The Doctor's View

The Doctor’s View: The Patient Shadow

HeaderBy Denise Kavuma, Uganda:

Before we get into this, I feel I should clear up a few things for some of the prissier critical readers. I was an intern doctor in Uganda, working at a Private Not For Profit (PNFP) hospital at the time this happened. Because I know you're wondering what that is, let me just say what I always say: it's the poor man's private hospital. We basically take care of our patients with more caution and respect than our government-funded counterparts but with less fear and trembling than the truly private, 'holy shit that's expensive' units.

Problems always arise, however, when classy, upstanding, educated citizens such as yourself, dear reader, come into these PNFPs because well, to put it lightly, y'all expect to get some kind of special treatment. People walk in expecting us to drop whatever we're doing with other patients and attend to them immediately. Good thing though, is that we can always count on reality to plant its rear-end in everyone's face, wiggle about, and then proceed to empty its bowels.

Case in point: It had been a particularly long day with a never-ending stream of patients (the kind who just don't want a woman to attend to them because my woman-brain could only understand nursing and not doctoring, apparently), slave-driving supervisors, loud and very sick children, as well as fluorescent lights that were just too goddamn bright. It was a hell with no exit and I was the cage-cleaner. At this time, a certain patient X practically crawled in complaining of chest pain and we set to work only to find a very stable person with no conceivable cause for pain.

Confounded, the doctor in charge decided to call the physician but as she picked up the phone, patient X got up, stood directly behind her, and proceeded to whimper and hiss in an attempt to show her how much pain he was in. She in turn, asked him to go back to his bed and wait for her there. He refused to go, of course, because it was that kind of day. His wife then decided that that was the perfect moment to come and demand we attend to her husband because his skin was lighter than all the other patients' and he had an exotic accent in his speech…ahem; or so I imagine. Admittedly I was far away, watching all this from the corner of my eye, trying to convince some guy that yes, women are educated these days and that I was a prime example and that a time traveller like him should share his time-machine with the world.

Well, back to it; the doctor asked the wife to hold on as well but the lady decided that a perfect way to do that was to burst out into tears and go curl into a ball on the ground. I kid you not; she actually sat down, hugged her knees and started crying.

Getting more and more concerned with the whole situation, the doctor decided to fetch the physician herself instead of just calling him and as she walked up the endless stairs in the hospital, she heard odd echoing footsteps (probably accompanied with hissing) behind her. On turning around, she saw patient X following her, clutching his chest and still whimpering.

After her own heart had settled down from the shock and she'd probably suppressed the 'kill-it; kill-it-now' adrenaline response, she let the guy follow her. She reached the physician's office and asked the guy to remain in the waiting area as she spoke with the consultant. On entering the office, she found the physician with a patient and decided to wait for him to finish up but as she turned around to leave for a bit, she bumped into somebody; guess who it was.

Go on, guess…

If you guessed it was the devil, you're wrong but still pretty close. She almost knocked down patient X. The physician, being the annoyingly loud fellow that he is, practically yelled, demanding to know who the creepy guy was, what he was doing barging into the office, and why he had the crazed eyes of a stalker. The whole situation got explained and the physician finally agreed to see the guy. Relieved, our good doctor asked the patient to wait upstairs for the physician to see him and she proceeded to go back to the unusually crowded ER. A few minutes after she was back, we saw patient X walking in again, with a horde of relatives trailing behind him. They claimed we hadn't attended to him and demanded to know why, and what kind of incompetent doctors had they hired in the hospital anyway; who the hell was in charge and where were they…

*Cue Kill Bill fight-sequence music.

The physician chose that moment to walk in however and dealt with the chaos. I use 'dealt with' very loosely here for most of what he did was yell his questions 2 inches from the relatives' faces until they were too shocked to even think about complaining. Perhaps it could have been that they had drowned from all the spit that splattered in their direction. Seeing the situation getting resolved, we reluctantly put away the scalpels and the sedatives; shit had been about to go down but as it were, it neared the fan and thought better of it, choosing instead to unceremoniously plop back down.

To cut the long story short, patient X was actually psychotic and we had to get a psychiatrist to take over his treatment.

I wondered for a brief moment what Dr. Lector would have done but shook it off instead, deciding to let Uganda deal with her own educated psychos.

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