Public hospitals, my nightmare!

Public hospitals, my nightmare!

Date: December 7, 2011
  • SHARE:

I could not ask a nurse why it was taking too long for me to see my doctor, because I did not know how to say it in proper English. Every time I tried to explain myself or ask for information, the nurse would look at me either confused or angry. She would even snap at me in front of the other patients.

I remember, on a different day, I tried to explain to the nurse that my four-year-old son spent the whole night coughing and vomiting. She looked at me and started speaking a language that I do not understand. When I told her I only speak English (even though it is broken English) she ignored me.

I had to wait with my weak child in my arms until a woman came and asked me nicely where I was from. It was a relief because the woman was also from DRC like me, and offered to help with the translation.

Unfortunately, when I went for my monthly check-up, she was not around. I started sweating, as I did not know what to do or who to talk to. All I could do was wait helplessly. I would not dare ask the nurses for anything, as I was too scared to be humiliated again.

I must admit that hospitals always remind me that I am living far away from my country, that I am not welcome. The nurses do not even bother to hide it. It is the same scenario every time I go alone or with my small child.

Whenever I get up in the morning knowing that I am going to the hospital, my heart beats faster. It is like having a nightmare while daydreaming. It is so depressing that I pray everyday not to get sick so that I would not have to go to that hell.

I thought that I was the only one hating public hospitals. I was very surprised to hear fellow women complaining about the nurses being rude and hostile.

I recall one of my customers at the hair saloon saying that she got so mad after a nurse shouted at her in Zulu that she also started shouting back at the nurse in Lingala, one of the languages spoken in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC.

I had to learn some words or write down some basic expressions on a piece of paper in order to explain to the doctor how my child or I was feeling. When I could not pronounce a word, the doctor could read himself. Some nurses said that I was stupid because I could not read what I wrote myself. I was willing to go to another hospital but I could not afford to go too far either. I was not even sure that somewhere else would be better.

The different incidents that I described earlier were painful and traumatic. However, Thursday, 10 March was one of the most painful moments that I’ve experienced in South Africa.
At three o’ clock, as I went to labour, my neighbor gave me a lift to the hospital. I was about to give birth. The nurses put me in a room with other women. They said I had to wait and I would probably deliver early in the morning.

One of the nurses was checking on me all the time, an hour later, nobody was checking up on me anymore. My contractions were getting more and more frequent as well as painful. I could see the same nurses checking on other women, communicating politely while I was in pain.

I started calling a nurse. They were sitting there, talking and laughing; nobody was paying attention to me. One of them even said, “Hey wena, you are making noise, shut up or go back to your country.” Those words would have hurt me if I was not in such pain. It did not matter anymore; I just wanted them to help me, no matter how they felt about me because I am not South African. I needed help!

I screamed as loud as I could and managed to get one of the nurses to come towards me. She yelled at me saying, you foreigners left your countries to come and invade our maternities. I was screaming, just screaming. She slapped me and started speaking in her language.

I could see that other women who were speaking local South African languages were helped more efficiently and were receiving the help they were seeking. I got scared. I was wondering if I would survive this. I was not safe at all. All I could do is pray and pray. I did not feel that I was in a place where they save lives and take care of people. No, it did not feel that way!

About 5 minutes later, they took me to the room to deliver. I had some complications. Early in the morning, my baby boy was born. A baby boy that I did not have the chance to take home with me. He died just after I gave birth. Apparently, he caught an infection and did not make it: That was the explanation I got.

Who cared? They did not. My son was gone and nothing could bring him back. I hate public hospitals, I really do. They remind that I am just one of those foreigners invading South Africa.


Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

*Rebecca, 35 , is from DRC. She has one four-year-old child that she is bringing up as a single mother. Julie Ilondo is a Johannesburg based writer from DRC. This story is part of the “I” Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.


Comment on Public hospitals, my nightmare!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *