…or, the story of how we became patients at the hospital we were visiting
You plan for things to go wrong on these trips. Well, you don’t exactly plan for it, but there will always be a curveball so when it comes you deal with it in whatever way you need to and then get on with the job.
In the past we’ve arrived in communities to find almost the entire village is at a funeral and turned up for appointments with council chiefs to find they’re on “urgent business” 200km away (despite us confirming an hour earlier!). Rain comes, vehicles breakdown, flights are delayed. And then shit happens.
Anyone who has worked or backpacked in these types of environments will have succumbed to this most common of traveller’s ailment. It started with me. Anna came next. It ended with Ben. We applied the usual Imodium/rehydration salt tactics, carried on as planned and assumed it would pass.
But it turned out that this was an attack with bells on, especially for Ben. So yesterday the Merlin team marched him off to the hospital lab for tests. It was all very convenient really – we were due to be at the hospital anyway!
Ben went one way and Anna and I headed to the maternity clinic. As we went she gave me a sideways look and said “I really hope he’s taking one for the team”. I suspected it wouldn’t be that straightforward. Fast forward four hours, clinic is over, the Merlin midwife is off duty and we are sat under a tree waiting for a doctor’s referral so we can pick up our little pots!
We sat under that tree for two hours. I gained a new perspective on healthcare in developing countries, albeit on a teeny tiny level. Eventually we got our pots, got our results and got our antibiotics. So what’s the problem? Let’s just say food contamination. I did google the medical term; suffice to say some things are best left ungoogled!
Somehow the experience of being story gatherers and patients in the same hospital blended seamlessly. There was some confusion as to why Ben didn’t come running as soon as word came that his test results were back, but how could he? At the time he was photographing the magic moment when a pregnant woman received her HIV negative result. She’d agreed to him photographing her antenatal visit from start to finish, he wasn’t going to leave then.
And as I sat waiting for my prescription I was told that the doctor was seeing to a woman who was having difficulties in her labour. That woman had been rushed to hospital from an outlying community in a Merlin vehicle. If it had not been for Merlin she would have continued struggling in labour, at home and with no means of reaching the safe hands of that doctor.
It was getting on for 7pm by then and I should have been back at the guesthouse. If I hadn’t been sat waiting for that doctor I wouldn’t have heard that story. Every cloud…