The Woman from Ngarenanyuki

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
There was a sick woman to take to hospital. It's a tough rural life!

Submitted: August 15, 2016

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Submitted: August 15, 2016



We had built up a good relationship with the medical officer at Olkung’wado. He was keen to plant trees around his newly built clinic and although he was not a qualified doctor, he was very knowledgeable and well trusted in the village. As well he shouldered great responsibility for the health of the village people.

After a long day in the field, we stopped at a small bar for a Coke and chapati before tackling the rough road home through the Arusha National Park. During our snack, a local man asked us if we could take a sick person to the clinic at Ngongongare, which is located inside the compound of the Seventh Day Adventist Seminary. Swahili is a beautiful language and I enjoy the nuances that go with it, but it is often vague in detail and you have to follow little subtleties to pick up the exact gist. Mgonjwa is the word for sick person but it does not define the sex of the person, nor the type of sickness.

It was not unusual for us to be asked to provide lifts because the mode of transport in the area was open deck Landrovers, and they would depart only when they were full. It was late in the day, and the last Landrover had long gone; anyway the Landrovers were no place for the sick.

I agreed to take the person, and said that we would be waiting outside the bar. I did not think to ask why our friend the Medical Officer could not help the sick person. The sick person arrived, a young woman in obvious pain, and barely able to walk! She had been at the clinic and had walked the six hundred metres to where we were sitting, waiting for her!

I felt pity and shame! Had I been told of her condition, it would have been a simple matter to pick her up. I resolved to be more enquiring in future.

In retrospect, it would have been better to put her on the truck deck because there was a canopy, but instead, not knowing any different we sat her on the back seat with a friend who was comforting her. Every bump, and the road was bumpy, caused the woman to moan bravely, so I drove slowly in four wheel drive to give me better control over the rocks and respect her comfort. Somewhere along the road, I realized she was giving birth, so I mentioned it to Loti who had not realized either! He spoke the woman’s aide, who confirmed it. I sped up a little.

The woman was in obvious distress when we helped her into the village clinic!

I then took Loti the short distance home because he lived on the other side of the compound. When I backtracked, the medical officer held up his hand for me to stop. I nearly didn’t because it was likely someone would be wanting a lift to Usa River because this was one of those days I preferred the silence of a lone drive back home. But I stopped and the man said in English, ‘I can’t do anything for this woman. She has [I can’t remember the medical term he used].’

‘What is that?’ I asked.

‘The baby’s arm is hanging out!’ he replied.

This horrified me, ‘For how long I asked?’

‘She tried to give birth at home, sometime in the morning! She needs to go into Arusha! Can you take her?’ He asked.

‘Mt. Meru hospital?’ I already knew.

The road from the clinic to the main road was much better, so I made better speed but did stop at a clean spring and asked the man to give the poor woman a drink. Once out on to the tar seal I was able to go as fast as the traffic would allow.

As we passed through Makumira, I knew Mags would be fretting, as I always liked to be home before dark, but I could not afford the time to drive up the four and a half kilometers to tell her.

The hospital is twenty-five kilometers on, but we managed good speed and time. I drove up to the hospital doors, and went inside myself to arrange for a stretcher and medical help. The staff rushed to aid the woman and treated her very well, and they told me there would be no cost because this was her first. However I left some money for the aide to buy food, as food is not supplied at the hospital.

Pensively I drove home.

The baby was lost but the woman survived. I kept contact and was able to ferry the woman and her aide back to their village, even though I thought it was far too early for the still frail young woman to face the tough environment that is her home. But who am I to say?

I never saw her again.


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