Humour

I dread ending up in a public hospital — and not for the reasons you'd expect

If there's still room for submissions in the process of passing the National Health Insurance Bill, let the record show that this is mine

21 March 2021 - 00:02
By Ndumiso Ngcobo
Image: Aardwolf

A lot of debate has been generated around the progressively approaching National Health Insurance (NHI). I have a simplistic view on the matter.

The need for universal national health insurance is a no-brainer bordering on duh! — but a lot of things look good on paper, case in point being the Covid Relief Fund. Giving money to the government is not too different from Lewis Hamilton handing the keys to his Mercedes-AMG One hypercar to Stevie Wonder after plying him with tequila.

But if you think this is a well-thought-out piece on the merits and downsides of the NHI, you do not know me at all. It is not that kind of party.

My biggest concern about the NHI is the prospect of finding myself in a public hospital. Again, not for the usual reasons you hear from whiny talk radio callers. I'll tell you my problem: I hate people talking about me like I'm not in the room!

If you've ever walked into a public clinic, you will identify with this scene: when I was about 14, I found myself buffing the benches in the corridor of Mpumalanga Clinic with the seat of my pants.

For two hours a burly nurse with an advanced tache kept popping out of a room to look at us like we were Oliver Twist and his mates at an orphanage queuing for soup and bread.

She seemed generally upset at the universe for no reason I could pinpoint: “Nikhamiseleni nina kulawomabhentshi?” (Why are you lot sitting there open-mouthed?). A brave soul would respond, “We're waiting for the dentist,” to which she would snort, “Nisazoke nilinde ke dade!” (Chill, there's a long wait ahead of you.)

Around the two-hour mark of our wait, a fellow appeared hobbling on crutches, with a grotesquely swollen face, a ginormous cast on his right leg and one eye completely shut. Within a few minutes, we all knew his story. He was there to have his wounds dressed and stitches checked out. This we heard from about five nurses who stood in the corridor discussing his injuries and the extent of the asswhupping he'd received at the hands of his shebeen mates, like it was some kung fu movie starring Jackie Chan.

As if the poor Cyclops was not standing right in front of them breathing through his wounds. “Aw' bandla, bamshiya emabokoboko kodwa usengconywana manje, ubungambona!” (He came in here all black and blue but we fixed him up, poor thing.) Then someone said something about the vetkoek lady being here and off they went to have tea.

From a very young age I had a special corner in my hateful little heart where I kept my disdain for being talked about while I'm standing right there.

From a very young age I had a special corner in my hateful little heart where I kept my disdain for being talked about while I'm standing right there

My mom would be chatting to some strange woman after Holy Mass and she'd keep bending down to pinch my cheeks, marvelling at how cute I am. I'd be standing there wanting to yell, “Lady, I know I'm beautiful child, we've got mirrors in the house!” She'd ask how old I am and my mom would tell her. I'd want to yell out, “Guys, I'm standing right here, ask me! And, as for you, Mother, I'm not three. I'm three and a half!”

I have shared how my greatest fear is losing my mind and not realising it. It is a fear compounded when I watched A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe. But it's also a fear that the love of my life and mother to my children assures me I do not have to worry about because that train has already left the station.

Anyway, I get shivers down my spine when I contemplate the possibility that nothing I am experiencing is real and that people around me are just playing along with me — “Ag shame man, poor thing. He believes he has a wife and kids, writes for the Sunday Times and he's had radio shows.”

Another fear I harbour is slipping into one of those comas where you can see everything and hear everything — but you can't twitch a muscle, say anything or show any sign of consciousness. I don't know if this is medically possible. But I've watched enough episodes The Days of our Lives to know that it's possible in Hollywood.

Look, I'm a sensitive bastard. I would hate to be lying there listening to doctors standing over my bed with charts, discussing my condition, without being able to chirp in to correct them: “Er, no they didn't change my drip this morning!”

And Lord forbid I should be lying at Tembisa Hospital listening to two nurses arguing about whose turn it is to give me a sponge bath, “Hayi Maletsatsi, yimi omgezile izolo uPipinyana!” (Maletsatsi, I'm the one who bathed Puny Wiener yesterday.) I'd want to yell out, “It's not puny, your aircon settings are way too low in here!”

I'm not sure where we are in the process of passing the NHI Bill, but if there is still room for submissions, let the record show that this is mine.