Friday, 25 November 2011

Elective 34. Who you gonna call?

Its another lazy Sunday. I stalk the wards, which keeps me out of trouble for an hour. The rest of the day I spend reading, playing with the village kids (in a friendly non-molestey way...), talking with visitors to my house and investigating the very different wildlife here. There is also a report of paranormal activity in the hospital, but I am not allowed to go and investigate this, as Chief doesn't want me to be 'in danger'...

On the ward round, I do little, as people seem to be relatively well. I re-prescribe antibiotics to a baby, as the dose that had been worked out (a calculation based on body weight) was impractical, so the pharmacy had refused to give it. Rather than telling anyone or marking this in the notes, it had just been left out of the regime, and I only found this out by talking with a nurse about whether he was vomiting up his medication or somehow not taking it, as he still seemed very unwell (he has a working diagnosis of entire fever, but without tests it is more of a guess). I rounded the dose so it could be given by snapping a pill in half, meaning the drug would be given. I also made a couple of additions to simple things, like adding extra days of painkillers (only ever prescribed in lots of three days here, for some reason) and prescribing antibiotic eye ointment for a child who looked like she had conjunctivitis. It is absurd to think of me wandering around prescribing, but it needs to be done. Its going to be so different once I get  back to the UK and have everything managed properly. Wonderful, but I will feel like I am going backwards slightly!

Previously I was having some problems with overly flirty nurses on the wards,  but this has gotten a lot worse recently, now they have found out that I am not married (This marriage was a lie I managed to get away with at the start). Really, I should feel privileged, I certainly have never gotten this much attention from ladies before, but I have a feeling it is much more about the fact that I am English, rather than my stunning wit and blistering charm overwhelming them. Shame that.

On the way back to the house, I find it besieged by dozens of baboons eating large solid pods hanging off of the trees outside, which contain what look like runner bean seeds. When I get closer, the baboons all run away, leaving the ground littered with these very solid dried up pods they had been opening with their teeth. Everything is so solid and hard in Tanzania, probably in the fight to survive, but I couldn't even open these pods with my hands... I had a wander, now curious about the other very different wild life here, and hoping to find the troop of baboons which had fled. The only very different mammals I saw were much thinner monkeys, which seemed a lot shyer than the baboons. Insect wise there were some crackingly large ones, some very ugly ones, and even ones that worked alone to make mounds which look like volcanoes in the ground. One wall of the house had a huge stream of ants going along its entire length, and up a spout into the kitchen via the sink. Thats where all the ants in the sugar bowel kept coming from! Most interestingly, there were these sort of 'ground spiders' which formed little craters in the hard dusty soil with dusty slopes, so insects walking into one would briefly be unable to climb out of the hole. In this time, the 'ground spider' would strike, catching the insect. I have no idea what they are really called, but the wildlife here is a lot cooler than back home. I could definitely become David Attenborough.

The ant trail down the side of our house is the black line just below my spray painted red line, entering by the tap outlet. How did they work out to come so far to get into the house! 

A huge beetle lingers on the down pipe, seen in the far right of the picture above, its size made obvious by the tiny ants next to it.

My wandering around my house, peering at the insects, attracts a number of children I have not seen before. Sometimes children come with mums who need to care for them, when the mum needs to give birth, and I assume that these are from the hospital and bored of sitting outside, so I teach them how to play frisbee, and give them all a pencil and rubber each. I still have loads of stationary left, I think I will give them to the primary school before I leave. While I was running about in the dirt with the beetles (there are some huge ones that make a fantastic buzzing noise as they fly, from hat I assume is the parts of their shell over their wings beating together) Tim came over to visit. He refused to join in the frisbee game (spoil sport), so we went inside to chat. It terms out his dad was involved in a motorbike accident yesterday night. While trying to overtake a pair of drunk cyclists, they swerved in front of him and he came off his bike, breaking his arm, but fortunately not coming to much more harm. I had not seen him this morning on the ward, as he had been at a different hospital getting an x-ray. He has fractured both ulna and radius in his forarm. Because he is the only adult at home (Tim's mother is not around), he has been given permission by Chief to sleep in the paediatric ward with his children, while the staff wait for his swelling to go down, hopefully planning to apply a cast tomorrow (assuming the materials are in stock!) After the accident, Tim had to go and get the bike, and drive it the 15km back home, holding his phone torch as a front headlight, as this had been broken in the accident. Tanzanian people are mad! 

Some of the Tanzanian kids are natural break-dancers...

After Tim had left, I started on my dinner, a tub of a vegetable like spinach and very earthy tasting, while Chief came around to visit with the news that I could have two new Muzungo from New Zealand coming to stay, and a ghost Story! All exciting stuff. Even more excitingly, the ghost story had happened right here in this Village, last night! Though I have to say that after hearing it, it had many more elements of a comedy than a scary story...

This event involved a house on the hospital grounds which they were now using to sleep male nursing students, as this weekend a new first year intake had arrived, and there was not space in the normal dorms as the second years had not fully graduated yet. This home had originally been built by the hospital secretary about 25 years ago, but there were no other personal homes on hospital land, and this ended up in a dispute. Unhappy to sell the house for the price the  hospital offered to cover building a new one, it was finally agreed he could stay there under some 'Conditions'. Chief did not tell me what these conditions were. After a year or two, his wife developed a mental illness (Chief thought it was schizophrenia, but the villagers thought it was witchcraft), and they moved to a different town, partially to be easier for her and partially so he could work in a new hospital. He offered to let the house, so a lab-tec started living there, but he was bitten by a snake within a month. Word went around that the house was bewitched, and for the last 20 odd years no-one has stayed in it. Absurd for a village where some people live in corrugated iron shacks, or mud huts. This lack of rent also upset the owner, still living with his mentally ill wife, as this is 20 years of lost revenue. Despite all this time without an owner, the house was built well, and is still on the hospital grounds.

With the recent problem with the overcrowded nursing dorms, it was decided to move all male nursing students into this house, and use the male dorm room for female nurses. There are far more female nurses (as in the UK), and this seemed the only short term option, until the second years graduate and more room becomes available.

The house was unlocked and cleaned yesterday of all the cobwebs and other detritus, and the nurses bedded down. At 2am (from the reports of the nurses) one nurse woke up the others, shouting that he felt as though he had been bitten and felt as though he was on fire (so far explainable). The others then said they felt as though some one was throwing buckets of water over them, though they remained dry, and heard a strange grunting laugh from the ceiling (Chief imitated it "ChugahaChugahuChugaha", this was hilarious in itself). This laugh and the 'fake water' terrified them, and they ran out of the house, shouting, in their underwear, straight to their principal. the principal of the nursing school was also terrified, so they all ran, still shouting and sobbing (yes a lot of grown lads and their teacher sobbing) to Chief, who put them in a hall for the night.

Can you imagine this happening in the UK? Many of the nurses are older than me, but fears of curse and which craft still run strong in Tanzania. I suppose we still get reports of haunted houes in the UK, so perhaps the comparison is a poor one. Chief has no idea what to do with the house. He thinks the only option is to demotion it and build another building, unsure whether people will even accept its use hile 'cursed' as a storage house. Such a waste of resources and time in such a poor hospital. I offered to stay in it (always wanted to stay in a haunted house) but he said that, as a host, he couldn't put me somewhere that people considered dangerous. Perhaps even he is a little spooked by it. I wish I could do some investigation, but after I expressed interest, Chief is refusing to even tell me which building it is!

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