On my third visit to LUTH I had a very loud fight.
It was a normal Monday, like every other, and as usual I arrived at the center very early: before 6am. I was surprised to find only four people there, normally the people would be in the teens, but I put it down to it being a Monday. People do not want to have to leave their offices on a Monday as that would require a lengthy or detailed explanation.
As I settled into a chair to read my book, I noticed the floor of the waiting area was no longer muddy and had been covered with cobblestones. Also, the zinc shed that offered shade there had been redone. I was happy someone was thinking of making the process more comfortable and less humiliating for the patients.
Gradually the crowd built up to maybe fifty, time went and they were ready to begin. The man who was checking our weight had obvious eye problems, and is not actually a trained health professional. In his opinion, you could not get an accurate reading if you stood on the industrial scale with your face towards it. You had to turn your back to it. I obliged him but he read an additional 2 kilograms to my previous weight of a month ago! I knew he was wrong because I had been dieting and other people also wondered why their weight was too high or too low.
After we took our weight it was time to take our blood pressure- the only jobs the nurses actually do. I waited for my turn behind those who, in true Nigerian fashion, had jostled their way to the front of the queue, and behind a young lady who was very sickly, weak very thin, obvious signs that her immune system had been weakened.
Only one nurse sat at the brown wooden office-type desk,beside it, facing the nurse was a white plastic chair. This was where the patients sat , placing their hands on the desk for the cuff that came with the electronic blood pressure meter, and this was what I did. I made a deliberate attempt to greet the nurse a cheerful ‘good morning’ just to ease the somewhat tense atmosphere. She responded and proceeded to place the cuff on my forearm. As she did that she told me to hold the cuff tight. I found that odd but I realized that the Velcro fastener that usually fastened the cuff was worn and useless, so I held it, the cuff unraveled anyway. She hissed and said I was not holding it tight enough. She re-strapped it and tried again. Try as I did, the cuff still unraveled. She raised her voice this time and said I wasn’t holding it well. I explained to her that I had never had to hold the cuff before so she should please show me how to hold it. She strapped me again and told me to hold it tight, I did but it still unraveled. She then said I should leave because she did not have time for this. I asked her politely when I should come back , she screamed at me that she didn’t know. I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t my fault, and I had been here very early so I would not want to waste time deliberately. She screamed that I should not ‘start’ this morning, it was too early’. Then she stood up and sat on the next chair and began attending to others using another blood pressure meter.
When she had attended to about 3 or so patients I reminded her that I was still waiting, she began to scream loudly that I could not be waiting for her, over and over again. (Now, a brief background to this nurse; she is very rude. If Iknew her name I would have published it. I knew that about her years ago when I first began treatment at the centre; she was one of those people who would shout without provocation and talk down at patients. One time when I made the long journey with my baby from Benin and came a bit late, she was in attendance and started shouting as to why I had come from Benin, I should have taken the treatment there. She kept going on and on and talking loudly deliberately to draw attention but I ignored her. ) Now I did not want to get into any quarrel with her, primarily because I wanted to be angry over important not trivial things, but at this point in time, I had become very upset and I stayed put in the plastic seat.
Luckily for me, the matron was walking past and this girl decided to report me to her. As she was speaking, the other nurse on duty came by. She is nicer so I calmed down, unknown to me though, my doctor friend there had left his desk and stood behind me. When the matron saw him she began to fix the cuff on my arm, the nurse was still spouting crap so I began to shout back at her and everyone tried to calm me down. Finally the matron asked the doctor why he was there and then he told them I was his friend. Immediately the nurse shut up. Obviously she had had a run-in before and she was respecting herself. That gave me latitude to speak and I did. I spoke loudly to the other nurse about how the rude one carried this same attitude for years, how she had no capacity to be nice and she needed spiritual help. The rude nurse said nothing. She had learnt a lesson.
A lot of the time these healthcare attendants in this LUTH treat the patients like dirt, never mind that some of them are infected with the virus. There are several reasons for this; places like LUTH are cost-effective solutions for low-income earners, like I have said in a previous post, so they are hard-pressed to find educated, wealthy patients, coming there-where they go is another story. Another reason is that a lot of these people are holding tight to whatever shreds of dignity they still have left , after being diagnosed with such an humiliating illness. As a result they swallow whatever insults they receive in a bid to get well. I do not fall into any of the categories. I refuse to be ashamed of falling sick; it happens to anyone, and I am educated and informed. So I will not accept it when those idiots throw my card on the floor, or shout at me for no reason or just vent their frustrations on the patients.
After trying unsuccessfully to fix the cuff on me again, the other nurse realised that it was actually too small! So all along, the problem, apart from the worn fastener, was the size. They had to use the manual meter for me with a stethoscope, and that was when I realised that anger really is not good- my blood pressure had spiked because of that spat with the rude nurse. But sometimes it helps because I was the first person they attended to in that hospital that day.
I was a bit surprised when I spoke to my doctor about how depressed I was about the illness. I will share the reasons for that depression and my fears generally in my next post. He tried to encourage me saying that there was treatment available but also tried to remind me of the power of God to heal. I found that very odd. Not that a healthcare professional was referring to faith healing ,but that he saw it such a serious illness that you should try every means- even unorthodox ones- to get out of. That notwithstanding, he is a great guy. I think he is really cool.
This brings me to another issue. I have decided to make this blog collaborative. I want contributors who have a personal account of living with HIV or a relative or friend living with HIV. I also want health professionals as well. My doctor has indicated interest in contributing and I am looking forward to it.
So let me know.
Love, light and Tambourines