MEC has no bedside manners

I admit I was not a model patient but my hospital stay was memorable. For more than two months, I was stuck in bed.

There’s little I remember during the two weeks I spent in ICU because I was sedated most of the time. Even then I still managed to raise havoc.

When the nurse came to remove the intubator, I simply refused to cooperate. She had warned I must not bite the tube that was helping me to breathe and that it would be painful when she yanked it from my trachea. Big mistake because I’m one hell of a coward. No sooner had her hand hovered near my mouth than I threatened to bite the damn tube, even if it killed me.

I became the butt of jokes the next day when other nurses heard about the drama I caused the previous night.

Things really started happening when I was moved to high care. I hated bath time because I was still bedridden and could only be bathed in bed. A bed bath requires two nurses to strip you naked and flip you like a burger as they wash your limbs. Anyone who’s been to hospital would know there is no shame to being butt naked, hence those gowns that open at the back to expose my ashen buttocks.

I also hated the lady who came in the wee hours to take my blood samples. She carried a bag of scary instruments and had the temerity to wake me up to draw blood every morning at five.

I was pleased one morning when she could not get any blood from my veins, but she was not deterred as she told me there were other veins below regular ones, but it would be painful to plunge there and she was right. I hated having to cry in front of beautiful nurses, but they did not seem to mind.

Then one day, I overturned the cupboard next to my bed and spilled the biscuits my mother had brought me. I told the cleaning lady to put them back in their container. She would hear none of it as hospitals have a policy to discard anything that touches the floor. I tried to explain that when I was younger, a sweet that fell on the ground would still find its way to my mouth but it didn’t work.

Generally, the nurses treated me like royalty at that private hospital.

A hospital is the last place you want to be excoriated, as Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba did to a Zimbabwean patient this week. While the MEC made valid points regarding her department’s burden to treat undocumented foreigners, she violated her oath as a medical doctor to treat patients with dignity. Her rant about the Zimbabwean government’s lackadaisical treatment of citizens belongs to a political forum, not a hospital ward.


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