Part 4 – Check In (The Addis Clinic)
“What you lose in the fire we find in the ashes”
After winding through a maze of suburban back streets the taxi arrived and I wasted no time. I walked through the security gate, past the armed guard, straight toward the clinic’s front doors leaving the girls behind to sort out the fare and pickup time for later that day. As I opened the front doors I was anticipating the reaction I would get as I knew I must of looked like a mess. A team of receptionists eyes opened wide and looked as if they were staring at a sick, pale ghost. Just as I felt.
I sat down on the circular lobby sofa and right away a nurse approached. How can I help you? he asked. “I need to see a doctor, please” He then hesitantly asked if I could follow him just down the hallway to an examination room. My face must of been stricken with grief at the thought of more walking as he then offered a wheel chair. Never in my life have I been in such a weak state that I needed a wheel chair or wanted one. It was just down the hallway, but I was getting better at coming to terms with being sick and knew I’d reached my limit for the day. I asked to be wheeled in.
I could see the clinic was brand new, modern and very clean. As nice or nicer than anything I’ve been to back home. The girls had found the clinic through an Israeli WhatsAp “Ethiopian travel group” Never in a million years would I think I would thank God for WhatsAp and the Israelis for bringing me to a Norwegian clinic in Ethiopia. The marvel of the smart phone and travel.
I just arrived but felt safe and could put away any notion of being treated in a clinic without proper staff and facilities. After weeks of travel through harsh and dusty terrain, sleeping in tents, hundred year old guesthouses and the Awash hotel, I laid down on a clean white bed for a very welcome change. The nurse began to take my blood pressure, temperature as well as a few other simple tests and said a doctor would be here in a few moments.
A western doctor arrived with a smile and warm greeting. We shook hands and right away I felt he was a pleasant, cheerful, intelligent person with a sense of humour. He said that I looked like I was an adventurous person. I laughed and said I suppose I am, but it looks like it got me into trouble this time. He then said with a smile and a flex of his arm that I looked strong and athletic and if I exercised. Again, I laughed and said I did try to keep in shape and exercised most days, but it didn’t do me much help this time either. I felt comfortable with him as he was personable, human.
After our greeting he noticed my blood pressure and said to the nurse with disbelief – Is that his blood pressure!? Even though I’ve never really understood the blood pressure numbers I felt a relief as low blood pressure explained my exhaustion – why I couldn’t ever catch my breath, walk or even sit. It was my blood pressure the whole time I thought! Problem number one solved.
At this point I was still able to communicate with a relatively clear mind. When explaining my story and symptoms to him I wanted to be sure not to leave anything out and at the same time not to carry on and on about something insignificant. With a long pause before I began I replayed everything backwards in my head. I wanted to get this right I thought – where I began to feel sick, how I am today, and everything in between. It seems simple enough but when your sick the newest symptom can take over leaving your memory to dismiss your last ache. I found it extremely frustrating that I couldn’t describe my symptoms better, particularly the pain I had in my midsection. I could only describe it to the doctor as “discomfort” and “swollen”
Without asking me too many questions and within a matter of minutes he said I would have to stay the night and have an IV drip, but I’d be ok. I felt instant relief when he said I would get a drip. I hadn’t eaten in days and thought now with some nutrients I would only improve. He seemed confident and reassured me that I’d be fine and after some tests and a nights sleep could go home the next day. I was relieved. Soon the fever would break and my stop watch would stop ticking and I could return to normal. Just as planned.