As a new mother I recall going to the GP on every slight cough my baby showed to be developing. Syrup antibiotics were virtually a routine medical addition to my baby’s toiletry. The GP could even at times write up a prescription on a repeat basis for me to access as and when I could get to the surgery to collect it, like it were a regular requirement. Reminded me of the belief in Uganda whereby persons felt if they didn’t get an injection from the doctor for an ailment they complained of, then that doctor was not considered to be a good practitioner. Accessing antibiotics in the UK through your GP or healthcare service is not such as a huge obstacle course. You simply report to your GP, you get checked out and if it’s deemed necessary for you to be treated with certain medications, you are prescribed them and you go to the chemist or pharmacy to collect them. Thanks to the the NHS system in place whereby nearly everyone can have this facility of treatment availed freely or at a reduced cost. Unfortunately this is not the case in Uganda or other parts within the developing world. Accessing such therapies like antibiotics is not as easy or even affordable to most, which accounts to a fair number of deaths that can be preventable.
Last Thursday I came down with serious pains almost akeen to labour pains. I was at work and had just rounded off final completion checks for an international conference we’d organised to take part in the City of London. Earlier on in the week I had visited my GP on Tuesday afternoon for a suspected urinary tract infection (UTI) or cystitis and been started on some oral antibiotics. The need to go to the bathroom every 10-15mins certainly brought new meanings to the need for short-calls in relation to planning your day’s activities. I had to plan everything I did around close proximity access to the ladies. I tell you, this was not funny in any way given I had to carry out my daily and weekly office duties alongside ensuring the conference guests and attendees were taken care of. Coming clean and telling my work colleagues that my bladder had gone to war with me was the best option. The other gauntlet was the journeys to and fro work using public means of transport – I became acquainted to all the available pit-stops and my medical condition became knowledge to all who demanded to check out as to why I urgently needed to use their washrooms.
The pain got so bad on Thursday afternoon; I had to leave work with the aim of checking in to A&E at my work place. There is a belief or is it a saying– that persons from within the medical professions make poor patients – this saying isn’t far off. Looking at the waiting times for a casualty officer, I opted to go home and report in the morning. How I got home Thursday evening, God knows, but by Friday morning, the pain was so severe, I didn’t need a shot gun to do a roll-call at my local A&E. It was here that I was confirmed to have a severe kidney infection requiring IV antibiotics and fluids to hydrate and relieve the pain. The pain is taking some time to recede and I’m feeling somewhat better.
My bout of infection brought to mind my time in Uganda on a previous visit. On my visit there last year, I was called upon to assist in giving medical assistance to a young girl that had presented at our village homestead with a badly injured leg. She had sustained this injury virtually 3 days back but because our local government run health clinic didn’t contain the necessary medication to deal with the injury, the family had resorted to keeping the wound clean and using herbal concoctions. However, the use of such herbal remedies requires knowledge too and a practitioner who can assess and monitor. From the presentation of the girl at our homestead, this clearly was not the case – her leg had become seriously infected and her leg had to be amputated to stop the gangrene spreading further into her system.
From experience, I’ve learned to travel with a medical kit that contains antibiotics along with pain killers on all my trips to Uganda – because these are by far the least availed medications in rural healthcare government run clinics. Looking back on this, I couldn’t help but wonder how things could have been for me. How could I have been medically cared for had I become afflicted with this infection if I had been residing in Uganda without adequate economical cover. For such infections do occur.