She thinks it could be malaria and gives me the address of the closest private hospital and I see that it’s only a few blocks from where I’m staying. Awesome!
Take a shower, get dressed and drive over to the hospital.
The New York City girl in me of course is always worried about a lack of parking in cities when I drive. I have discovered that I tend to park in places that are very far from my destination because there is an available parking spot, not because it’s convenient. It’s like my brain cannot comprehend that I’m in a city AND have parking.
So, as usual, I park a few blocks away from the hospital and that is completely unnecessary. As I walk into the hospital parking lot I see plenty of parking spots right in front of the freaking hospital.
Walk into the main lobby, and WOAH.
This is the fanciest hospital I have ever seen! A big crystal chandelier hangs from the center of the room with oriental carpets, cherry wood furnishings and expensive pottery.
Am I in a hospital or hotel lobby?!
The security guard greets me and points me to the emergency room around the corner.
Enter the emergency room and I’m confused on what to do. Everyone is sitting calmly but there’s no triage nurse or place to check in. It’s more like a friendly clinic.
I ask the other people what to do and they tell me to sit down and wait until someone makes eye contact with me at the desk. I stare at the man working at the desk like a creepy serial killer until we make eye contact and he calls me to the desk.
He’s a very friendly guy and I can tell he’s been doing this job for a long time. Each patient requires what seems like 100 different sticky labels to be printed and put on 100 different pieces of paper. He asks me what’s going on and quickly organizes all the papers.
He tells me that New Year’s Day tends to be a busy day for the hospital and they are short-staffed, so I should expect to wait for about an hour.
An hour?! Ha! No problem! Almost all hospitals in the US are private, bill you hundreds and thousands of dollars and I’ve waited upwards of 10-15 hours before with no apology from anyone.
I can certainly handle an hour.
I sit down and the nurse calls me into his office to take my vitals and write down what’s going on with me.
Go back and wait.
Okay, it turns into more than an hour.
Two hours pass and a woman enters the hospital with her 10-year old daughter. She says she’s been throwing up and vomiting since this morning and has the exact same symptoms as me. She demands to be seen NOW.
They tell her to sit down and she becomes very dramatic, complaining to her daughter.
The door to the room with beds opens the head nurse looks at me while standing at the door.
“You’re next. Thank you so much for your patience!” she tells me.
“No problem, thank you very much,” I reply.
As soon as the door opens again to discharge another patient, the woman who just came in runs through the door and demands to see a doctor and leaves her daughter sitting alone in the emergency room.
Um, okay, I guess I’m not next.
A few minutes later, someone comes to collect the woman’s daughter.
Another hour passes.
Finally, they call me in. I lay in a bed waiting to see the doctor.
A nurse enters the room.
“Hello! How are you today?” she says.
“Well, I’ve been vomiting with diarrhea and a bad stomach ache and I’ve had extreme fatigue for about a week now,” I say.
“Oh, I’m not hear to treat you. I’m here because we need this room. I’m going to wheel your bed into the hallway, so stay laying down,” she says.
Okay. Lay in the bed in the hallway.
Soon, they roll me into another room.
Another nurse enters and is here to treat me. I tell her my symptoms.
“Okay, you’re gonna need a drup,” she says.
“Drup?” I ask.
“Drup,” she says again.
“What is a drup?”
“You know, a drup.”
“DRUP. Like, an IV Drup” she repeats again.
“Oh! A drip!” I feel like a bonehead. Sometimes my ears are not accustomed to hearing words with an Afrikaans accent. I had no idea she was saying the word drip.
They take some blood and give me an IV drip. Finally, the doctor comes to see me. He says he thinks I have Hepatitis A, B, salmonella, E coli or maybe even Malaria and will administer tests for it all.
They tell me to go home and come back in an hour for the results and ask that I bring back a stool sample when I return. Cool.
Drive back to the apartment and go take a nap and eat some lunch.
I decide to walk back to the hospital this time. As I’m walking, I become aware of the fact that I have had to carry poo in my purse in a cup several times during my Peace Corps experience.
Who knew that joining the Peace Corps meant carrying your own stool around so many times? This is now the third time I’ve had to do this.
I also take in what a stunningly beautiful place it is in Cape Town. Just a casual walk to the hospital garners views of rolling mountains and palm trees. I’m truly lucky to be sick in paradise!
Arrive back at the hospital and they send me to wait at the main nursing station.
I pull up a chair and watch the festivities go down and the medical cases that come into the emergency room. Men who got drunk and twisted their ankle, people here with their kids who have fevers, etc.
A 20-something woman with blonde hair in short cutoff shorts and a bikini top is shown to a bed with her mother. I see her angrily pacing around the bed after 20 minutes while the nurses work to gather the results of my tests and give me my results.
“HELLO?!” the woman with the short shorts yells.
“HELLO!” she yells again.
My doctor runs over to consult with her and find out what’s going on.
“This is ridiculous, I have been waiting for 45 minutes!!” she yells at him.
“I’m sorry Ma’am I’m the only doctor here today and we are working as fast as we can,” he replies.
“Oh come on. I’m PAYING to be here, this is a private hospital. This isn’t discovery medicine, I should not have to wait a whole 45 minutes to be treated!” she yells and looks over to me, hoping that I will console her.
“I’m going on five-and-a-half hours here honey. It’s a busy day and they’re doing their best,” I reply.
“NO WAY! No way you’ve been here five and a half hours! I refuse to believe it!” she turns to the doctor. “This isn’t discovery medicine! I demand to be seen right now!”
I tell the doctor it’s fine, I don’t mind waiting and to please treat her first.
A while later the doctor comes to sit with me and explains that I tested negative for Hepatitis, E Coli and Malaria. He thinks I have salmonella poisoning. This is nothing new to me, as it’s the second time at least I’ve had it since moving to Africa. And I’m a vegetarian!
He prescribes me several medicines to take and tells me to go to the 24-hour pharmacy in the downtown area of Cape Town.
As I leave, I check out with the friendly guy at the front desk who was helpful earlier today to pay my bill.
“Okay so who is with you to go get these medicines?” he asks.
“No one, I live in Botswana and I’m here in Cape Town alone,” I reply.
“Okay so then have your Uber pick you up here at the hospital, do not walk out of this hospital alone,” he says.
“Well, I walked here from the place I’m staying and I have my own car. I’ll just walk a few blocks to go get my car and drive there,” I say.
“WHAT?! Oh no! Cape Town is NOT a safe city! You absolutely positively cannot be walking around here by yourself! There is crime here and you should not be walking anywhere!”
“I walked here this afternoon and it was lovely! It’s all Mercedes and BMWs driving by and there’s a golf course across the street. It seems safe!”
“No, absolutely not. I want you to walk as fast as you can to your car and then drive to the pharmacy. The pharmacy is not in a safe area of Cape Town, so park as close as you can to the door. It’s getting dark soon, you must get there before dark,” he warns.
I am surprised. I have felt so safe in Cape Town overall. Maybe after living alone in New York City for 20-years, my standards of city danger have been upped? I feel like as long as you don’t stick out as a stupid tourist and draw attention to yourself and keep your belongings out of sight, it’s pretty safe here.
Walk to the car, drive to the pharmacy. Yeah, this isn’t a great neighborhood, he was right. Go inside and get the medicines I need.
Drive back to my place and take the medicine immediately. Call Claire, tell her what’s going on. Call Colden, he makes me feel better, as always.
Video chat with Colden and hang around the house for the rest of the day.
A few hours later, I start to actually feel a lot better. More energy. Stomachache is gone. Woo hoo!
Go to bed early. If I’m better tomorrow, I’m going hard and I’m determined to go to Table Mountain and be productive!
I think about how I am eternally grateful for the wonderful medical care we receive in the Peace Corps. Both Botswana and South African medical staff were absolutely fabulous today. I don’t know what I would do without them.