System failure

In my breast cancer book that I have written, one of the things that I emphasize way beyond all doubt is the importance of having a doctor who will have the respect to take your requests and concerns seriously. Unfortunately as I have mentioned before here, I had no choice but to move to a government hospital after my medical aid funds ran out. What never seized to amaze me was how the doctor would sometimes be so busy typing up on his computer, that he couldn’t have been bothered to turn around and acknowledge our presence by making eye contact with us. Instead we would be talking to his turned back and would get cryptic sentences and murmurs from him at best.

It was June 2010 and I was nearing the end of my nine months of chemotherapy, I began to experience dizziness, breathlessness and weakness. I could say that in the doctors defense chemotherapy does produce similar symptoms, but in this case he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, because for consultation after consultation I had tried to voice my concerns about this. My symptoms were much more exaggerated than just plain side effects. The saying that goes, ‘You allow people to treat you the way they do…good or bad.’ was in a way the case here. It was time for us to take control of the situation.

When my last chemotherapy session arrived, I had to be wheeled into the hospital in a wheel chair. When we entered the doctors rooms, Jaco physically turned the doctors chair around and said to him, ‘You will send my wife today for a chest scan to see what the hell is going on.’

At last, looking at me and noticing the fact that I was in a wheel chair got the doctors attention and they at last sent me for a chest x-ray. Right after the x-ray, I went for my last chemotherapy session and was so looking forward to finally completing my treatment. My medical aid was about to renew my funds.  I would be able to return to the private hospital and to a doctor that I trusted. I was so relieved to be almost done with the hell hole that I was in. When my session had finished and we were making our way out of the hospital, we were stopped in the hallway by the doctor and his nurse. Jaco and I could immediately see that they had panic written all over their faces. They told me that I had to stay at the hospital and be admitted immediately. A cardiothoracic surgeon had already been summoned to come and consult with me. We were told that I had pleural effusion. When the doctor explained that it was fluid that had been building up in my chest cavity, it all fell into place and I now understood why I’d been feeling the way I had. The next question was why. The doctor explained that chemotherapy does sometimes have this effect on patients. The combination of that and the still active cancer in my body was the explanation that was offered. I wasn’t buying it. This had sheer neglect written all over it.

They wanted to admit me immediately but I refused. I wanted to go home and prepare first. I had to explain to the girls what was going to happen. They would go into sheer panic mode if their father came home on his own and told them that I had to be admitted on an emergency basis. I wasn’t going to do that to them, besides I had to pack my bags and prepare myself psychologically for this. I needed two major operations to drain the fluid before it was too late. The doctors could not believe my decision and implored with me to stay. Jaco remained stoic and respected my decision. He knows that once I make a decision about something, there’s no turning back…ever. The medical staff had explained to us that my pleural sack was under great pressure from all the fluid and that if it tore open, I would without a doubt drown in my own fluids. I had to take the risk of going home first. I was done with relinquishing control to incompetent doctors, and was now going to do things on my own terms…be it on my own head.


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