Last Sunday started off like so many other Sundays…cooking, Sunday lunch with the family, followed by a movie or a few episodes of a series.
Although I woke up with pain in my stomach, it didn’t bother me that much…I knew it was close to that time of the month. We had lunch with the family and with all the laughs and giggles, I forgot about the pain. Perrino and I got home and laid down for our usual afternoon snuggle when the pain suddenly got worse. The pain had also moved from being more central to the right side. My bladder felt like it was about to explode but every time I made my way to the bathroom…it was one or two drops and nothing more. This carried on for about 40 minutes. The pain got even worse and nausea kicked in. I could feel my temperature rising.
The only time that I remember being in a state hospital was visiting my grandmother before she passed and everyone warned me ‘Just like everything else in this country, the state of these hospitals have declined tremendously.’ I tried to convince myself that I was imagining the pain, ‘It wasn’t that bad’ , but it just kept getting worse.
At about 4:15 I decided that I just couldn’t take the risk…what if it was my appendix?…what if it burst?
So we rushed to Steve Biko Academic Hospital…
WOW…I am speechless. I have never felt like nothing but a number in my life…until now. You get there and you have to report to the front desk. They give you a sticker and have to wait in a queue. The pain was so much that I couldn’t walk and needed a wheelchair. Perrino had to keep pushing me to the bathroom as the nausea had kicked into full gear, and then having to return to the queue. Eventually one of the staff members told my husband that if I wanted to be attended to I need to sit in the queue. The more he tried to explain but she’s throwing up the more she persisted that if I wasn’t in the waiting area I wouldn’t be helped.
Luckily for me as we re-entered to the waiting room, after leaving what felt like an entire week’s meals in the bathroom, they called our number. I never felt more invisible in my life. The doctor and nurse were chatting and laughing and only spoke to me when they needed my personal information. No greeting, no how are you feeling, no compassion whatsoever. Even when I threw up in the sink in the doctors office…they carried on talking like nothing was happening. They completed their forms. Gave me a drip, something for the nausea and a red sticker which meant I had to go to the emergency room.
Perrino took me to the emergency and returned to the front, to open a file for me.
After throwing up on myself because I had no-one to help me to get to the bathroom and the nurses couldn’t care less, the pain got worse and it felt like the sitting position wasn’t helping. So I gathered the strength to ask one of the nurses if I could lie down for a while. ‘Don’t ask me, I’m off duty’ she answered and who, by the way, was not off duty after all. Another said: ‘We only have one bed and what if someone else needs it?’. So I made my way to the corner where I could kind of get myself into a half lying-half sitting position. When they saw this, they scolded me because they could get into trouble if someone saw me laying on the floor. ‘You can lay on the bed but you will have to move when I say so.’
I laid on the bed for about 5 minutes and decided that I couldn’t take this kind of treatment any more. I was either going to go home or we would have to go to Unitas and worry about the bill later. As I ‘crawled’ to the entrance where Perrino was completing form after form after form…I realised that going home wasn’t an option and we didn’t know what was wrong and therefore couldn’t really take the chance of going to Unitas and end up owing them hundreds of thousands of rands. So I was stuck.
Twenty minutes after I got there, the file was eventually opened and Perrino went with me to the emergency ward. The meds finally started working, the nausea was working it’s way out and the pain decreasing…and Perrino was by my side. It was all going to be okay…
Just as I was getting comfortable and making peace with the situation they chucked everyone who wasn’t a patient out of the emergency waiting room. My security blanket (Perrino) was gone. I know it was mind over matter but the pain suddenly got worse.
As I sat down from one of my ‘bathroom breaks’, because the nausea hadn’t completed disappeared, one of the ladies that brought her son in had seen the state that I was in when I got to the hospital and told me I was looking better and my colour returning. The other patients were more friendly and concerned than the nurses.
It was horrible to see how people were being treated. One of the kids had been brought in because he was struggling to breath, I assume due to phlegm and mucus. After giving him something, his mother started soothing him while he was on his her back. His airways started opening and his nose started running and though the nurses saw…no-one offered to help or even inform the mother. I eventually got up gave a helping hand.
If the nurses need the attention of one of the patients, they wouldn’t touch you (like tap your shoulder or anything) they would sit in their chair and shout ‘hello’ repeatedly, until the right person looked up. Sometimes when you’d ask them a question they would just completely ignore you.
Perrino came to check on me every half an hour or so. He would sit with me for 5 minutes and then get up before they chucked him out again.
Eventually they gave me a Buscopan injection and pain started to subside.
I got to see the doctor at about 1 am. The doctor was nice and friendly and explained everything in detail.
I cannot say that the nurses were incompetent, as the few words they spoke to me…you could see that they knew exactly what they were talking about. If I could say one thing to them it would be ‘Kindness doesn’t mean weakness.’ Just because you treat me as a person and not a number, doesn’t mean that I am going to try and take advantage of you. Just because you show our concerned loved ones some compassion doesn’t mean they’re going to try and get special treatment.
Sitting in pain for 8 hours is no joke, especially when you don’t know the cause.
Thank God that I am okay and that I had Perrino by my side throughout this ordeal. The majority of the time that I sat there I prayed that I wouldn’t have to be admitted into hospital. With God’s grace…I was discharged. Some antibiotics and painkillers, and I was on my way…