Peace Scientists work for peace

Natasha and Farai rap for peace

Breaking a leg in Zambia click here
Greater Lakes Women Refugee Association of Zambia click here
Natasha Mofya. The University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka Zambia. MJoTA 2016 v10n21216

I am just 20, and have completed high school, but I always remember the university teaching hospital mentioned on television on the news about health matters. All I knew about it was it was the biggest and the only teaching hospital in Zambia where patients were referred if their cases could not be treated at local clinics.

I never even knew where it was, even though it is right in Lusaka where I lived. Who could blame me anyway? I had never been seriously sick and all my family members were all healthy, so any little diseases we had were treated at our local clinics and the story was buried.

That was so until this year, when we moved to our new home and my mother suddenly fell sick, she complained of body pains especially her feet. We thought it was just one of those things that would go away with a painkiller but she only became worse.

Within a week, my mother had difficulty walking. She spent all the days sleeping in bed and her feet swelled up. My two elder sisters were alarmed, and took her to the (ZAF) Zambia Air Force clinic. This clinic was less congested and better kept because it wasn't open to the general public. The people there did their best to help her but could not find the cause of the pain due to the fact that the clinic had no big laboratory to carry out tests.

Meanwhile, at home I was taking care of my siblings, very worried not knowing what would happen to my mum, but I had to be brave for my sisters and brothers who were very young. My elder sister, who was 25, was the one who took care of all financial costs both at home and at the hospital, but she never had a job and this that she obtained this money by asking from friends. My father actually played no role in this.

I remember him coming drunk at midnight only to wake us up and he claimed to have no money to help mum or us. Well I don't know how true that was, but it was all he ever said.

My sisters' friends advised them to take my mum to UTH (University Teaching Hospital). That there she would get the best treatment, but they had doubts because of the picture they had of the hospital. They believed the hospital was congested, untidy, with very unfriendly and rude personnel.

In addition, we heard very weird stories about the hospital long ago, stories of witchcraft and mysterious happenings.

I remember one particular story we were told about a lady who went to give birth and a midwife who had died a day ago attended to her. After the lady delivered other midwives came and told her that a ghost had probably helped her deliver because the midwife she said attended to her had died and the story went on to say they later found the baby in the morgue with the same midwife.

Sometimes on the news we would watch people being unattended to and others died due to long hours of waiting without receiving any treatment. This happened while the nurses and doctors were chatting or making themselves too busy for nothing, that was why my sisters did not want to go there, but finally after everything failed they just decided to take her.

My sister (the second born) and I switched places, she went home to be with the kids while I followed my elder sister who was with mum at the hospital. When I arrived, my stomach ached when I saw the big letters on the wall written University Teaching Hospital, much worse, the casualty section.

There were so many people with serious diseases and injuries. I failed to see how others were alive because they looked literally dead to me. The first impression I had when I got there was this is precisely what people talk about, my mum wasn't given a bed just a small mattress in a corner because there was no space, but what impressed me was presence of so many student nurses attending to every patient, well that's better I thought.

Wait, where would I and my sister sleep?? There was no space for us to lie down. We sat the whole night while being worried sick about my mum.

Early the next morning, we were taken to the wards, it felt a little better but I felt miles away from home in a place I had never been to. We saw many patients in one ward, others still slept on the floor with many nurses passing by At 6am doctors attended to patients and then handed over to the nurses who did the job day and night.

The hospital was so big, with different departments. I got lost many times and wondering why the government never made use of this infrastructure and improved the services they offered. It was a teaching hospital so there were many student nurses and doctors present. I actually admired the work they were doing because I always wanted to be a doctor.

My worst fears were being realized. The bathrooms and toilets were a mess, water came at fixed times, even though the janitors did their best to clean, people just lost their hygiene, this was acceptable in a way I thought because some patients were extremely sick such that being dirty didn't bother them anymore. But I think their relatives could have made sure they took good care of that, anyway, I still can't blame them because some of them told us they had been there for months nursing their relatives and they got so tired and frustrated, many stories I heard made me drop tears.

Many patients who were there had older relatives taking care of them, probably their mothers and aunts, but my sister and I were the only ones present on my mum's bed side, with no older relative to help us. We were the youngest persons nursing any patient. Nobody came to visit us. I watched how a large number of relations trooped in during visiting hours to see their relatives. But we had no one.

Only a bouquet of roses that I picked behind our back yard when coming to be with my mum, people really had compassion towards us but I was so strong.

There was a cafeteria upstairs but food there was so expensive and we didn't have enough money, we would go to the canteens outside the hospital were women prepared food, this food was considered hygienically unclean but what were we supposed to do when that was the only food we could afford, and my father just never showed up to help us. I really felt like a single orphan about to lose a mother.

When night fell, I and my sister slept under my mum's bed. She was given a bed luckily, we slept on the floor literally with no blankets. What I used to hear about this hospital was proving itself to be true but my story was going to change in a few days.

Around 02am when all was quiet, we saw cats passing in the wards, and patients and relatives next to us started wailing that their relatives had died. They wept bitterly and I wept inside my heart too. I felt bad because these were people we interacted with during the day and suddenly they were gone. I thought is this going to happen to us too?? But I kept on praying and having faith in God. When I saw the cats passing and people suddenly dying I said to myself isn't this the witchcraft I have heard talk about? Because I have heard that cats are linked to black magic.

My mum couldn't sleep, she kept on complaining. We used a wheelchair all the time to take her to the bathroom. But there was a shortage of wheelchairs at the hospital so we really had to hustle for one. I cried within me. Was mum going to die?? I remembered this particular verse in Thriving Ivory' s song “Don't tell me if am dying cause I don't wanna know,if I can't see the sun then maybe I should go. Don't wake me cause am dreaming of angels on the moon..where everyone you know never leaves too soon” it made me more sad, how were we ever going to live without her?? We prayed when going to sleep and when waking up, despite all the turmoil, my heart was at peace for I knew God was watching over us.

In the morning I saw a woman carrying food in pots passing through the wards. I asked my sister who she was, and what she was carrying. My sister explained that the government started providing food for all the patients and the relatives at the hospital, I was really touched and grateful in my heart, the woman actually came to our bed and gave my mum some hot soya porridge. In the afternoons she would again pass through with well cooked nshima and good relish and she did the same in the evening. I didn't know such a thing took place at the hospital people said was extremely bad. This food helped us a lot, because sometimes we did not have money and just waited for the lady so we could eat, and she was so friendly.

I praised the government of the day for helping people in this way and slowly my views about the hospital began to change during my stay at the hospital.

I began to notice how friendly the nurses were. There was this nurse who gave mum a bath as if she were her daughter, staying without a bath made her worse but after a bath, my mum became much better.

I saw how the nurses would come to greet and encourage us in the morning and give my mum whatever medicines that were available, sometimes there was no water inside the hospital and we would go outside to draw water in small bottles.

Around 5am the janitors woke us up so they could clean. I was tired and still wanted to sleep but we were told to stand outside until they finished cleaning. Another thing was that they didn't allow two people to be at the bedside so sometimes they chased me outside for hours until I saw that all was clear and went back in again.

This place changed for me, it became more like my home and the patients and relatives in the wards became our family. We encouraged each other, helped each other with whatever we were short of, through the struggles and pain we still thanked God. Disconnected from the rest of the world I saw how we all take for granted the good times we have and just complain. I thought of people who were fine in their homes celebrating life and making merry and never even dreamed of ever been sad: that is the circle of life under the sun.

I learned to appreciate the efforts the doctors and nurses made while working under stressful conditions. Those on night shifts slept in one room on mattresses just like us, it is not like life on the nurses and doctors side was all juicy, no!! They also faced many challenges, and I also got to appreciate how the government had improved the services at this hospital: all services we received were free. Yes, totally free.

It wasn't the best hospital, we were in short of many things, but what matters is they took us in and took care of us for free. And I think more than 100 patients checked in each day from all parts of the country, and they all received treatment unlike the stories people told us.

I also got to realize that this place had changed a lot and people had to know this. Less people died and the nurses and doctors were friendly plus many other good things I saw there, yes the place had its bad sides but all in all they do save peoples lives.

After almost a month of staying at the hospital my mother was discharged, she got better and better, and today she is alright. She was diagnosed with arthritis and takes painkillers but she's ok back on her feet again and I really thank God for that.

And one surprising thing was that the roses I had picked never dried until we got out of the hospital. They somehow gave us hope and signaled all will be well when I looked at them, I've actually made it a daily routine to pick even just one rose flower and put it in my room every morning, as the fragrance reaches my nostrils I know am alive and destined for greatness.

It has now been months after this happened and I learned so many things from that place, things like. The hospital is not as bad as people said it was, never conclude about something you don't know: always thank God in whatever situation you are in because some people would feel ok to be were you are.

I've also learned that it is being unfair to yourself to give up while you are still alive because for me as long as life endures, stories change overnight and I will do great things not even the sky is the limit. I have many areas of my life am battling with but none of them make me shake the way I shook with the fear of losing a mother and because of that, I've learned to thank God no matter what am going through.

The university teaching hospital will forever be in my heart, sometimes when am home I think about how the people are doing that side and someday when I get older I want to make a difference and help people in hospitals with whatever I can, probably some with necessities like soap, blankets food etc and also just a smile to show them you care this can really help them.

Now when I see it on television, it brings back memories that make me know am strong and am a fighter.

But there's still one thing I do not understand. Why was this hospital never given a name?? University Teaching Hospital is not a name I think. This is like naming your school, “school”, is that a name? I wonder.