“Ever go to an emergency room in South Africa? They’re in no hurry
down there. I saw a plaque over the door that read, ‘Time heals
(With apologies to) – Steve Bluestein
Everyone in SA has their own horror story regarding state hospitals. I tell you what, no matter how skint I am, the very first thing I budget for is Medical Aid (insurance) for Michael and I. The hospitals in the private sector are mostly excellent – really first rate medical care. The state hospitals on the other hand are a place you go to die.
Okay, exaggerating slightly there (although there have been cases of people going in for a broken bone and being nursed to death…). But the state of um, state hospitals has been the subject of scrutiny by the media for some time now. It’s enough to give one sleepless nights.
I’ve been on a medical aid my whole life. I was only ever off it for about three months after Michael and I got married. During that time, I began experiencing the first of my MS symptoms and had to go for a series of tests. I went to the local state hospital for a CAT scan. What a nightmare. The nurse that gave me the short drip for the contrast dye actually dropped the needle onto the (grimy) wooden desk, and then before I could protest, she grabbed it up again and shoved it in the vein in my hand. I nearly passed out, firstly from the horror of the unsanitory way she was handling the needle and secondly from the pain as she kept jabbing it unsuccessfully before gaining entry.
The eventual diagnosis: psychiatric treatment for me! As in ‘all in my head’. And they weren’t even right…it wasn’t all in my head, some of it was in my spinal cord, too 😉
I then went to a ‘private’ specialist in Pretoria. I’m not saying the private sector is without fault. They actually subjected me to two lumbar punctures because they botched up the first one. (In retrospect, I should have sued. At very least they should have waived the bill, bastards). But apart from that, the treatment was excellent and I was diagnosed within a week. MS is a notoriously difficult disease to diagnose, but that neurologist was spot on. Afterwards, when I read testimonials of fellow MS-ers, I came to realise that many battle for months, if not years, to get the correct diagnosis and in the meantime they’re usually labelled as hypochondriacs. So I was one of the lucky ones. I shudder to think what my fate would have been in the hands of the state.