By Mona Babajee
On the Sunday before Xmas 2012, I had severe pain in the left side of my abdomen, which has been going on since a year and all along I’ve been stuffing my face with fennel seeds. As the pain became unbearable, I informed my sons and their answer was to book myself in a clinic. You kidding, I said, why do we have hospitals for and is that brand new building a showcase, you think.
So I asked my good friend and neighbour to accompany me to Dr Jeetoo Hospital as the slippery tiles leading to casualty and other departments on the ground floor scare the living day lights out of me. Because of my wobbly legs I never venture there unaccompanied and I don’t know if there has been any incident so far. And neither do we know whose clever idea it was to put such flooring in a hospital of all places. It looks nice alright but it won’t be that nice if you are going to slip and end up with a fractured femur, especially the elderly.
Anyway wherever I went, be it for X-rays or the loo, I held onto my friend’s arm as if my life depended on it. One look at my x-rays, the medical officer said ‘I think you may have an infection and will need antibiotics. ‘Don’t give me just any antibiotics as I am resistant to quite a few,’ I said. ‘Look at my foot, a few years ago, my son had to ask for my discharge, took me to a clinic where I spent a lot of money. Then I had to buy several injections of Meropenem at Rs 2,000 each and all the paraphernalia to set the infusions up, then pay a nurse to come at home plus buy more antibiotics tablets. Also do you know how many letters I’ve sent to a newspaper; it’s a disgrace for the doctor and the hospital I ended.’
After listening to my ranting, Dr Laval (I had to ask for this name) said, “Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of you this time.’ That set me laughing so much that my inside hurt even more. Finally, I was admitted to Ward 1.4 and my friend left and went home not before promising that she will visit on Tuesday. Early Xmas morning, another neighbour visited and said your friend is in the ward just behind you. But what is she doing there? Apparently on Monday, her better half fancied some chutney, so she climbed on an old rickety iron table, as is her wont, to pick some mangoes… She fell on her left side, injured her kneecap and sustained a hairline fracture of the tibia. I think, she’s had her operation and is now at home with a huge plaster of Paris on that leg. She’s got a Zimmer frame to help her walk and it’s not at all easy. She can’t even stand let alone walk. It’s she who will hold onto me. Looks as if we went to hospital to invite trouble.
So I spent Xmas there, of course there was no roast turkey and Christmas pudding but we had chicken briyani and the pud that was at home, I had it for New Year. I have no complaints, the ward is nice and clean, the bed comfortable and devoid of squatters, meaning bed bugs unlike in the old wards. And the food was quite good health-wise and the nurses were fine. I don’t usually eat egg plant, pumpkin, cabbage, voëme, gourd and even less the bitter variety (margoze) but I found myself eating whatever was offered, well with a pinch of salt added for good measure certainly. Sister Mohengooa would usually come to your bed with the food trolley, take your plate and fill it up. This is commendable, I thought. ‘You carry out your duties well and you show a lot of patience,’ I told her.
One thing is making me go bananas though. Why is a diabetic not allowed a small banana for breakfast? It has potassium, vitamins, is easily digested, encourages peristalsis in the bowels, good against stomach ulcers and is cheap. Is its sugar content much more than that of an orange or apple which is given for dessert everyday? And will a thin slice of cheese make the blood pressure of a hypertensive go sky high? Please give patients that banana and cheese and let them enjoy their breakfast. They are not asking for baked beans, fried eggs and sausages. At 5.30 am the tea is usually hot and nice but at 9 am, due to workload I suppose, it’s lukewarm and at 2.30 pm also.
I was given a lot of pain relief without having to ask for it. Two young doctors came to see me on Monday and I didn’t know who they were and on Boxing Day the 26th, they came again. One discharged me after offering some advice and prescribed more analgesics. ‘What’s your name,’ I asked. ‘Kho…,’ he replied. ‘Are you a registrar?’ I asked again when he was leaving, knowing too well no doctor was going to introduce himself to a patient. Expecting that, is like asking not just for the moon but the stars also. It’s their loss not mine. Being stupid as always, I was expecting someone with grey hair.
A patient has a right to know who is probing her from left, right and centre, be it in an Accident and Emergency Department and anywhere in a hospital for that matter. It’s plain and simple bedside manners. This is 2013, not the dark ages. I still have pain but it’s something I will have to live with. Just one of those things.
However, thank heavens for this new generation of doctors, who I hope will lend a better ear to patients’ sufferings and not dismiss them as if they were mosquitoes.
* Published in print edition on 12 January 2013