To Hospital We Go

I need to go to hospital today. Not for myself, but to pick up results of a blood test for one of our babies. I also need to pop in to see the speech therapist to set up a follow-up appointment for Amo. These two things could take me 15 minutes or an hour depending on any number of factors. I don’t mind waiting, for the most part. The pediatric outpatient department, where I need to go for the test results, is an interesting place to wait. There are lots of little kids, some super tiny babies who look like they still belong in hospital and a lot of older children as well. Last month I had a child pinching my hands and face and her mother said “Watch out, she might bite you.” Never a dull moment!

Usually I feel pretty comfortable at the hospital. I am there enough that I know my way around and am recognized by some of the sisters (nurses). Most of the staff and patients are very kind and very helpful. Last week, however, during a “quick” visit to the hospital to pick up a prescription for Amo and have blood drawn for the babies, I did have a doctor who kept asking me “Why is that baby crying? Don’t you have milk for him?” in a slightly accusatory manner. I can understand this, as most of the children here are fed on demand and as soon as they cry the mom begins to nurse. I was a bit frazzled that day as I had been shuttled back and forth between departments for over an hour, so my “I’m looking for his dummy (pacifier)” might have come out sounding a bit impatient than I would have liked, but it happens.

Then there’s the pharmacy. Oh, ye who complain about waiting in line to pick up a prescription for more than 10 minutes, have a little patience!! The pharmacy has rows of benches. Rows and rows of benches. When I got in line, there wasn’t even space to sit on the benches. I joined the end of the queue (line), squished between the back wall and the legs of the people sitting on the backward facing bench in front of me, while holding a baby and a rather heavy laden purse/diaper bag. I was the only white face in the room, which draws enough attention as it is, but I was carrying around a precious, light-skinned, African baby and had been getting stares and questions all day long about “my” child.

The pharmacy works like this: First you need the file of the person who needs medication. In this case, I had gone to the Peds OPD, waited for the sister on duty to locate Amo’s file, and then I took this file to the pharmacy. Then, me, the file and my little baby friend went to the end of the line, which involved climbing over many legs and standing awkwardly in between someone’s legs. The pharmacists usually work with about 5 files at a time, which means the line moves up about 5 places at a time, more if the patient has an entourage, like a mother and a baby, or a mother and 2 children. So, the line started to move and I made it to the first row of backward facing benches. Trying to sit with my file, baby friend and diaper bag was a struggle. I ended up using my file as a place holder and decided to stand up to keep the baby happy. The lady sitting next to me was very helpful and moved my file for me when I was not present to do so. This is one of the things I most love about the hospital- the camaraderie with the other people there.

At one point I thought the baby was dirty, so we left the pharmacy, I changed him, and then took my time going back inside. When we did go back in, we were still facing backward, but on the other side of the aisle, which meant we were making progress. The line continued to snake around the room; two forward facing benches on either side of the aisle, then backward again, then backward again and then into some chairs. I ended up standing more than sitting as it was just easier. I directed many people to the back of the queue, which had now wrapped around so that the end of the line and the front of the line were in the same spot. The only difference being that the end of the line was standing and the front sitting on a bench. When I was forward facing, with only one backward facing row left until I made it to the final forward facing row, the baby did a big poo, pooping baby face and all. It was great, especially since the backward facing bench sitters witnessed the whole thing. So I left the line and by the time we came back in I realized sitting was futile. So I stood between a chair and a water cooler along with another lady. She ended up taking the baby from me and holding him for a while, which was a great relief for my tired arms. The pharmacists were starting to call for files from the backward facing row, which is where my peeps were now sitting. Hooray. The end is in sight. I hand over the file, then wait to hear Amo’s name being called.

Finally I hear the name and head up to the counter, expecting to receive Amo’s meds. Instead, I am told that the file says there are two refills, one in March, and one in April and as it is now the first week of May, I cannot pick up the second refill. What the what??? I did not know the refills were dated, only that I had two of them before I had to show up with Amo in tow, which is a whole 'nother story (tiny baby with minimal needs versus large, disabled three year old who needs to be in a pram and requires a bag filled to overflowing with burp cloths and wipes and nappies and thickened liquids…)!! So, I took the file, the baby and the diaper bag, headed back to Peds OPD and explained to the sister than I needed a doctor to change the prescription. I waited for a bit, then the sister decided I could squeeze in while she was getting information from another patient.

The doctor was not so impressed by me or my baby handling skills. This is the doctor who wanted to know why the baby was crying. She wasn’t too happy that I hadn’t made it to get Amo’s refill in April and I am not sure we’d be friends in real life. However, she was totally efficient, took the baby’s blood, added a note to the Amo’s file so that I could pick her refill up in May and then sent me on my way. So, back to the pharmacy we went, this time straight to the head of the line. Let me just tell you, the people who had arrived since I left the pharmacy the first time or hadn’t noticed me (kind of hard to do) in the first place were NOT HAPPY with what they saw as my attempt to cut to the front of the line. I could hear a lot of rumbling and raised voices, but the people who had been there with me from the start spoke up and calmed things down. Hooray for my comrades!

Finally, FINALLY, I was back at the counter picking up the prescriptions. Then it was back to Peds OPD for one final time to bring Amo’s file back (you do NOT just leave the file anywhere as it may not be found the next time you need it!) for it to be re-filed until the next time. Another day at the hospital is done.

** Since starting this post, I did make the return trip for the blood test results. I did have to wait a bit as I didn’t have the file number with me, as no one had written it down for me on the handy dandy appointment card the last time I was there. While I was waiting for the sister to locate the file, I did see my little friend who clawed at my hands and face in March. I get to go back at the beginning of June with Amo. You can all start praying for me now J


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