Yesterday we truly got a glance through the window of life living in the 'Third World' as Tuesday I ventured to the free clinic to have Kieren seen by the doctor there. She had been messing with her ears here and there and then a couple people also thought she might have an ear infection, so it was time to go. Oh my gosh, it was such a mission at this place! It's quite a scene to begin with; it's a small room with benches and when I got there at 7:30 (I think it opens at 7:15) the room was already filled with about 40-50 people and children. We tried for about 20 minutes to talk to someone to put our name on a list, or whatever, and finally a janitor there who recognized me and helped me to get my name in their system and on the list. After a while I was seen by a nurse of some kind who weighed Kieren and then told me to go to another area to wait to see doctor. This area was smaller, with not even a place for me to sit, and ahead of me to see whomever were about ten other mothers with babies or children. I later learned I wasn't even in line for the doctor but for a 'clinic sister' (and I don't know what that means), but it was the wrong person to see anyways because I needed a prescription for Kieren. The whole time I was waiting in that area, not one single person complained; they were all talking and laughing and just waiting patiently. In about 20 minutes standing there I saw one person go out of the room. I would have waited all day... literally. Finally, after about two hours, Casey showed up and we decided to pay to see a private doctor. Kieren was so sleepy and I was exhausted. We learned of a private doctor down the road who charged about $20 (130 South African Rand) and had business hours in the afternoon. We took her back later in the day, she was seen by the doctor, and given various medicines for her minor ear infection.
Wow, ear infections are SO common in the US, and it was just Kieren's first. I thought so much yesterday about our pediatrician's office in Raleigh, called Raleigh Pediatrics. It is a beautiful facility, with timely, educated staff and doctors. They also have a 24 hour nurse help-line for every parent's tiny scare and worry. Here in South Africa, parents wait all day for their child to be seen by a doctor or someone else. My mother yesterday was asking about the swine flu and if it is a problem in SA. Honestly, I have no idea, because it probably isn't being diagnosed if it is here! I hear about kids having fevers and stomach bugs, but they just stay home from school until they get better. Rarely does anyone go to the doctor, and sickness just isn't a worry. Health care officials are more talking about testing and treatment for HIV and tuberculosis here, problems that make an ear infection look trite.
Here was the real frustration for me yesterday – myself. I couldn't believe how frustrated I could get, and just what I believed I 'deserved' for my privileged, white family. Of course, I didn't verbalize these thoughts, but I was ashamed that I even thought them. We are so privileged to have great health care in America (if we can afford it, of course) and it is a gift that we so often overlook. And we were able to finally leave the dingy halls of that clinic and pay to see a doctor, when these other people didn't have that luxury. Even more, for most of the world, they don't even have access to a doctor because there isn't one or they can't afford.
So another great lesson in the classroom of life today, and I leave this session recognizing my need to be so grateful that I can care for my child whenever a problem arises. Kieren is of course FINE and probably just had a slight annoyance at some ear pain for a day or two....
Thanks for learning with me,