Thursday, 16 February 2017




Hospitals scare me to death (Okey let's drop that bit about death). I mean, hospitals always give me a near death experience (NDE). Hell! Finding myself inside one can as well make me convulse and foam from the mouth. Hospitals present you with nothing to smile about (unless someone gets well or gives birth). Instead, the place fills you with stress and anxiety.

The last time I found myself within the precincts of a hospital, was when I had gone there to visit an elderly female relative, who happened to be fighting some liver complication and trying hard to stay alive. It made me understand that every organ in the human body is extremely important, regardless of shape, size and our tendency to take them for granted.

It made me rethink my 'I don't care' kind of attitude towards life. There are some things I usually take for granted, like walking, breathing, chewing, thinking and even going to the washrooms to attend to some biological functions. But in there, I found people who were unable to do these things.

I came face to face with lack of freedom and abandonment. There was that poor house-help, who had been dumped at the hospital by her ungrateful employer, who never came back to discharge her. She then became the property  of the hospital, receiving free food and accommodation, but having to spend time amidst so much suffering and pain. She said she had five children, living somewhere near the Kenya - Uganda border. I could have sworn by my KaDuDa phone, that she had never carried any pregnancy. She said she had left the children to stay in foster homes, because she was economically disadvantaged, hence unable to take care of them. She believed that some of them may have crossed over to Uganda and were not even aware of her hospitalization, since they had lost touch.

I was at some point filled with rage, to find a woman and a mother for that matter, who had been dumped at the hospital by her own children. The same children she had brought up and educated to University level and even went ahead to get jobs. She had been there for more than three months, without any of her children coming to visit her. The same ungrateful children she had nursed with her own breasts. I hope I am not being judgemental here. May be I need to hear the children's side of the story.


And then there were sick people. I mean, really sick people. If you can walk, chew, swallow and sleep and you still think you are sick then you need serious counseling. I know toothache ain't sweet, but if you always bring the whole world to a standstill, with your complaints, made up of 'Oh's' and 'Ah's', just because the aching tooth has 'woken up' then, you need a short, guided tour of a hospital.

I saw a woman, who was supposed to be discharged, but unfortunately she was also supposed to go home with an oxygen cylinder, just in case she experienced bouts of breathlessness, while away. She had a heart problem. In other words, the hospital ward was being transferred from the hospital to her home. I kept thinking of what might happen, if she ran out of oxygen while at home and breathlessness struck.

Inside there, I met people with horrible skin disease and some confined to wheel chairs, but at least, they could afford the luxury of basking in the sun. Do not even mention the elderly woman who badly wanted a cigarette and kept asking everyone, the direction to the canteen, but her daughter could not allow it, because according to the doctor, the cigarettes she had been smoking had already done 'Ugly' things to her lungs. I saw a man, who must have been in a coma, because his breathing was assisted. But the huge size of the tumour on his neck made my insides cold with horror. "Dear God, what have we ever done to deserve this?" I found myself thinking aloud.

The hospital wards smelled of horror, desperation and hopelessness. The doctors worked very hard, round the clock, trying to attend to as many patients as possible, but they were outnumbered by several patients to one. This was why to we the relatives of the patients, the doctors seemed to work in slow motion. They seemed not to have the sense of urgency we expected them to have, but can we blame them? They see suffering and death everyday, so they have developed immunity to such issues. 

I saw the patient I had come to visit. She was in deep slumber, thanks to the heavy effects of the drugs. But a little inspection, fueled by curiosity, revealed the yellow eyes. A colour devoid of life. She was not alone. There were other patients with similar symptoms. I concluded that if death had eyes, then the colour of those eyes must be yellow. But positive thinking was the norm here. We could not afford to think negatively. Everyone who came to see a patient, promised them that all will be well. Even those who knew that the patients might not see another day.

Doctors and Nurses went about their business unperturbed. How those doctors and nurses managed to stay calm in such circumstances is still mind boggling. But then, I suppose they had to be calm, to reassure the patients that all will be well. Looking at the eyes of those doctors, they were cold and lacked warmth. A characteristic of a person who has seen too much suffering.

And then there was death, the invisible and unwelcome visitor. It pitched tent in that ward and sat with heavy arrogance. Once in a while, you would hear a bitter wail from a distance and you knew that a sister or a brother had fallen. The wail was that of relatives mourning their fallen hero or heroine. But death was insatiable. It kept moving from one bed to another, as we watched helplessly.

I also noted that doctors rarely tell you the truth. They give you hope even where there is no hope. They will not tell you your patient has less than a week to live. They just update you on the progress of the disease. They will tell you which organ has failed and which one is almost failing. At some point they mentioned something about some strange liquid, gradually messing up with the patient's heart. There and then, I knew the time had come.

Meanwhile death, the master of cruelty and sadism was on the rampage, leaving a trail of tears and heart breaks. It kept on harvesting souls from adjacent beds and wards and kept coming back for more. We held on to hope and prayer. If ever there was a place where prayer is taken seriously, it had to be in a hospital. I mean, it is only in hospital, where people will pray for a patient in one ward and the people in the nearby wards will close their eyes in total supplication to the supreme being above, to intervene in their situation.

Then the doctors started discussing in low tones about us. They were debating on whether it was time to give us the prognosis or not. That word was frightening. I whipped out my phone and googled the word prognosis. Google responded promptly and said something about a report on the possible outcome of a disease.

Then the breathing difficulties began (the patient's not mine). The doctor brought the oxygen mask to give us more hope. We waited for the prognosis, it never came, but I think the answer to the outcome of the disease was obvious, even to the most lethargic mind.

The hope was great, the prayers intense. The patient fought on, but then, everything that has a beginning must have an end. Death finally looked in our direction and in a blink of an eye, it had snuffed life out of the patient. There was no struggle. I guess the patient had lost the will to fight any further. All that remained was for that guy from the morgue to come with his trolley. He was on the night shift, his eyes were cold, his forced smile was devoid of life and warmth. That guy had seen too much of death, to the extent that he might have given up on this unpredictable life. 

Of course, the doctor went ahead to give the cause of death a mind twisting name. I still do not understand what 'Cardio-respiratory arrest due to hepatic encephalopathy due to ascites' means, even with all those, many years of education. It gives me the idea that my mom might have wasted a lot of money to educate a cow.

I finally got out of that hospital with an experience. An experience which taught me that there are some things we are blessed with, but which we take for granted. We sulk, complain and covet all the time. We have no time to slow down and live, because we are always busy chasing dreams.



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