Malawian Rice Vendor

Monday, 22 August 2011

Hospital Visit

Unfortunately, we made an impromptu visit to the Nkhata Bay Central Hospital yesterday. The good news is that neither of us was in need of patient care. Poor Alice, though had come down with some type of illness which she thought could be malaria. The same day a number of us including Jeff came down with something that seemed to be food poisoning symptoms. Alice too had complained of general malaise, nausea, achy bones just like the others. Both Jeff and Erika were a little panicked at the time because of the fear of malaria crept into their heads. For Alice after about 3 days of not feeling well and having gone to see the private doctor who administered a rapid malaria test which proved negative at the time, she came home. It is our understanding that the rapid test though effective can show many false negatives before showing a correct positive. Alice finally relented and went by taxi to the hospital. All of us thought she was being silly not going straight away. She was admitted immediately and ended up spending a couple of nights. On day 2, we decided to go visit her. Jeff was starting to feel a bit better from his prolonged ailment so we made the walk over. The hospital is about a half hour walk from Butterfly space and visiting hours are early in the morning which we missed, or noontime. We decided to go at noon and made it over in the searing heat of the day. Upon approach, the first thing we noticed as we got closer to the hospital was many women outside sitting in large groups. Upon closer inspection many of the groups had small fires lit with pots of nshima cooking. Many others sat trying to catch what little shade was available to them for a quick nap. We found the entrance and came into the decrepit building, immediately our nasal passages were assaulted at the stench of vomitous. The dark, dank walls had not been thoroughly cleaned since the buildings inception. We walked down the dimly lit hallways passing several women who sat perched against the scruffy walls. Many sullen and downtrodden. There did not seem to be any hospital staff in sight. We passed several wards along the maze of dirty corridors before we stumbled upon the room that held Alice. The large, sombre room with worn out paint and solitary incandescent light bulb filled the room. The beds which numbered over 20 were sectioned off by 3 foot high cement walls with 6 beds to a section. Upon quick observation we noticed that about two thirds of the beds were filled with the acrid air overwhelmed our senses as sounds of people weeping filled our ears. Looking around there was not a single nurse or orderly to be found. Family members crowded around the various patients trying to talk in subdued tones. The hospitals in Malawi are a little bit different than home. Here they supply a bed. That´s it. Linens, blankets, food, drink, toilet paper water is all brought in from family and friends. The mosquito nets that hung above like cobwebs in the dusty house were filled with many holes. The patient next to Alice who was having a tube inserted into her mouth when we entered, her mouth being pried open with a spoon by her family member. The sound of her retching and choking mixed with the putrid smell was enough to turn our stomachs. Alice did not look good. Her white skin looked gray in contrast to her golden locks. Her arm was hooked up to an IV which was filled with quinine, the medication that treats malaria. We could only stay a few minutes because there were other people in the small space and we didn´t want to disturb. She ended up leaving the following day even though she was due to receive the third dose of medicine. This was because she would have had to stay an additional two nights because there is nobody around on Sundays to discharge patients. We just hope that we do not need the services of the local hospital.

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