Sunday, 17 April 2011

Night shift

Have seen something pretty grim at hospital, but I'm not sure this blog is the best place to say. Let's just say there were maggots where there should not be maggots. It was my joyful task as a medical student to cut open the specimen and look for them. Dream of dreams. 

It has been raining elephants and hippos overnight and much of today, which is unusual. Have been catching spacepans of water from the thatch roof leaks. Maybe that kept people away from the pubs and therefore fights, because it was so quiet on-call. Though I was sewing someone's head together at 1am, and he kept moving his head to see what was going on. Gave me a bit of a fright when I was putting the local in, and the needle moved clean out of his head, and stuff squirted everywhere. Luckily not on my face, over half of patients are HIV positive around here. The nurse who was supposed to be helping me ended up almost cutting my hair instead of the thread ends. I was not happy, the scissors were covered in blood. In my hair, for crying out loud. After that, she stopped assisting me all together, and was giggling with the two other nurses in the outpatient theatre. 

I'm beginning to see how Tim and Anna have changed their mind about staying in Tintswalo hospital, where it is no one's job to do anything, but there's always time to stand around and chat. They actually earn more here than they do in the UK, their beautiful, massive home costs them less to rent than what they get from renting out a 4 bedroom house in Selly Oak. I live there, and it is universally known as 'the dump'. They were saying that some doctors go private in SA, even though their pay then goes down by 40% reduction, just so that they can get on with their jobs instead of chasing up why there are 'no antibiotics' when the pharmacist couldn't be bothered to get it from the other room. 

Oh, it's also hilarious trying to get a psychiatric history from someone with a language barrier. Explaining terms such as self-harm, suicide, voices required a bit of arm flapping on our part. There was nothing physically wrong with him, his breathing problem is likely to be psychosomatic, and it was fun again to explain this to him. The nurse told us he was on a drip because his blood pressure was high, and giving him fluid would bring it down. Hmm, we just took it out in the end. There was also a young woman from the air force who came in with abdo pain, white cells in her urine but none of the appendicitis symptoms, and for some unknown reason, the air force medic shoved in a urinary catheter for a simple urinary tract infection. Hmm.

Five nurses slept in a row whilst we worked. Work ethic is poor in SA, often find people asleep in the day in various rooms. Doctors not even turning up. Nurses disappearing off. 

I spent the rest of the hours trying to get sleep on a sofa, whilst everyone else had beds. I now have 4 new bites overnight, all on my back. We went for a safari drive in the afternoon, saw a brown snake eagle carry a lizard or snake in its talons. Warthogs are so shy, and so quick. I hope to get a good face-on picture before I leave SA. 

I want to talk more about the BEST day of my life, i.e. when we first went on safari, but it's hard without putting photos up. I haven't worked out how to do this yet. The photo files are too big, and I don't often have enough time on the computer to do this. Those two days of safari, camping in Kruger Park, the long panoramic drive by mountains, swimming at the top of Lisbon Falls, truly are some of the happiest days of my life that I will always remember. Photos can never show how those places made me feel. Though I got a couple of videos that will helpfully give a better gist than the stills.

Anyhow, it's not my turn to cook tonight (I made chicken, butternut squash risotto the other night). We have been playing 'Settlers of Catan', it's funny how competitive some people can be. Good game. Body clock is a bit confused, but I will have an early night. Speak soon!


  1. Your posts are a welcome break from revision! :( Dude, I see what you mean about being promoted to FY1!!! Maggots...:s
    Sounds like a completely world in SA, reminds me of when I went to Kashmir aged 11 - I'm sure you'll come back with a different perspective on things.
    Take care. Much love. xxx

  2. Definitely sounds like an interesting few days :-) I bet that even feet are not at that repulsive when you compare them to infesty maggots. Too right that the nurse left you to your own work, she doesn't want to cross you when you're pissed off.

    Thinking back to Lord Crisp's developing and western world medical exchange. Have you seen anything so far on how things can be more economically done back home?

    What some there do as common practice is incorrect in our eyes, and its simply because they don't know the background theory. It's replaced with experience in the field and 'tips', true or otherwise, gleamed from others.

    I hope that the bites don't flare up.
    I hope also that you got the ISO settings on your camera sorted out.

    Lots of love