The Doctor’s View: The Night of the Flu

HeaderBy Denise Kavuma, Uganda:

Every now and again, we get the flu; it could come from anywhere. Whether we ate something that didn't agree with us, or if we're staying with someone that has the sniffles and it spreads (then again, that says a bit about our hygiene.) Sometimes, it's from those creepy little restaurants that will give you the flu no matter how many times you go there; like some sort of disease-vending machine. As it would so happen one unfortunate Tuesday evening, I was on call and I had the flu.

Oh, and what a busy call it was. Contrary to what these T.V dramas would have you believe, not all calls are busy. Sometimes you sleep for 8 hours straight (more than even those people with understandable jobs…but then again, they probably stay up in the night doing fun adult things like finally catching up on The Americans.) There are, however, those nightmarish calls when the entire Universe decides to concentrate its malicious intent on you and won't let up even as you beg for death. When those come, you can't afford to be sick…not even with something as common and as mild as the flu.

So there I was, walking through the wards, trying to mentally tighten the sphincters of my…er 'nose' so that I can avoid anything unsavory spilling out and I was doing pretty well for somebody who felt like she was holding back an entire flood. The dams were tight and if that affected the way I walked, I didn't care; walking at a snail's pace was my preferred speed anyway. It was all clear in my head; I'd do some quick general ward rounds, review the critically ill and be back at my place within the hour, comfortable and free enough to blow my nose.

But that was not to be; every ward had an extensive problem list and I spent over 3 hours trying to sort each one out. To top it all off, the yelling physician was also making rounds and the moment he looked at me, he saw a magic fairy that could fix all his problems and laugh at his jokes to make him feel funny. So, it was with gargantuan effort that I re-enforced those sphincters and ran around accomplishing errands, hoping to all that was pure and right with the world that nothing would slip through.

Four hours later, I finally finished everything and was now free to make my way back to my quarters and await the phone calls from there.  I painstakingly made my way back to the housing area, practically feeling like a tank about to explode; it was a wonder to me I didn't hear any sloshing around every time I moved.

As bad luck would have it, however, the moment I reached my room, the devil's telephone rang and I was informed that they needed me back in the medical ward, to deal with a patient who was gasping and deteriorating. And so, I did the only thing I could have done at that moment.

I panicked.

There I was, needing about 15 minutes to thoroughly clear the excessive build-up that was in my nose but at the same time being needed to go back to work; that patient simply did not have 15 minutes! I could have just gone back but climbing all the way back up to the last floor? I was sure I'd explode before I'd even made a fifth of the journey.

Thinking quickly, I called a colleague, explained to her the situation and asked her to help me review the patient and that I'd arrive a few minutes later. Thankfully, she agreed and I proceeded to make music with my nose for the next 15 minutes. It was glorious, I tell you; I felt like a feather that could be lifted up by the wind. Like a balloon now emptied of air and so could finally rest. I rushed up to the medical ward after, only to find the patient in the last moments of his life, despite the entire team putting in their best efforts. It was a sobering moment and well…death has never been an easy thing to deal with.

This was at around 1 a.m and the night quieted down for a bit after that and the flu didn't put up much of a struggle thereafter.

One could ask why I just didn't excuse myself regularly and blow my nose. Well, I'll tell you; it wasn't the flu but rather, the runs that I was battling that unfortunate evening.

Founder and Editor in Chief of the Readers Cafe Africa

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