A hastily written list lies on the table, detailing who of the 10 bridesmaids is having their hair done by which of the three hairdressers that day.
It’s a wedding and it’s organised chaos by definition.
By some stroke of luck we’re all ready on time. The bride is truly a sight to behold. Lace drips off her golden skin, and a serenity settles over her brow, lifting the corners of her mouth into a gentle smile. She is so utterly happy and radiantly beautiful.
The wedding is more beautiful than I can describe. It was like a fairy tale in the forest but even the best fairy tales start with, “once upon a time.” The phrase is a cruel reminder that in the fictional world, as in reality, time cannot be stopped.
No sooner had I begun to fully relax into the other-worldly delight of this magical day, than I am back at work and chatting to a night nurse in theatre.
The waiting game[quote float=”right”]”There were no ICU beds available in the entire province”
It’s long past dinnertime and we’ve been “baby sitting” this patient together since 5pm. Earlier in the day, she was taken to theatre for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. A baby had been growing in her right Fallopian tube, just next to where the tube joins the uterus, and as the embryonic sac expanded the tube stretched, eventually bursting.
Four litres of blood had filled her belly by the time she was taken into theatre. She had been vomiting, probably because of the intolerable pain. As the doctor put her to sleep she aspirated, particles of partially digested food and stomach acid filling her airways.
This damage to her lungs combined with a shortage of emergency blood at the hospital meant that she needed to be kept on a ventilator after an emergency surgery stopped the internal bleeding.
We have no Intensive Care Unit (ICU), high care or staff to monitor a patient on a ventilator, so the search began for a bed in another hospital.
Predictably, there were no ICU beds available in the entire province.
Eventually – and fortunately – a plan was made to transfer the patient to another district hospital that at least has some form of high care. I was called in to look after her until the ICU ambulance arrived. I’m warned that it could take all night.
A man who eats his own eggs[quote float=”right”]Only three public sector paramedics in the province are trained to transfer critically-ill patients
Four hours have passed and still I sit with my back to the scrub sister, facing the monitors. The ventilator’s bellows puff in and out like an accordion keeping a steady rhythm as the machine breaths for the patient.
I phone emergency medical services again to get an update on their estimated time of arrival. There are only three paramedics in the public sector in my province who are adequately trained for the transfer of critically-ill patients.
I am on hold for almost 20 minutes and eventually get cut off. Turning to slam the phone down, I roll my eyes and the nurse nods in mutual frustration.
“Doctor, when are you getting married?” she asks.
The question comes from nowhere, but I’m not taken aback. She probably just wants to pass the time. Besides, I’ve gotten used to people I barely know probing for the details of my love life. I tell her that I am not married and that there are no plans for a boyfriend anytime soon – it’s my go-to response.
“Haw! Askies (or ‘sorry’ in Afrikaans), shem,” she says.
I change the subject before she can slip in another horrified look and ask, “are you married?”
My boyfriend is in Nelspruit… Maybe you can find someone here? But he must be rich. He must make his own money.
You can’t come to work here every day whilst you have a man at home eating all your eggs. One day, you’ll come home, and there will be only 50 eggs and you’ll know that in the morning you had 56.
You were working the whole day and the night and your man was just sitting eating all your eggs. You can’t have this. He must make his own money and eat his own eggs.”
She has a point. You can be a princess for a day, wear a white dress and exchange vows, but at the end of the day, what more do you need than a man who eats his own eggs?