so I didn’t have anyone at that time to talk to / with. My phone had also blacked out. So I just watched everybody.
Another patient was brought in. I watched her take her bed. Her care takers got settled. As the other team walked in and out of their former room taking out stuff. The world keeps moving.
My grandmother was brought back and we waited for her results, which by the way were brought the very same night. Not the next day. ‘They work 24hours’
We left the hospital at about midnight leaving her with a caretaker but had stayed there long enough for me to watch an entire shift take over. The other team went home. I wondered how many such days do they get to see in their career? How do they deal?
It really is a calling. One that not all of us have. Just a few. A very special few that we ought to appreciate each and every single day!