The very day Jen extended the invite for me to become one of the sapeople bloggers, I started scribbling notes and thinking about the many things that I wanted to write about. But as luck would have it, within 24 hours of accepting , I got tackled and taken down by the flu. Haven’t established which strain since I wasn’t offered a swab (talk about 3rd world) : avian, swine or equine but suffice to say it kicked the life right out of me. The next day, Katia my 12 year old was down too. So much for wallowing in self pity, alone, with your fever chills, the exclusive rights to the sofa with full control of the remote, covered by a soft, fluffy blanky and the breathtaking view of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. There is always next time.
The thing that really upset me though was giving up my ticket to watch the first ever test rugby match between Italy and South Africa at the Stadio Friuli in Udine, home to the Udinese Football Club and just a stone’s throw from home. (The odds of that happening again are about the same as me spontaneously combusting whilst taking a shower.) Rugby is not very big in Italy. Also, it was going to be the subject of my first blog.
My son Max (9) went in my place, a first for him, and I spent the afternoon alternating between watching the match, playing Florence Nightingale to my rather demanding daughter, bouts of delirium and thinking what I could write about said match for the blog without having actually been there in the flesh. All I can remember about the afternoon, and I am not embarassed to admit, is that I shed a tear when the boys sang the national anthem. I blame my weakened state.
But then I got much worse and had to go to the doctor. I was naive to think that because I had shown restraint in not running off to the doc at the first sign of a sniffle and had instead suffered quietly for 5 days, I was going to get special attention or treatment, at last. At the very least maybe a prescription, for something, anything.
And so this post was born. But first I need to say this. Since leaving South Africa 13 years ago I have very rarely said I missed the country and that I wanted to go back for anything other than visits. That’s not me. I don’t look back. I love new experiences, I fit in anywhere, almost, and adapt easily to the customs of the places I have lived in. Granted, I miss my friends, Peppermint Crisps, Nandos and nine straight months of summer. Who wouldn’t?
But now to get back to the doctors’ visit. I have been a patient of his for 7 years, he sits behind his desk and never leaves his seat while you in with him. It makes no difference what you may be suffering from, an ingrown toenail or an about-to-burst appendix. The only times that he has actually abandoned his post is when I have asked him or told him to – suggesting that this was how my doctor did things back home.
On the rare occasions that he has looked down my throat, he has done it from a distance of maybe a metre with no flashlight. He has certainly never looked in my ears. Now that I think about it, I don’t believe I have actually ever seen his stethoscope. I can however attest to the fact that he has a crucifix hanging on the wall behind his desk.
Tuesday was no different. I left his rooms (and by the way he is only sees patients for an hour a day, from Monday to Friday at set times), the same way I went in: sick as a dog, or pig as it were, barely able to stand on my own two feet, feverish and coughing like a pack-a-day veteran with emphysema and empty handed. He had not looked down my throat or in my ears, listened to my lungs, measured my temperature, taken my pulse or felt my swolen glands. (I was too weak to insist). A swab test was out of the question. This was his expert diagnosis: I had seasonal flu, it was viral, so NO antibiotics. He suggested: antipyretics for the fever, lots of liquids, plenty bedrest and a measure of patience. (He doesn’t know me at all). And this was his advice: if me and every other sick person followed this dictum – stayed home, self medicated and didn’t clog up doctors’ waiting rooms, germs wouldn’t be so easily diffused.
He did however say that if my cough turned to bronchitis, and there was a small chance, I should call him and he would then prescribe antibiotics, and even drop the script off at my house. I left with the rejoinder that if I got bronchitis, he should run fast and far and hide. But that I would find him anyway. For the record, visits to your GP are free, (would you pay him?) and children have a right to a paediatrician (also fee of charge) till the age of 16. I can hear you all thinking what is she whining about.
It was then that I said it: I miss South Africa and its wonderful doctors.
Four hours later (all pharmacies are closed between 12h30 and 15h30 – subject for a later blog) I dragged myself out, again, hoping the chemist would suggest an over-the-counter drug that would miraculously make me feel better. Where there is life there is hope. I didn’t fancy a bottle of single malt because I feared the hangover. I entered the chemist coughing, couldn’t help it, and I admit, looking a little worse for wear. In essence, I got the same speech from the surly assistant pharmacist about staying home when you are sick.
After my passionate diatribe, I left thinking two things: that I was not going to be able to go back to that particular pharmacy and how much I missed South African ones.
Now that I have this off my chest, I promise to keep the next blogs shorter.