It’s 9 am and we, my 3 girls and I are walking in the crisp morning air to Azaadville’s free clinic. My 5 yr old (the hypochondriac) says it hurts when she pees so I’m guessing a UTI (urinary tract infection). When she told me this, I immediately began to recount how much (or how little) water I’d given her to drink recently. Maybe I should’ve given her more; we don’t drink soft drinks so that couldn’t be the guilty party. Whatever the case, I couldn’t think of a home remedy for this so here we are.
As I enter the bldg, there’s a great big sign on the door of the clinic, “We are closed due to bad weather.” Yet, the door is cracked open just a tad so I decide the sign must have been left on the door since last Wednesday, when the weather was a bit nippier than most days. The idea of things closing for this weather reminds me of Maryland and the precausionary “snow days,” when schools shut down behind the “threat” of a snowstorm approaching.
Upon entering, yep I was right, they’re open and FULL of sick folk. LHWLQIB (la hawla wa la quwatta illah Billah)! We are going to be here all day. As the comedian Kat Williams said: I got s*** to DO later (sorry for this brief digression). There are no signs instructing one on how the clinic protocol works; no sign in sheet at the counter. So I approach the counter and wait…and wait…and—Oh here she is. “My daughter is feeling pain when”—I’m cut off. “What is her name?” Etc…
Kayso, the receptionist hands me the file she has just filled with my daughter’s information and says nothing more. I ask, “So how does this work, will her name be called…?” “Have a seat and fdlfkjdfkjlal…” This is what I heard from her. Mind you that here in South Africa, English is not the primary language of the majority. And I don’t want to trouble this busy woman anymore with my obviously silly questions. So we sit. There are 2 seats open in the second row and we squeeze ourselves into them. Waiting indefinitely, I begin to absorb my surroundings. There are posters about HIV councelling, HIV prevention and a Condoman Condom dispenser on the wall near the entrance. The few other posters are scattered about with examples of a balanced meal for diabetics (sponsored by Equal Sugar Substitute) and illustrations explaining how to wash your hands properly in order to prevent the spread of disease (brought to you by Dettol). Right now I just wish my girls were wearing a nikab like me because the child next to us is coughing something awful in our direction and a face mask would at least put me a bit more at ease. Just then I spot the poster explaining the symptoms of Tuberculosis…great.
Okay the lady in the front row just got up and moved to a chair in the hallway. I didn’t hear anyone call out a name. Hmmmm. Everyone in the front row of chairs has just stood up and shifted one seat to the right. Ohhhhh, I get it. It’s a seat rotation line. Wow, who would’ve thunk it? I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes but as I realise what the game is, I stand to shift but my girls are oblivious. So their delay causes an enthusiastic sicky to jump from behind my row and take my spot. Alright, no problem, I know how to handle this. I won’t make a scene or even get annoyed. Its all good. I put my 2yr old off my lap. On your marks! The row rotation goes left from my row. I don’t move. People begin to go around me like I’m just retarded, excuse me, mentally challenged. Get set! I stare at a poster on birth control (too late for that, I’m already the old lady who lives in a shoe). Five minutes pass. The row continues to shift until “Sicky the line cutter” is in the first seat before the hallway. The hallway seat opens up—GO! I leap from the right and plop my behind in the hallway chair with a loud “clunk.” I have left my girls sitting in the second row still trying to figure out what to do. I motion to them to come. They didn’t need me to tell them twice, the 2yr old is back on my lap and Mr. Ambitious Sicky is stuck on stupid.
It has been at least 2 hours now and we still are sitting in these seats; what the flagnog? There is no apparent order to this system. A nurse emerges and asks which of my children is sick I tell her the 5yr old and she turns to the coughing baby and mom 2 seats behind us and calls them into her examining room. Okay, she must only do babies. Keeping my sabr (patience) in check I dismiss this. But hold up! Now she’s calling in “auntie” who’s 4 seats behind me! I know I don’t speak the language so maybe they have some arrangement that I don’t understand. I look to the person in the front of the line and she’s not upset so I guess I should just sit on it, and sit and sit and sit.
The girls are now whiny, fussy and wiggly. It’s becoming unbearable. One is pulling my nikab down everytime she presses her head against my chin. The middle child is sulking because her older sister hasn’t left her any room to sit on the chair they are supposed to be sharing. And “Miss reason we are even here” is now hungry and is begging me for food as if she saw me pack a picnic basket or something. Are they KIDDING ME? I tell my kids that I’m going to beat them if they don’t chill. But I say it in Yoruba so that nobody but my kids understands me. I’m starting to feel like I need a time out and if I don’t get one soon others will suffer.
Finally, we are in the receiving seat. The door opens and the last patient exits. No one calls us in but the door is left open and the women sitting next to me is tapping the heck outta me to get me to go in. Alright already. C’mon girls. We go in. there’s a man (doctor, nurse, dunno) sitting at the desk writing what looks to be his memoirs by the depth of concentration he’s putting into it. He doesn’t acknowledge our presence. I sit my daughter in the patient seat in front of him. He still doesn’t budge. “Give him your papers sweety,” I tell her. She places her papers just as I knew she would, right on top of his writing. Good girl. Oh look, he can see us! No greetings, nothing. Just, “what’s hurting her?” I explain, suspected bladder infection, painful urination, blah blah blah. He tells me to go to the room next door to give a urine sample and after they’ve tested it, come back to him and give him the results. I reaffirm exactly what he said, go to the room next door, pointing in the direction. He confirms. Ooookaaay.
The nurse is no longer in the room. Her car keys are on her desk so she cant be far, right? The medicine closet is left wide open for any sticky fingers to pillage through. So we wait, again. We wait so long that eventually the tapping lady who was next after me has also entered the room and is now waiting. She abruptly leaves after several minutes and returns with a cup looking more like a cocktail glass rather than the urine sample cup that it obviously is, since she has already filled it. “Where did you get that,” I ask. She looks at me confused. Now I get why she was tapping me. She doesn’t speak English. I guess I’ll get no help from her.
Finally the nurse returns to the room. Again, there is no acknowledgment of our presence. Can we say void of bedside manners here??? She walks over to the lady holding the urine and dips a pee strip into her cup. See, I should’ve had a cup of pee to poke in her face too. Because I don’t, she’s ignoring us. The tapper leaves the room and the nurse glances our way. I explain that we’ve been sent to give a urine sample. She tells me to go to the toilet and bring the sample back to her. Where is the toilet? “Go down the hall and turn right and then turn left and then go straight and then go through the doors and turn left.” Off we go.
The hallway is narrow with people seated on both sides facing each other. We clumsily make our way through, leaving a minimal amount of casualties (smashed toes). Ahh the toilet! We have arrived. I was beginning to think she sent me on a wild goose chase, hoping I’d give up and leave. But wait, where are the urine sample cups? Ugggghhhh! “Stay here girls,” I say. I treck back to ask the cup question. I’m extremely annoyed now. I do nothing to try and hide this annoyance as I get to her door and it’s closed. I knock sharply. There is no answer. This is RIDICULOUS. I open the door. She shouts with her back to the door “Can I get some privacy!” “Can I get a cup to piss in,” I shout right back. She turns to me with a look of disgust, just as an older matronly nurse approaches the scene. She kindly explains that there is a bucket on the right, just before entering the toilets, where I can retrieve a cup. I should rinse it first and then collect the urine and bring it to her. THANK YOU. I have met someone who can give clear instructions.
Back at the toilets I see said bucket on the right. It’s filled with a clear liquid and about 8 of those cocktail glasses/urine collection cups. Eew, do I just stick my hand in this liquid and grab one? By this time, I’m less patient than I am squeamish. So I suck it up and dip my left hand into the bucket and grab. Rushing over to the sink to rinse the cup and my hand, I turn on the faucet and the water pressure is so high that water shoot 5 feet out of the sink. Good, maybe that crappy nurse will slip trip and fall in it. Ok, that wasn’t nice, I know. Astagfirallah (Allah forgive me). See, I really need that time out.
Urine has been collected, and we are walking back to the nurse. Seeing the cup of pee in my hand, the hallway sitters move their feet just a bit more out of my way. They surely don’t want to be the cause of my tripping and showering them with pee this morning. I stand guard outside her office while she finishes with a patient. She immediately approaches and dips the test strip in the urine and writes her “findings” as she calls it, on our papers. Now I’m to take the pee back to the toilet to dump it. I am trusted to rinse out the cup and replace it into the same bucket filled with clear liquid. I’m even more grossed out by the thought of how many people failed to clean out the urine before tossing the cup back into the bucket. Just how much disease IS floating in this bucket? I wash my hands with the vigor, and detail of a surgeon about to go into the operating room.
Oh it’s not over yet. We still have to go back to the original guy to show him our results. Of course, there are even more people in the clinic now and they all are looking at us like we are trying to cut them in line to see the doctor. I don’t care what they think. It’s been 3 hours now and as soon as his door opens and the patient walks out, I’m in there. Uncle in the chair next to the door will just have to deal with it. I can tell he’s edging his behind on his chair for maximum leverage in order to beat me into this office. Oh it’s like that, Uncle? No problem, let’s go. I’m beginning to hear the whistling theme of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, right before the gun battle. Did I just hear spurs? No, that’s someone’s keys. Focus, I tell myself. the door opens with a squeak. The patient hobbles out and just my luck, she blocks my entry. Uncle springs up and practically falls into the room. But the doctor tells him to step aside so he can read my results. Ha-Ha! I’m taking back all of the mean things I said about the doctor and also all of the mean things I thought but didn’t say (for the lack of descent synonyms for such profanity).
We’re outside the clinic now. My daughter is holding a plastic bottle of Paracetomal in one hand and liquid Multivitamins in the other. Apparently she has no bladder infection. Alhamdulillah. My “after the clinic” plans will need to be postponed because now the adhan for Zhur salah (midday prayer) is being called. We’re going home to pray and get food ready for the boys who will be coming home on lunch break from class after the salah. I’m too worn out for anymore public interaction anyway. Once I get the food prepared, I’m taking a nap; my well deserved time out.