Reflections

A walk backstage

By Njoki Ngumi:

I took a walk backstage today and gave silent props to all the people who hold life together and never get noticed. I study and (pretend to) work in a hospital, whether that’s a good or a bad thing, and in passing it's kind of sucky that humanity needs hospitals at all – and here it's so easy to get sidetracked at who the stars actually are. Everyone’s all about the amazing, confident surgeon, the wonderful, astute physician. Sick people come to hospitals every day and leave singing the praises of only one person. That's if they leave on their feet and not in a coffin, but again, I’m digressing.

There’s so much more going on than actually meets the eye. Backstage, in hospitals, there’s the student nurse who takes vital signs 4 hourly on more than 20 patients a day. There’s the cleaner who mops up after the incontinent. The porters who wheel patients around. The radiographer who takes ultrasound scan after ultrasound scan, with hardly a break for lunch because the queue’s so long. The guys who sterilize all the instruments and sit in front of hot autoclaves all day, putting instrument packs together. The people who do the laundry. The guys in the kitchen. The people at sewing who make sure the hospital doesn’t run out of linen. The people at accounts who have to charge every single piece of equipment used, to the smallest piece of gauze. The guys in the lab who have to count blood cells and sift through stool samples for ova and cysts. The guys in pharmacy who count pill after monotonous white pill. The guys who keep oxygen tanks full and change theatre light bulbs. The receptionists. The watchmen.

Forget hospitals. The people in the backstage of life are still unsung. Our mothers, who sat up nights when we were crying and vomiting and feverish and pooping 17 times an hour. Fathers who paid our fees when their 8 year old pair of black leather shoes worn every day to work were letting in rainwater…again. That teacher in Standard one who made sure you stopped writing your number 5 upside down. Even the people who don’t affect one’s life directly, like the guy who cuts the grass at the side of Uhuru highway. The guy who keeps the wheels of supermarket trolleys greased. The guy who gets up at 3 am to push his mkokoteni to town so the market can have fresh fruit.

Take a walk backstage today.

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