Monday, 15 March 2010

Hot and Bothered

At the end of last week I developed a rather unpleasant sore throat.

On Saturday night I woke up freezing and finally braved the icy cold room to find paracetamol and an extra quilt.

On Sunday the climate swung repeatedly from arctic to sweltering

On Sunday night there was again little sleep.

And so today I decided that I really ought to head down to the best medical centre in town, get tested for malaria and see a doctor.

I imagine that there was is some sort of system that prevails there but I have now spent 2 hours in the place and have yet to figure it out.

Firstly I am ably directed to the right window to check in - so far so good. I wait, politely, in true British style, about a metre away from the window while I wait for the person in front, who is in deep conversation with the receptionist. I wait for about 10 minutes. Finally I get fed up of the many people who in that time have elbowed past me and checked themselves in, so I edge forward to the window and stare meaningfully at another staff member who is lurking about, seemingly unoccupied.

So, a few details given (year of birth but not a specific date, general neighbourhood but no specific address) and I am issued with a small square of card with my patient details on it and a green cardboard folder, on which is stated in bold black writing that this folder should remain with the medical staff at all times and never be entrusted to the patients care. 

What do I do know? I ask. Go to the cashier and pay. Fine. I sidle along to the cashier window, which is split into two sides: one for those paying cash and the other for those with medical insurance or paying on credit. There is only one person behind the window. Dilemma? Do I join the queue which is at the insurance side or go directly to the window at the empty cash side, which is what I will be paying with. A certain amount of dithering and I eventually pay and now have another small white square -  my receipt -  to add to my collection.

So, wander back to the main seating area...hmm, do I just take a seat or is there something else required? Not wanting to wait for hours in case of the latter, I head sheepishly back to the reception window again. Ummmm, what do I do now? Give back the confidential green folder it seems, and then wait. I end up in a seat next to the television, on which an American is busy debating which country will be holding the 2018 winter olympics. Sitting here clammy with sweat and surrounded by a sea of black faces, this seems truly bizarre and I listen fixated for 10 minutes or so until my name is called. Wow, so quick.... or so I naively thought.

So, ushered through the swinging doors by a white coated somebody, who starts to take me to a small open cubicle on the side of a corridor, but then bids me wait in the corridor as there is someone already residing there. Another 5 minutes wait and it is my turn to sit in the small white broom cupboard where I am weighed and my blood pressure taken. Neither of these seem to present any problems so I am then ushered further along to some seats outside consulting room 5. Another 5 minutes or so and I get called in to see the doctor. I couldn't tell you his name even if I wanted to as he didn't introduce himself and his name tag was too difficult to glimpse. Rather surprisingly, on hearing of my symptoms, he decided to listen to my chest but not take my temperature. No chest promblem it seems, which didn't surprise me. So, what next? Find a nurse to take you to the laboratory for tests. And where do I find a nurse? Oh, just wandering the the corridor.....

Fine, but so far I haven't identified a clear uniform structure. Some people appear to be wearing some sort of uniforms - variations on the themes of green scrubs (green suits?) and white coats but I haven't spotted two the same yet and some of the ones I have spotted turn out to be patients with a taste for green suits... so I decide to wander about till I find the Laboratory myself.

Here I am very quickly deprived of a large blob of blood and am sent to the toilets to provide a urine specimen, and then told to wait...

So I wait, and while I wait I wonder why I feel more like I'm in an alien, uncomprehensible and slightly threatening environment here than any situation I have yet been in. Is it the fever making me paranoid? For the first time I feel that growing sense of  "I want to go home" where home represents the nice, predictable, dependable, rational UK (except that if you speak to my sister-in-law who has experience many a frustrating time in British hospitals, that is probably only a fond illusion)

Finally, about 45 minutes later when I'm just plucking up courage to ask if I'm supposed to be somewhere else or when I get some results back, I am called and told to go and see the doctor.

Which doctor? The doctor. Umm, which room do I go to. Number 8.

Okay, I find room mumber 8. There are no seats for waiting here, should I go straight in? I knock hesitantly. The door opens and a rather stern faces looks out - I have a patient in here! Ooops, sorry. Humbled I retreat to the nearest set of seats further along the corridor and wait to be called. Only while I wait I notice that a little crowd has formed outside the door of number 8 and that whenever the door opens, the person who barges in first gets seen to. After analysing this phenomenon for 10 minutes or so I decide to join the crowd, feeling rather wobbly propped against the wall, until I feel that I have precedence over the rest of the crowd and barge my own way in. This does not seem to be a problem. But the doctor does not have my medical record card, so I am sent out again with a nurse to try to locate it. It is found and I return to the crowd but don't have to wait long before the doctor spots me and my card and ushers me in again. But, you need to go back to the doctor you saw at first! Oh.... so not room number 8 at all then...

So, I head off round the corner to room number 5 and join the group of waiting people... 10 minutes later, after watching the same rule of "the pushiest get in first" but lacking the enthusiasm to join in this time,  I am spotted by the doctor and called in... to receive a ticking off. But you are supposed to wait 30 minutes after your tests and then come straight back here. You've been more than an hour!!

I find myself apologising and but my explanations of not having actually been told this seem to fall on deaf ears. But, at least now, the final verdict. No malaria found. Great! No other nasties found. Fantastic! So, I await some pearl of diagnostic wisdom while he looks at this foolish troublesome white person.

The Weather.

Apparently the weather has got to me and I should drink plenty of fluids.

The Weather????

I have lived here for over 5 months. I have not had sunburn, sunstroke, dehydration...I spent most of the 12 hours before the fever came on sitting lazily on our shady verandah, enjoying a variety of drinks an chatting with our lunch guests.

I can cope fine with being told that i's probably a virus and to let it run it's course and report back if it's still not better in 3-5 days, but to be told that it is the weather, after being sent hither and thither round the hospital for 2 hours without even a temperature being taken.

I didn't have the energy to argue the point, and headed out dispiritedly to the carpark, intercepting a call from Mr B on the way "Are you okay??" I'm not sure why, but I was very almost in tears as I climbed into the car, which is only the second time since we arrived here (and the first time probably merited it rather more) and only settled down again after getting home, making a nice cup of coffee and having a good rant about it all to a very sympathetic Mr B.

I think and hope I am on the mend. The fever abated this afternoon but feels like it is creeping back again now, as these things have a tendency to do in the evenings. Lets hope it's cooler weather tomorrow  eh?


  1. Hope you are resting now and feel better soon.

  2. Oh you poor thing. No fun at all. And definitely worse than our experiences - at least here we just do the British thing and queue patiently until the magic moment when our names are whispered into the crowded room. Quite glad you don't have malaria though. And hope your own micro climate sorts itself out soon.


  3. Praying a rapid return to better helath. As Tia says we may wait hours in british hopsitals and not always get sensible answers but at least we know there is a system!
    Love to you all

  4. Hope you are feeling better now -- get well soon!