Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hospital Visit

Last Thursday Peter's breathing had gotten much worse so I decided to take him up to see a doctor at the hospital in a nearby city. It is a very small hospital but closer than the large one 3 hours away. Tom was heading there for some business so I quickly threw some things in a bag in case the doctor wanted to keep us overnight and hopped in the car.

Thankfully there was a doctor at the hospital (not always the case) and he saw Peter right away. He gave a quick exam and decided that Peter must have been born to an H
IV positive mother and that is why he has so many health issues. He also said he most likely had pneumonia and ordered a chest X-ray as well as a few blood tests. He said it would be best if we were admitted since the baby needed IV antibiotics and 'observation'.

Because hospitals here are pretty dire I opted to pay for a 'high cost' room. This cost less than $20 but gave us a private room (rather than being in a ward where who knew what germs would be floating around) with a sink and a bathroom nearby.
We 'checked' in and proceeded to wait and wait.

Finally around 2 PM the doctor made his rounds and prescribed 2 IV antibiotics as well as an oral antibiotic and some other medicine to help him breathe better. I asked if they had any oxygen that he could be hooked up to but he said no. The nurses were introduced to me with the qualification that they were the only two nurses on duty for the entire hospital (!) and so to just go hunting for them if there were any problems.

Tom brought me some take away nshima (local maize staple) and chicken with some veggie and sauce on the side. It was quite delicious but as usual I couldn't finish it. Nshima is very filling! He also left behind some bottles of drinking water before heading back to the orphanage.

I was so glad I'd packed several books in the bag because it was quiet and frankly boring sitting in the room. I held Peter and fed him every two hours through his NG tube (first offering the bottle by mouth) and not much else happened.

Around 6 PM two dear friends stopped by to visit and offered to take me to eat some dinner or to bring some. I looked around the room and realized, "hey, this isn't prison. I can leave if I want to." After checking with the nurse for the time of the next injection (10 PM)
I bundled up Peter, grabbed all my stuff and headed out. I had still kept the room so we would have a place to be when the doctor did his rounds.

For the next two days I spent most of my time at our friends' house which was nice. I had access to running water (the hospital didn't have any), could eat regular meals an
d wash Peter's bottles. We only went back to the hospital for the scheduled injections. In other places this might seem crazy--we were supposed to be admitted but in reality we were only a couple minutes away and at the hospital there was no equipment in case Peter got into distress, no monitors to help keep an eye on him.
At night there were only two nurses on duty (for all wards) and they spent most of their time watching TV in the nursing station. At one of the 4 AM medicine times I actually had to wake up the nurses--the door to the nursing station was locked but through the crack I could see them getting up and dressed.
I felt really bad for all the other patients who had
no advocates, no watches to keep track of their own medication times, and no voice. Power and authority is a big deal here. Those without education are awed by those who do. This is not to say that the nurses are purposefully negligent (necessarily), they are seriously underpaid (less than $200 a month) and have to function with very little. I hate to say it, but it makes you stop and think when you see the effects of socialized medicine up close and personal.

Peter did start to do better after switching to these injections. His congestion was still really bad and needed a few steam treatments (good thing I was at our frie
nds' house with plenty of hot water) but he began eating from his bottle. I was so excited!

After two days of staying with friends and driving back and forth to the hospital I convinced the doctor to 'release' us. We arranged to continue treatment at our local clinic. This meant that we had to go to the clinic four times a day for injections but at least we would be at home and I could get some work done.

Here is our 'high cost' room. To put it in perspective--the price I paid was equivalent to 8 days of minimum wage work here.

All this can sure make you thankful for our imperfect health care system.

Until next time, may God bless and keep you on your own personal adventures.



1 comment:

  1. Awww, he looks sad in the first picture, but I know that he's feeling better now and is much happier.

    Great story. You did a great job of representing the health care they have in Zambia.


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