Injuried as a liveaboard: What happened when I went to a state hospital in South Africa for a wrist operation.

Liveaboard injuries are always serious, particularly when out on the ocean! This is my experience in a state hospital in South Africa after injuring my wrist pretty seriously.

I fell off the jetty (misstepped, not wine-induced) and snapped my right wrist, tore tendons in my arm and dislocated my shoulder…..

12 December 2018.

The op is done and the eagle has landed, exactly where she belongs, back in her cabin. So now I have experienced the whole A-Z of the Somerset hospital “I need an op and horror upon horrors, I need to be…. (Dum da Dum daaaaa…) ADMITTED” situation. Bloody brilliant and so very insightful. I thought I was up to date on the news and what’s happening out there (and I am) but its sitting in a loooooong queue that brings reality home: when you talk to the woman from Bonteheuwel who casually told me she “got caught in a crossfire “and a bullet went through her right leg (anger towards the government sure, but no anger towards the gangsters, just a philosophical shrug and “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time”). Which by the way was outside her home….

The little skinny, surly 14-year-old who was waiting to cross the road after school when a driver jumped the kerb, knocked her over, broke her left leg and sped off. All alone in the bed next to me for 5 days with no toiletries, clothes or goodies brought to her ‘cos “mammy has to work and they wouldn’t give her time off.”We looked after her, of course. So many stories, so much pain but so much camaraderie, humour, it’s hard to describe. No pretences, no pretensions.

I was in a clean, 6-bed ward on the 1st floor with a view of the sea and the mountain with this kid and 3 Mama Africa’s, all over the age of 60. What a treat! Their very open curiosity about the White Mama with her blonde Afro, (lying on a pillow for 5 days, drip in one arm, plaster cast on the other, no way to manoeuver a hairbrush anywhere near your head unless you do yoga and can use your toes which I do not ), their generosity, (they share everything if one in the room gets a gift, we all do), their humour, their awe of the doctors and light-heartedness with the young nurses who show them so much respect, something not that prevalent in white society anymore.

The young first and second-year nurses blew my breath away. Polite, so keen to learn, eager, enthusiastic (ok, there was one surly one I unfortunately had to ask to stop being a bitch, but only once ) and the fact that they get paid NOTHING whilst doing their 4 years of training is mind-boggling. They get money sent from home for food, transport and their uniforms, on average they get around R500 a month. If a parent loses a job and another family member cannot support them, their career goes down the proverbial sluice drain. They stay in residence at Tygerberg, get transport to and from whichever hospitals they are placed in, where the older, lazier Sisters (I know I am generalising here, this is their version), usually give them all the shitty jobs to do. Yet, there they are, every day, 7 -7, 6 days a week, with sweet smiles and gentle hands. 50/50 black and white and it’s amazing. Talking about the black /white issue, we have certainly come a long way baby, can you imagine a young 25-year-old black male nurse chatting away merrily whilst attaching ECG plugs to a half-naked white woman’s bare chest (that would be mine) 20 years ago? Shock! Horror from both parties! Perfectly natural and normal now darlings, that’s just the way it is.

Of course, with the inexperienced staff, some monumental potential disasters do occur. Like the fact that they accidentally placed two opposing gang members in the same ward. They were admitted because they had shot EACH OTHER!! One staggered over and tipped the other out of his bed in the middle of the night…pandemonium….moved them apart…..we all went back to sleep.

I cannot praise the expertise of the doctors, theatre staff highly enough. I do not believe you will find better in any private hospital anywhere. They even put up with my unfortunate habit of swearing profusely when I come around from an anaesthetic pretty well. Case 1: “Well done Nikki, you went through that like Wonder woman, ” said the doc….my succinct response? “Fuck Wonder woman, did you fix my fucking arm? “I was “under” 3 times. They heard a lot.

Yip, the foods up to shit, yip, they wake you at 4 am. to bathe yourself, sure you don’t have a private bathroom and DSTV (but there IS a TV) but so what, it’s not a health farm; it’s a bloody good, provincial hospital with excellent care. Looks like the arm, with its titanium plate, will be better than ever. Might actually become Wonder woman after all!! 

How I was treated in a State hospital in South Africa after being injured aboard.
ARM IN A SING ATTACHED TO BOAT HATCH TO KEEP ARM UPRIGHT! THANKS, CAPTAIN!

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