Over the weekend my husband and I went to one of the government hospital here in Johannesburg South Africa called Leratong. It was an hours drive which isn’t much in our huge city. We personally have private health care as it can be a matter of life or death when the time comes and I say this as far too many people we have known personally have not survived past recovery after an operation in a government hospital – Like I said, I’m speaking of my own experiences here. That would include the death of my grandfather, grandmother, aunt and family friend after surgeries in such a hospital where they then contracted septicemia and died.
Arriving at Lerateng it was packed. Our car was searched upon entry and dropping my mother off at the main entrance proved to annoy the security guard who was quick to tell us to move. The sign was a drop off zone. Keep in mind my mother has advanced stages of COPD, it may explain why I used the drop off option.
We then parked our car a good walk away but we are young and healthy so a little walk is no biggy. When we finally made our way into the hospital building, it was packed. Visiting hours has just begun. Some corridors were empty with broken hospital beds and abandoned, broken equipment finding their homes there. We made our way to the packed ward we were visiting. Not the most helpful or friendly nurses but really helpful and polite security staff within the building. What – I was shocked to see there are actual hospital beds WITH LINEN, not handcuffed to the walls as per some of my friends experiences at other such hospitals. And we didn’t have to bring food for the patient we were visiting. It was optional. We were told to watch what gifts we brought in as theft was very high when patients slept or went to bath. That would include simple things like a magazine or chocolate bar in your draw, never mind cellphones then.
What we experienced compared to our usual private hospitals was warmth. Everyone was talking and sharing. Priests and nuns came in to visit random patients filling the wards and hallways with singing, joy and laughter. That sort of fellowship just doesn’t happen in a private hospital. Most private hospitals seem to have patients being all secluded with private single wards, private stocked mini fridge, personal tv and remote and private bathrooms. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that – just an observation of the two. Private health care in our country does not come cheap, trust me.
My hubby and I were at the main entrance again when an ambulance arrived. The doors opened and I glanced up to see a woman laying there. OMGosh I said to my hubby. I think she is dying. Seriously dying. I don’t know why I thought this but I think she had something terminal. She was so fragile, a human skeleton with the flesh hanging onto her bones. I had never in my life seen someone so so skinny. Her eyes were so sad and she was too weak to even speak. I wanted to hold her hand. They wheeled her away to admissions as I just stood there with a heavy heart. I looked towards my husband but he knew it upset me so just held me. We are so blessed to be healthy, I said, we must keep her in our prayers tonight.
Time was up and off I went to the car. While sitting in the car queuing to exit a pastor walked past me. He was tall and clung to his Bible as he walked. He had such sadness on his face, almost as if he was crying silent tears. I don’t know what he saw in the hospital that day but I know it left a mark on his heart. I realized a hospital isn’t just for those on the mend but full of dying people too. So often the dying don’t even have family or friends visiting. Some are there on their own – dying. His purpose to be at the hospital was not for laughter, singing or joy. He was there to pray for the dying. A heavy job I’d think.
I can’t be walking up to strangers and hugging them even though my heart tells me to. My head tells me we live in a world where that’s ‘weird’, borderline freak. When my hubby got in the car and we began our long journey home, I mentioned this pastor. He said, ‘I saw him in the corridors too, I wanted to give him a messages but didn’t’ I left it at that – I knew what my hubby meant. I felt good knowing I wasn’t so ‘weird’ after-all.
A bitter sweet place a hospital is I guess. Happy to report our patients operation went well and so far no septicemia or complications to report. This may be the turning point for my experience of a government hospital, who might I add, have some of the most experienced and brilliant doctors in the world, the facilities are always going to be a challenge I guess but they are run on budgets and I’m yet to meet a paying patient for all the treatment they receive. Upon exit – our car was searched again. They have their reasons for doing so I guess.
Counting my blessing for I have my health, when you see just how many South Africans live below the bread line, how big the gap is between the rich and poor, and how desperate people are for basic services – makes me furious to be a tax payer when millions of our tax money is often ‘misused, misplaced or frankly disappeared’
My gran once said to me before she died, ‘I wish I could have one day, just one day, that I can be pain free’ Don’t take your health for-granted for without it – what do you really have?