Bello's Journey to Wellness — Part 3

June 8, 2017

This is part three of four to a composite story of what a typical patient at Meskine Hospital experiences. The name has been changed, but the story presents the huge difference in health care from our area of Cameroon and the West.

Part 3

The nurses were very busy. There were 32 other patients for whom they were responsible. There were three men to my left who were moaning either from their surgical pain or still under the effects of their anesthesia. I felt bad for one couple as they didn’t speak one of the 10 local languages so there was no one there that knew their language. They were getting treatment but it was a challenge the nurses and the doctors.

Finally around 9pm the nurse came and started my IV and my medications. He also gave me some pain medication that caused me to sleep. I welcomed that reprieve.

My wife came with my food (bowl of cooked millet with a sauce made with green leaves). I could only eat a little as I didn’t have an appetite and I was still groggy from the medicine.

I did need her to help me to the bathroom. It was quite a distance away from my bed. We had to wait a little while for other patients to finish up. Other patients were showering so it was a little congested. I appreciate how the hospital put white tiles on the walls of the shower and bathroom – they do their best to keep the area clean (relatively speaking, it is Africa).

I was relieved to get back in bed as I had no energy. While walking back, I saw the nurses working on a man who wasn’t doing so well. They were pumping his chest and had a black bag over his mouth pumping air into him. I guess they were trying to help him breath. By this time, many of the other patients’ family members, other visitors were all gathered around that patient’s bed trying to see what was going on. The hospital guard had to come and chase everyone out of the ward, even the family members. Even though the nurses worked really hard on that patient, he didn’t make it.

All of a sudden there was a tremendous cry right outside my open window (the nurses informed the family that the man died). Then the wailing began. There were around 20 men and women that were friends and family members of the deceased. The wife and daughters were wailing and crying, the older women were trying to put their hands over the mouths of the wives and daughters fussing at them for wailing like that saying it is shameful. But they continued to wail for about 15 minutes.

The nurse put up some screens around the patient and prepared him for the morgue. They covered his body with the family member’s sheet, transferred him on a portable stretcher, and brought him to the hospital morgue. The morgue is situated in the east end corner of the hospital property. It is just a simple cement building (no air conditioning) where the family members wash the body, wrap it in linen and wait for the family members to come in a taxi to bring him directly to the grave yard. For Muslim families, they want to get the body in the ground within an hour after his death.

After they took the body away in the ward, the nurses were trying to finish up the paper work. The family member responsible for the care can’t leave until they pay their bill and I could tell there was a lot of discussion going on. The nurse sent them to the supervisor to work it out.

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