Tuesday, September 14, 2004

When I die I'm gonna go to Heaven, 'cause I've aleady been through Hell. (almost)

I just spent a week in a hospital as a companion to my friend Mary. It's funny, the first thing staff and other patient-companions would ask you there is, "Which one of you is the patient?" We would each laugh and point to the other.

For those 1st world bloggers who are unaware of the practice of each patient bringing his/her own live-in companion, that's how it's done here. Basically there are very few medical staffers, and the rooms had no phone or nurse call button, so each patient brings a friend or family member to act as private duty nurse. When there is an emergency the companion runs to find the medical staff. (good luck)

Mary and I had a great time. We were sitting in the canteen watching an Indian movie, the heroine runs to the prision to save the convicted hero before he is to be hung. As she was running down the long, clean white halls of the movie prision, I leaned over and wispered into Mary's ear, "That jail is cleaner than this hospital." We laughed.

We reckoned the canteen owner got a kick-back on new patients admitted after eating his cooking. The food was so salty and greasy that one more day there and I would have been admitted for hypertension and hardening of the arteries. Wow, I bearely escaped with my life. Since Mary wasn't in too bad shape, we would walk up-hill (Mansehra is a hillside town and everything is up-hill) to the only proper hotel in town and order an occassional lunch or dinner, like real ladies of leisure.

I've spent lots of time in Pakistani hospitals both as patient and companion, but the other times were in the "Five Star" hospitals of Aga Khan, Karachi and Shifa, Isbd. This was my first experience in a "One Star" hospital. We had daily blackouts and reoccuring water shortages to contend with. Mary's session time with the doctor was 5 minutes with her, then 20 minutes waiting while the doctor was seeing other patients in the clinic, then back to Mary for 5 minutes more, then back to the clinic and so forth for 1 1/2 hours. Personally, I found such a "session" more depressing than curing.

The next rating is a government "No Star" hospital. If and when I can endure that situation, then I know I've really been to Hell and back.