Monday, June 15, 2009

Nimeumwa Na Tembo (I am ill in the elephant)

Not to be confused with "Nimeumwa na tumbo," which means that I am ill in the stomach. Which is what I was, very noisily, all last night.

It's been an exciting day, as you can probably guess by now.

It started about 2am with going to the toilet in the dark (I left my torch at Oswin's place by mistake yesterday), and continued in much the same unpleasant vein.

When I waited forever for the bus to the hospital this morning I was expecting to be told that I had Giardia or some other delightful intestinal ameoba.

I eventually got into town at about 10am, and fortunately some other fellow was going to the hospital, so was able to direct me vaguely towards the right part of Songea Hospital, which I quickly discovered is a cathedral to unnecessarily complicated bureaucracy, in much the same way that Songea Town is a cathedral to unnecessarily large speed bumps.

First I had to register with the receptionist, who took my first name (as Philipo, naturally) and then passed over the form for me to write my surname when she struggled to work out what I was saying. I would be the only time today that my name has been spelt (almost) correctly. When she pointed to the Date of Birth section, I started, "Tarehe la 17," and she wrote down 17 and left it at that.

She then sent me towards room 10, where some kind old mama adopted me and told me to put my medical card in a worn out cardboard box sat outside the room. After some time of waiting, the kind old mama pointed me out to a young doctor and he ushered me into room 11, which confused me as it had WANAWAKE (women) printed above the door.

I soon found myself sat in front of a panel of three doctors, with two other patients, while we all told the doctor in front of us what the problem was. My doctor had to go and look for something, and the young doctor took the opportunity to steal me as a patient, before filling in another form (Phillipo Hachard, aged 27) and walking me to the testing centre.

I was to have a blood test for malaria and stool and urine samples (which involved a plastic cup for the urine and a matchbox for the stool - I challenge anyone to perform better than me in providing both in the same sitting or, er, crouching).

The doctor walked me off to the shop to buy matches (which we need anyway) and then to the toilet, blatantly giving me special treatment (which I didn't really mind). Then I produced the samples, and the lady in the testing centre sat them on a little piece of card with my name written on it (Hachali, before I corrected her and she changed it to Hachati).

Then I waited for ages on a bench, while the doctor hung around giving other test results out, until mine turned up, and he told me I had malaria.

Yes, the one time I come to Africa and actually remember to take my anti-malarials every day, and I get the biggest killer on the continent (ahead of roads).

So he sat me down back in reception to write me a prescription, after having a quiet word with me about not following him in because people might think I'd slipped him a little extra. (Phillipo Hachad, aged 17.)

I then put the prescription in another little cardboard box outside the pharmacy door, and hoped the medicine would somehow find its way back to me. The medicine was prepared, and then I was given my prescription back, so I could take it to the other end of the corridor to pay for it, before I could then return to the pharmacy to pick up my medicine, using the receipt I was given in the payment area (Phiillpo Hachad).

All in all the whole process took just shy of 4 hours. Fun day.

Of course, other more cheerful things have been happening since the last time I posted a missive. But this is pretty much at the forefront of my mind.

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