Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adventures with Ankles - Part 3 The Ward

The Ward

I have been in hospital wards in Canada, a couple of times, after giving birth, and after a small surgery when I was 12 that needed an overnight stay.  The most beds I’ve encountered in one is six, and the maternity wards held only four.  The wards were quiet, each bed had a curtain for privacy, and there was plenty of space inside the curtain for the bed, a night table, a chair for visitors, and for medical procedures.  Nurses and the limited numbers of visitors spoke quietly.  I don’t know if I was just lucky, but the one here is very different.

Disclaimer – my generalizations and overall view of my experience are based on a very small sample, since I haven’t been out of the hospital and so have seen only some of the people here.  This means my view might be skewed.

The ward here is a happenin’ place.  There are at least fifteen beds , actually gurneys, most of which have curtains.  My bed didn’t.  My space was about 6 feet by 8 feet.  None of the others were much bigger, maybe some approached 8 by 10.

Family and community are clearly very important here, and the bonds are strong.  Most of the curtained areas were filled with visitors.  For a while Melissa and I thought we’d been put in the maternity ward, because several women and newborns arrived over the day, but we later learned it was the general ward and that people were there with a variety of ailments.

All of the doctors I’ve seen are from India, as are many of the nurses.  The doctors here don’t wear white coats.  Some of the women wore beautiful saris, the men wore shirts and slacks.  The nurses wore outfits similar to what we see in Canada, top and pants both in the same colour.  The patients appeared to be all local, and I don’t think I saw more than two or three women who were not wearing hijabs, which are scarves used to cover the hair. 

I saw people outside of the ward only when I was wheeled to and from the ward for various procedures and usually I was flat on my back then.  I did, though, see that the halls were always full of people, and there were women, in the full body robes.  More usually, though, the women wore long dresses or the Indian style loose trousers with a long tunic on top, plus their hijab.  As far as I know, Melissa and I were the only white patients at the hospital, although I learned that tourists are there sometimes.

Dr. Rao was sometimes followed by a med student from Denmark.  He was even more different than we were from the people here, because he must be at least 6 foot 6, and the people here are tiny.  They all have thick black hair and beautiful dark eyes.  Many men are shorter than my 5 foot 5, and some women are smaller still.  Many of the women are incredibly lovely, almond eyes, small bones so they are very slim, smooth skin in varying shades from cafĂ© latte to dark brown.

A few of the people who work here also wear the hijab.  A woman who I assume is the hospital administrator, and who has been incredibly generous with her time in helping us get Indian visas so I can fly there to meet the Amsterdam, wears one.  There seems to be no dissention between those who wear it and those who don’t, but I worried that Melissa and I would somehow offend everyone, especially since we had no curtain to block us from everyone wandering about.  I was wearing shorts and a t-short, Melissa had on a tank top and capris.  I realize my attitude was not liberated, but I was new here, dependent on the people here, and while I might not agree with a religious custom, I have no right to enforce my views on them any more than they would have in forcing me to wear a scarf.

Nobody seemed bothered by us and after a while I was glad to have no curtain, since it meant I could watch what was going on.  There were several children about, perhaps siblings of the new babies, and the smaller ones sometimes toddled about on their own, secure that any person they met would be a friend.  And everyone was a friend.  I don’t know if this is a small enough community that people do know each other.  The island holds 40,000, although Melissa says another source said 12,000, people, and it’s not very big.  More likely, though, is the sense of community that exists here, whether you’ve met someone before or not.

The toddlers had apparently never seen anyone like us, because they would stop dead when they caught sight of us and stare.  They were immensely curious, but didn’t seem frightened.  Melissa and I would smile and wave, and eventually an adult would appear, smile at us, the only time anyone did interact with us, and take the child away.

Visitors came and went, often bringing coolers or picnic baskets.  Radios blared, many voices filled the air, the swirl of different clothing styles showed me a fabric store’s worth of colours and textures.  Twice I saw men wearing what looked like a square or rectangular piece of rough woven cotton wrapped about their waists to make a skirt down to the floor.  With this they wore what looked like a modern style shirt.

There are tourists here, and so most people must be used to people who look different and wear different clothing.  While I was on the ward, most people ignored us, not in a bad way, but simply because they were there for people other than us.

The local people speak their own language, which is a blend of Indian and Arabic, with some English thrown in.  The islands have been Muslim for centuries, although the people are clearly closely related to Indians.  The doctors and others from India speak Hindi, and often English is the best common language to use when they speak to their local patients.

Although I enjoyed all the activity, I soon realized the ward would lose its charm after I had the surgery.  I was in a lot more pain by early evening, and was exhausted.  Our space was next to one in a corner, and its curtain ran parallel to my bed.  For some reason the visitors there, and it got more than anyone else, didn’t enter the space at the curtain end by my feet.  Instead, they walked through my space to the curtain end by my head to go in.

When Melissa met me in the hall right after the surgery, I told her I couldn’t go back to that bed.  I was frantic, probably appeared irrational.  We were told that I would be taken back there and then would be moved once a room became available, but when we were about to enter the ward I grabbed the doorframe on either side of me and wouldn’t let go, even when someone assured me that the visitors wouldn’t be a problem any more.  After much irritation on the part of the people working on the ward, they decided that the next bed over, which did have some portable partitions, was free, and so I let go of the doorframe, probably having to pry my fingers out from where they were embedded in the wood, and went to that bed.

No comments:

Post a Comment