Sometimes we taken out of our comfort zone and we just have to go for it. I had an experience like this the other night that I want to share it with everyone. Just a disclaimer that I am writing this post not to make fun or to say my point of view is better. I just want to show the readers of our blog a different world, a world so different than the reality of the United States. This is what happened to me through my eyes and I hope to be able to paint for you all picture of what I experienced.
I was fast asleep when the phone started ringing. I jumped out of bed, wide awake, I was pretty sure I knew who was calling.
“Hello” I answered the phone.
“Emilie, I am having lots of contractions, I need to go to the hospital to get checked out.”
“Ok, I’ll be right there.
My friend and neighbor, lets call her Anna, was 9 months pregnant. I had told her that if she went into labor in the middle of the night give me a call and I would take her to the hospital. Very few people in our neighborhood have a car, so the majority of people rely on their motorcycles and scooters. This can be very difficult when you have a late night emergency.
Back to our story, I looked at my phone and it was 1:45am. I stumbled around my bedroom trying to locate clothes and shoes. It is amazing how when you are dead tired little things like getting dressed take twice as long. It took me probably 15 minutes to “Hurry” out the door in my sleep drunk state.
I pulled around the corner to pick up my friend and we were off to the hospital. The contractions weren’t super strong yet and were probably coming every 10 minutes. We headed off to the public hospital. One of the nice things about this country is healthcare is available to all. There is public health care and private health care. Private healthcare is only for those with insurance or those with money. All businesses are required to give their employees healthcare. However, in a country with over 50% unemployment and many people who work under the counter, this leaves a lot of people without insurance. Anna actually has a very basic private insurance (which entitles her to a small number of the lower end private hospitals), but opted for the public option. She told me that the one time she gave birth under insurance she was put in a room by herself, and felt forgotten about. With the public insurance you are always laboring with someone else so there is more attention from the staff.
We arrived at the public hospital around 2:00 am and I dropped her off at the emergency entrance, and she hobbled in, as I went to park the car. There was probably 3 cars total in the parking lot. I was surprised as I walked into the hospital to see so many people sleeping on the floors or whatever chairs they could find. The hospital doesn’t let family in the room with people over night, so family members sleep wherever they can find room. I asked a couple people where the pregnant lady went and I found my way to her.
I entered the room to where my friend was and sat down. There was a desk in the room and 4 beds. The doctor told her to go lay on a bed to get checked out, and asked for all her paper work. The doctor than starts to ask her about how many children she has,
“How many pregnancies?” the doctor asks
“Nine” Anna replies
“How many kids?”
“How many in the house now?”
“How old are you?”
The doctor than begins to tell her how irresponsible she is for having so many kids, and that she needs to stop right away. I was in shock listening to the way the doctor spoke to her. Not knowing any of her circumstances and talking to her with such an air of superiority. It made me feel so sad for her.
Even though this was the hospital she had gone to for all her prenatal care she had to give the doctor a huge stack of papers that showed she was pregnant, due date, etc. The doctor says to me, “While I am checking on her go put her in the computer,” then walks away.
I had no idea what she was talking about, like not even a clue. I walk into the hallway, there was no computer. There were 2 nurses asleep at a desk, so I wake them up, and ask, “Where is the computer where I put her in?” They looked at me like I was stupid, and pointed over there. I walked “over there” and found a waiting room. I walked into what looked like a normal hospital waiting room. Except that all the lights where off, people where sleeping on all the chairs, and there were two guys in the corners in front of computers on Facebook. I walk up to them and say, “Uh I need to put my friend in the computer…”
Then he starts to ask me questions,
” First name?” he asks
“Anna” I respond
“Um…I don’t know”
“I need her identification.”
“Ok…just a second.” I reply and walk away.
I felt like a total dummy, taking someone to the hospital and not even knowing their last name. We live next door to each other, hang out a lot, I teach her kids, but, I guess we had never gotten around to last names. I walked back to the original room, grabbed her medical paperwork of the desk, and I went back to the computer to put her in. Her picture is in the computer and they ask me if its her, thankfully it is and I completele my task well. As we finish they give me a piece of paper with tape on it to put on her wrist.
I went back to the room, taped this piece of paper around Anna’s arm. The doctor then sent me back to the computers with a list of the tests Anna needed to have done. I go back in the dark room and find the computer guys again. I go up to the guy I talked to last time, but he sends me to computer guy number 2. I give him the paper and he asks me a few more questions about Anna. Thankfully I knew all the answers to these questions. They order a urine test (completely normal), and they order a blood draw to see what blood type she is. Although she has a mountain of paper work of results from tests that have already been done, and she is in the computer. But, I guess they have to double check.
The tests all got done and then I am sent to go get the nurses to put in an I.V. I go out into the hallways, wake up the nurse’s again and tell them my friend needs an I.V. The one nurse hands a syringe to the other nurse out of her back pocket and we walk into the room. My friend then goes and sits in a chair in the middle of the room. The doctor than starts making fun of my friend with the nurses for how many kids she has. She asks me how many kids I have, “I say 4” and she says, “Well at least thats a normal number.
After the I.V. is in the doctor says its time to take her upstairs. I grab all her bags, Anna grabs her I.V. and we start walking. The only way I can describe how the hallways look like in the hospital is referencing a horror movie. I am a little used to it now, but the first time I came here I was seriously tramautized for like a week. We walk through the halls (mind you, my friend is 9 months pregnant and in labor), the lights are flickering on and off, the paint on the walls is chipping off, huge holes are in several walls, whole tiles are missing from the floors, and it is super hot. Their is a sign that says, “Sanitary Route,” and I kind of have to chuckle to myself. We get upstairs to a laboring room, where two women where sleeping on the bed. These two women are just there because a family member is in labor as well. I am the only one who seems phased by this. In these rooms there is a hospital bed. But, the hospital does not supply sheets, pillow, or any type of bedding. There is just a hospital bed with a plastic mattress and you are expected to bring everything else.
The intern isn’t in the room so the doctor says, I guess we will go down stairs. We then walk for awhile until we come to another part of the hospital. Anna is still having contractions and still holding her I.V. bag in her hand. Once we get downstairs, the doctor finds an intern, and the intern walks with us back upstairs. The two sleeping ladies are still in the room but on another bed. At this point the intern kicks them out.
Now that the intern is there and they say I can’t be in the room anymore. I ask Anna if she needs anything before I go, she says she would like some water. I leave to look for water. Unfortunately there is no water to be found anywhere. I ask around the hospital everyone tells me there is no place to get her water at this hour. I decide to get in the car because surely there is something open. I have seen a couple pharmacies that say open 24 hours. But, I learned that open 24hrs has different meaning here than in the states because they are all closed. I drive around the city looking for water, but none is to be found. At this point I give up and decide to head home. I finally got home at around 4:00am and crawl into bed.
I just wanted to record my story of an experience that is so foreign to anything that I have experienced to let people know a different perspective. This is what the public health care system looks like here. People with insurance go to the private hospitals and get much better care. But, sometimes its just good to reflect on how different the lives of people are all over the world.
Update: She did have her baby the following day… I forgot to say that 🙂