Written by Berry Holtzhausen – 11 February 2014
I have to be on time for my appointment with the Tanzanian doctor, so I arrive at exactly ten minutes to nine at Ward 16. Already there are between thirty and forty patients waiting for the doctor. The same nurse as yesterday greets me at the reception desk. Ironically, she is also doing exactly the same as yesterday – counting tablets that to me looks exactly like Smarties. She directs me to the same desk as yesterday to wait there for a nurse who can assist me. But today, she speaks to the other nurses in her language and it is clear that they are talking about me. One of the nurses comes to me and asks me to wait a little bit.
This last nurse walks to the grated door where at least ten of the ‘inmates’ are already on their post. One of them even has all her earthly belongings with her. She is probably hopeful of being released today. Maybe this is her daily routine? Whatever the case, this redefines hope for me.
After a while, the nurse returns with Kaputu. From my perspective, it is a new Kaputu. She is still very weak but she can walk on own again, even if it only ten meters at a time. The nurse was holding a medical file, something that was not available yesterday because nobody could reach the doctor.
She, the nurse, calls me to follow her and Kaputu into the doctor’s office. We pass all the patients who have been waiting since day break to see the doctor. It hits me that that the doctor has been waiting for me to come first. Once inside, the doctor I explained that she has seen Kaputu yesterday after I had left. She explains to me that Kaputu is very weak and that the nurses will have to feed her every day and see to it that she drinks water. She also says that she will need to run more blood tests on Kaputu, but that she is fairly sure that Kaputu will be ableto go home in about three weeks’ time. She asks me for Kaputu’s medical history and life story. Of course I know so precious little about her that it is difficult to make sense from any of it. But I still tell her everything I know.
Before I leave, I ask the nurse assisting Kaputu to translate something to Kaputu. I kneel down in front of Kaputu and softly call her by her name. I promise Kaputu that I will take her back to Ndjinaa, Venoo, Tjauriza and Nancy – that I will return her to Kapika’s Omaramba. I ask her to eat her food and drink her water so that she can stronger and that we can go home.
Then Kaputu does something very odd. In all the time that I have known her, she has never followed anyone anywhere let alone gets up one her own and goes somewhere. But now, as I get up, she stands and follows me to the door. The doctor and I smile as we realize that Kaputu has in fact understood me.
I leave the hospital feeling much more relieved than yesterday. In my pocket I have the doctor’s details and an agreement that as soon as Kaputu is better, I can come pick her up. Both the nurse and the doctor promised to take good care of Kaputu and ensure that she eats and drinks.
We have a long way to go in Namibia (Africa?) but with the support of doctors like the one I have just met, I am hopeful that we can win this struggle for the freedom of people living with brain diseases and other brain dysfunctions.