I have inserted one chest tube, two catheters and stitched four guys including one extremely drunk one who kept calling me mother’s buttocks. It has been a busy night. An extremely busy one. But it is just 2.00 AM, about five hours to the end of my shift and if people drive carefully, and cops arrested people walking outside past curfew hours instead of beating them, and couples failed to fight with each other with sharp objects, then maybe I can cushion my head and rest my feet on the armrest of the two-seater couch in the staffroom, and maybe drift into a deep uncomfortable sleep, for three or four or even five hours, and wake up in the morning with neck stiffness, low back pains and cramps on my legs.
I walk to the staffroom, arrange my small frame on the two-seater sofa and cover myself with a Maasai shuka. My body makes contact with the hard sofa. I wonder how a sofa can be that hard yet it is not made of stones. I miss my bed. I miss the nights I spend alone in my house. I miss stripping and sleeping naked without the discomfort of my bra, and with the lights off. Here, I have to close my eyes and ignore the lights and the snores of patients and their caregivers that normally drift and float into this exposed room.
Twelve minutes later, I am breathing evenly, the sounds beyond the room have faded, my body is finally relaxing and my mind is finally asleep then someone taps on the door! I have an overwhelming urge to stamp my feet but then I slowly sit and say; ’I am coming’.
I put my shuka aside, pull my surgical mask over my nostrils and mouth and walk outside towards my desk. There are three people waiting for me. One patient. One relative. One motorbike person. I can’t guess what is wrong with the patient. I hope to God he is not one of those patients who have lived with a painless testicular swelling for three years but today decided to come see a doctor at two in the morning. I look at the trio sand wait.
Conversations can be difficult at this time of the night. The relative places a black carrier bag on my table and without warning, opens it to reveal the biggest blackest snake I have ever seen. The scream escapes my mouth before I can slap my mouth to stifle it. I am out of my desk in an instant before the security man stationed outside the A/E literally catches me.
It takes ten or so minutes before I accept to go back to that desk and look at the snake. A bad idea. My nightmares will now feature snakes prominently. Split faces and jutting bones and avulsed teeth! I don’t really know how to name or even identify snakes. They never taught me that in Medical School and anyway, the patient will take the poly-valent anti snake venom.
I look at the small wound where the snake bit him just below the ankle. There is some mild swelling around it. I release the tourniquet they applied, apparently to stop the contaminated blood from circulating, clean the wound and prescribe anti snake venom. It is not available in the hospital pharmacy, and it is curfew hours. Outside the hospital, all the pharmacies are closed.
The patient and the two other relatives sit up on the couch and start begging me to do something (people fear snake bites and they are right to; some can kill), only thing is, I can’t do anything! It is one of those drugs that hospitals don’t stock, it is obscenely expensive and everyone who sells drugs is asleep. The relatives transition from begging to demanding to abusing me calling me heartless. For twenty minutes I sit and absorb all the abuses from frustrated relatives. They are angry because we; doctors hoard drugs, steal them and give our relatives, sell them in our pharmacies, are more concerned with money than life et cetera.
They end up re-applying the tourniquet tying just above the bite marks and drag the patient outside praying for evil to befall me. I slowly walk back to the staff room, cover myself and try to sleep as the torrent of abuses echo in my mind.