Wednesday, March 18, 2009

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother - the health care saga continues

The health care saga continues in Accra… So after his horrible ordeal in the North, our engineer flew down to Accra yesterday morning with multiple breaks in his arm, and was admitted to the 37 Military Hospital, which is close to the airport and was recently renovated with German government donations and expertise.

Our engineer is a professional with money and a company supporting/backing him. (Which is very important in seeking service at a hospital in Ghana). Yet it is not enough. He does not ‘know anyone’ who works at, or has clout with the hospital.

What does this mean? Even though he has money to pay for any treatment he would need – like immediate x-rays and a long overdue plaster cast, they have refused to serve him as of this morning, and he sits on the bed, with his mangled arm hoisted above his head in a ridiculous sling. No medicine, no cast. Meanwhile the bones are healing over, without having been reset and the long term implications will be evident. Imagine he had needed surgery, or that his injuries were more life threatening?

We are making arrangements to take him now to the main and largest government hospital. But I don’t hold out much hope for that. I’ve seen many people die there with my own eyes, all completely preventable. One vivid example comes to mind.

Years ago in the late 90's, during my wild and free days as a volunteer in Accra, when I was the ‘obruni with the blue motto (Vespa)’, a friend and I were mugged one evening and dragged along the road by thugs in a car who wanted my friend’s bag. Only the bag was slung across her body and it was difficult for them to pull it off, while driving alongside us in a car, the passenger’s torso hanging out of the car…

It must have been quite a scene actually – me concentrating quite hard on the handlebar/steering wheel as the car bumped and nudged my little motto from the side, with a huge open gutter on my other side, my friend holding onto my waist for dear life as her bag was being torn from her, until finally they yanked hard enough to pull her to one side, my balance thrown, we skidded into the gutter, the Vespa cracking as it slid out from under us, and the two of us grinding along the gravel as the car tore off ahead.

Once we’d semi-recovered from the shock and picked ourselves up, we hobbled towards a nearby restaurant to assess our wounds and make some calls to get us to the hospital. My hubby came immediately and we headed to the infamous Government hospital. Emergency ward. We were pretty bloody but luckily it was all surface wounds that just needed cleaning out.

On arrival at the place, (I was still a bit new and naïve in Ghana) and I have to admit I was just stunned. It was dark, a few fluorescent tube lights flickering here and there, the rest dead. Dirt and dried blood everywhere – on chairs, benches… thick grime on the windows and corners and dirty, grimy walls. You couldn’t tell what colour they once had been painted. It was night and there were only a few people around, but from the moment we walked in we heard screaming. Loud, high pitched screaming. After a nurse gave us some forms to fill we came around a corner into the hallway.

On a metal guerney there lay a woman in complete and utter agony. Blood was soaked through her wrap cloth and pouring literally down the metal legs of the guerney and had started pooling on the floor. She was the screamer. Being the 'nosey obrunis' that we were, we could not bear to watch her without knowing why no one was helping her, and what had happened etc., so we rounded the corner to ask the nurse. Conversation went about like this:

Us: Please, the woman in the hall, what happened? Why is she screaming? Can you please come and see if anything can be done for her?

Nurse: (Looking up very slowly with a look of extreme annoyance) Don’t mind her! She is shouting too much but doesn’t want to give out the coins in her cloth. We told her! Here, you buy the medicines. You don’t pay, we won’t mind you.

Us: But what is wrong with her? She is bleeding!

Nurse: She is an orange seller. They shot her driving by. In the leg. But she is stubborn! Since they brought her here, only screaming. We tried to collect money from her for the drip, but she only holds tightly her cloth, greedy with the coins. We ask her if she has family. Nothing. We are not paid to fight the people, oh! So we are not minding her. The family will come soon. Now come, here is your list for the pharmacy.

With that she sent us down another hallway to buy gauze and sterilizing solution etc.
After a very rough treatment of scraping all wounds and scrubbing the both of us through a few silent tears of our own, we were sent off.

By the time we came out to the main hallway the screaming had stopped. The lady on the guerney lay silent and lifeless, crumpled bright designed Ghanaian cloth around her, soaked dark with blood, her one leg limply hanging from the side… I just knew she was dead.

I came around the corner to look where the nurses could be, and there they were. Two of them, sitting at an old brown desk, eating something. They gave me the ‘what-do-you-want-now look’.

Me: The lady in the hallway? Who was screaming?

Nurse: The boys are not in yet. They will bring her to the morgue.

With that they turned away, back to their chat and their snack. And we hobbled out, bandaged, clean and devastated.

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another.

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

He's my brother
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow, what a story, no words for such!

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