Hospitals are not my favorite places. What I am saying is that they don’t rank that high with bars and banks and massage parlors. They more like come up on a different list, where church and school would show face, only to be used in times of absolute necessity.
Sure I do respect medical people, doctors and all and I pray for them every day that they go to heaven and take as little time as possible in purgatory. I also think there is something sexy about nurses, the cute ones I mean, who manage to smile through all that blood and vomit and still nurse you back to health.
The only one I take off that list is the elderly nurse who back in 88 pricked my behind. You thought I would forget? Yes, I had malaria and all that but you had no right. No right at all to prick me like that! Tablets could have done. You, I don’t pray for. Find someone else to give your prayer request.
So when I traveled to Nairobi last week end, those not so nice memories of hospital surroundings came back when I with a whole bus lot was asked to go get checked for Ebola. For a while I could have been in the shoes of a Somali national, who may be a History professor for all I care, but who gets those annoying looks of suspicion just because of his long beard and skull cap-thanks to his pirate and Al shabaab brothers. So simply because I am Ugandan, I had to be checked for Ebola? I felt that way.
But deep within me I felt a particular respect for the Kenyan Immigration team. That right there is responsibility, taking responsibility in the sight of danger of a very bad disease. All diseases are bad, right? But you don’t want to have Ebola, that sh*t there is the ish? You follow?
Stay with me, let me just tell you just how serious Ebola can be.
According to http://www.webmd.com, Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe, often-fatal disease in humans, caused by infection with Ebola virus, named after a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in Africa, where it was first recognized.
People can be exposed to Ebola virus from direct contact with the blood and/or secretions of an infected person or through contact with objects, such as needles, (And I believe, passports; Ed) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
Health-care providers must be able to recognize a case of Ebola HF should one appear. They must also have the capability to perform diagnostic tests and be ready to employ practical viral hemorrhagic fever isolation precautions, or barrier nursing techniques. These techniques include the wearing of protective clothing, such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles; the use of infection-control measures, including complete equipment sterilization; and the isolation of Ebola HF patients from contact with unprotected persons.
I know you are all smart people, you know all this. But someone must have missed the memo in their hurry to set up a medical screening camp.
There are families which have lost relatives and friends to Ebola. It is not something you take casually, like the ‘Health Inspector’ at Malaba border. That would be a mean joke to the dead.
In that line, the seriousness of medical checks came to me. It’s either or. They don’t have to tell you that if you are found negative, you go your way singing and meeting deadlines which you are chasing with travel. However, should you be found positive, life changes, and with Ebola you are put into isolation. The present ceases to matter and you start to predict the future. You put everything on hold or rather everything is put on hold for you more like being arrested on your way to your wedding. Priorities change.
In that slow-moving line, with hushed nervous conversation, you begin to think ahead. A small form was handed to each one of us, by a carefree security guard. If anyone of us had asked him to lend his pen, I have no doubt he would have obliged -with pleasure- and perhaps accepted his pen back after use.
In that line, where I spent two whole hours, I made up my story, my explanation. What if the Doctor looks at my eyes and questions their redness? Oh come on, I would say, they are a natural red. Heck if our passport forms had an eye-color question, mine would have been filled RED.
So I wondered, as I slowly inched towards the entrance. The Health Inspector’s den if you may. Do they make you open your mouth wide; may be gurgle something? Do gloved hands open your eyes wide perhaps looking for symptoms of disease? Are you handed that small ‘stool’ tin to go help yourself and bring it back full for lab tests?
What if for whatever reason, the inspector interprets your cold for Ebola signs? He, I would imagine,would send you straight into isolation, probably onto a white plastic encased bed with full goggled nurses(sorry I meant, fully- goggled) who would then proceed to tube you up with drips and force you to rest.
I am startled back to attention.
I respectfully enter the room with neatly stenciled; ‘Health Inspector’ on the door. I am expecting a room with microscopes, a side examination bed and tubes lining the whole place.
My eyes quickly dart around the room, as if to confirm my expectations. An extended hand is questioningly raised towards my passport, in which lay my medical examination form. The elderly gentleman is seated behind a table alright-not an examination table; but your usual public office table with a few scattered books and pieces of paper. He is wearing a coat, not a lab coat but a navy blue trench coat, I presume to protect him from the early morning cold.
Within less than a minute, my ‘examination’ is complete. My name, place of residence and profession has been entered into his black book, and my form duly stamped. Not even a peek into my natural red eyes or a question about who I met during the past days or places I could have traveled to. I simply filled my form whose details he put into book and he wished me a safe journey. Ebola check complete.
I am handed my passport back, and his arm is raised once again to attend to the next traveler.
For effect, the lady at the Immigration window demands to see my ‘Ebola certificate’ before she can look at my passport.
For a wile there, while I should have been elated at being declared Ebola free, I am instead sorry for the Kenyan population who has trusted the system to protect them from disease. Yes, a screening point has been erected, but I highly doubt that ‘centre’ there would have stopped anyone even with the most evident symptoms of Ebola unless one fell right there on the floor, blood oozing from his nose.
I am off to Nairobi, and the Health official probably off to claim his night allowance for serving the nation.