Today my Hertz rental Kia Sportage was an ambulance and I was the driver. We had 3 of our girls who were experiencing severe pains and needed to be taken to the hospital. I knew this was going to be a full day endeavor, so instead of subjecting our volunteers to it, I had my friend Sthembiso take them hiking, to eat traditional Swazi food, and to watch the professional dance team. I, on the other hand, had a much different sort of day.
I walked to the reception desk of the Mbabane Government Hospital with my three girls and paid $3 USD to see the doctor. Total. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. Turns out we were lost and waiting in the wrong line! Then a boy in his 20s waiting to be discharged from being treated for food poisoning asked if he could help, and become our hospital tour guide spending the next 8 hours guiding us around this monstrosity of a complex with absolutely no signage. I woke up and prayed this morning asking for help as I knew I would struggle today and I truly believe he was sent to be the help I so desperately needed!
His name was Njabulo, meaning Happy, and he knew every part of the hospital, how to navigate through the endless sea of patients, and which of the hundreds of lines to stand in. He said he would be discharged today and couldn’t wait to leave as he’d been there since Monday and all 4 patients around him in his ward had died. Then I went with Zinhle to the ear, nose and throat line while Pholile and Lihle went to the pediatric line. Zinhle and I waited 3 hours to see the doctor. The doctor finally told her that she has been experiencing chronic ear infections and her subsequent hearing loss will be permanent. She must treat this infection and any future infections immediately to avoid absolute deafness. She will need to return 4 more times without me for follow up visits. I fear that this will be challenging as the money I gave her today to do so will likely be spent on food or other necessities in the meantime.
Then we went to the Pharmacy line and waited another 2 hours. We had an entire list of meds that were supposed to be given to us for free, only to find out that 3 of the 5 were not available. People behind us and in front of us in line were told the same thing. Luckily for Zinhle, I will drive her to a private pharmacy after this and purchase the prescriptions she needs (it turned out to be $78 USD). Unfortunately for the others at the hospital – they will likely go home with only a fraction of the medications they need to survive and thrive.
Then I rush back to the Pediatric ward to find the other girls. I cannot find them in the vast sea of people. I am frantic. Where are they? A doctor saw me searching and asked me for a description of them. I told her. She said, “Oh I know! Is this not her?” and opened the door to a mother holding her dying emaciated baby connected to 3 different tubes. No, thank God, that sweet little baby is not Lihle. Then I saw an elderly lady crawling. I told my guide friend who has been helping me to grab a wheel chair. He found one in a storage closet that didn’t have any rubber on the rusted metal wheels. But we somehow managed to pick up the lady and wheel her to the proper line. Her line was so far away that I am quite certain she would still be crawling there next week if he had not helped. But we still haven’t found Lihle and Pholile!
Finally we find them in the “casualty ward” – a seemingly proper name for their operating theaters. As we were waiting another 2 hours for Lihle’s surgery to drain the infection on her forehead, we saw crying nurses bring a stretcher out of the operating room completely covered in a blanket and wheeled off to the mortuary. Now Pholile is worried about her 2 year old daughter. I tried to assure her that Lihle only needs a small incision and she will be fine, but I’m sure much of that was lost in translation. It’s been a long day. They keep wheeling people out of the operating room on stretchers and leaving them unclothed in the hallway for someone to claim them. Luckily Lihle was next and had all three of us waiting for her…ready to take her home.
What would have happened if I hadn’t taken Zinhle to the hospital? How difficult a life of deafness would be here in Swaziland! As if life weren’t difficult enough… What if Lihle’s infection kept growing and spread throughout her body? How many other precious orphans are experiencing these same issues – or worse – and do not have anyone to help them? I’m exhausted… and physically and emotionally drained. We leave tomorrow morning for America but I always feel like I am leaving a giant piece of my heart behind…
If you’d like to help our orphans – please consider making a donation online: www.ifightpoverty.org/donate.html We could really use your help!
Siyabonga kakhulu… Thank you very much, annie