Being a patient in a Hospital in Rural Africa

Juliana FultonI’ve been surprisingly lucky that I’ve gone six months in rural Africa without so much as a cold.  But a couple of weeks ago I caught a stomach virus that was going around the peace corps volunteers.  I started throwing up and couldn’t stop.  It was after dark, so there wasn’t any more transportation to the nearest town or hospital.  I called the lodge and they came and picked me up and drove me to the hospital, but not before I had thrown up eleven times in two hours.  I’ve had food poisoning and the stomach flu before, but this seemed worse.

I am so lucky that I have a host organization like Maliba Lodge that was so easy to contact and helpful in getting me to the hospital.  The hospital was in the camptown closest to my village, Butha-Buthe.

Thaba Bosiu Gov't Hospital, Butha-Buthe

Even though it was after hours nurses were there and they gave me a charcoal drink and a shot to stop the stomach pains (though there was no alcohol swab or bandaid with the shot).  I felt a lot better almost instantly, but was too weak to leave.  Throughout the night I kept asking for water, and the nurses told me there was none.  Finally they turned on the tap to show me that it was dry and there was no running water.

So I had no water (I did have an IV though) until another volunteer came and visited me the next day and brought me some water.  I also needed to go to the bathroom after 2 full IVs , but they were all closed because of the lack of running water.  I asked the nurse what I should do, I stayed for over 16 hours and really had to use the toilet, she said she did not know.  I eventually got a bed pan.

I have to admit the lack of water was not the hospitals fault, but the idea that a hospital could lose their running water and nothing would be done about it for days shocked me.  Besides that, it was actually pretty nice, there weren’t many people there at all (hospitals are expensive to stay in overnight) and the food was much better than what I’ve had in American hospitals.  I probably got more attention than I would have in a hospital at home too.  But I almost was made to stay for another night when the accounts office closed at 3pm.  The staff wanted to keep me another night (and pay for it) because I could not settle my bill while the accounts office was closed.

With the help of Lauren, the volunteer visiting me, we convinced them that I could leave a deposit and settle the account with Peace Corps the next day.  While I never would want to go to the hospital here again, I was pleasantly surprised with my experience there, and I left a little weak, but cured.

The contents of this article are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

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