I am so lucky to be white, reasonably educated, and fortunate - in fact a lot more fortunate that I thought I was when I got out of bed this morning.
In brief, what happened today was a real eye opener. Our domestic lady was waiting at the usual spot in town and I collected her on the way back from dropping the kids off. We got home and she wasn't "quite right". The one side of her face had dropped, just ever so slightly. My initial thoughts was a stroke. Well, whatever it was, she should be at a doctors, not reporting for work.
It started 2 days ago. Why didn't she see someone ? Simple. She didn't have the R70 for the doctors consult and the R20 to get into the government hospital. And none of her family or neighbours could help. She was coming to work, to get the R130 she earns with us, so she could go this afternoon to the doctors. So she first got an earful for not phoning me 2 days ago - I would have gone to her house, given her the money and taken her to her doc.
So, off we go to the doc's rooms, about 15 minutes away, into what I could only imagine the downtown centre of Abuja, Capital City of Nigeria, looks like. I walk her to the doctors waiting rooms, the only white face in the whole of Abuja. There's a sign above the door - Emergencies report to the desk - everyone else takes a number ( I think they were 3 digit numbers ). So I phone the reception and ask them to please see my friend as I think she's had a stroke. Fortunately, they see this as a possible emergency, and she gets a "go directly to the doctor" card. The result - go to the local government hospital and get the BP checked and see the doctor there.
So off we go. out of Abuja and off to the darkest depths of central Africa ( aka Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi ).
This is where I saw things that I thought only existed in the movies about the horrid conditions of the inmates in a stinking disease infested central african prison. Walking in, the place was a dump, clearly in need of some urgent maintenance and a lick of fresh paint. OK, so maybe the people that work there don't let these conditions affect their enthusiasm to work - just can't see how it doesn't - you can smell the death as you walk in the front door.
Actually, points to the admin staff - they were at least reasonably efficient and got the paperwork done. As for the doctors - I really can't say. Didn't see a single doctor in the whole place in the hour I was there.
So with a wave of a hand we're directed to the "waiting area". Row, upon row, upon row, upon row ( you get the idea ) of benches with a snake like queue of people, most obviously in need of medical attention.
And there we sit, and sit, and sit. So I took a walk about on the way out to call the missus and give her an update. There were people laying on trolleys in the passageway, others using their handbags as pillows ( either to avoid theft or cos there wasn't a single piece of linen or blanket in sight. Either way, the conditions were shocking.
Looking at all these poor people ( and yes, I would bet my bottom dollar that they are ALL poor ) and the expressions on their faces. I honestly think that frustration, irritation, anger and any other emotion that we so often feel if standing in the queues of home affairs, left that building a long time ago. All that was left was despair. Even good old Hope was not to be seen.
I left my friend there at around 11am, waiting in the next queue to have her blood pressure checked ( the previous snakey queue was only to hand in the file that she got from admissions ).
I recall thinking, on the drive home, that there was absolutely no resemblance, not one little bit, not one iota, between that place ( the building and the system ) and the Netcare Hospital that we have at our disposal some 10 minutes down the road. There was just absolutely no comparison.
So when you're employee takes what you think as too long to go see the doc for a simple thing, do yourself a favour and go take a look at the place they have to go to.
Oh yes, and I just got a call to say me friend has had the BP test and see the doctor ( on the same day ) and is ready to go home - 6:30pm.