I m back. I know…. I ve been terribly lax with this blog. I have a long list of plausible excuses, most of which have given me lots of new material to tell you about.
Speaking of which, I d like to take you back to December and to my first reason for my blogging hiatus…… It was 4 days before Christmas and I was just getting off my bike (which for safety reasons is mounted on a trainer in my storage room – thus avoiding the need to ride on the very dangerous roads here). I slipped in a pool of my own sweat and landed, ribs first, onto the crossbar of my bike. Unable to breathe properly and in excruciating pain (I have given birth to 3 kids drug-free so I m normally pretty good with pain) I managed to call my husband and wheeze at him enough to make him realise that I wasn’t making a prank call and that perhaps he should come home immediately. Meanwhile, I sent number one child to get help on the compound. In a moment of need, there is no better place to be than on a compound full of stay-at-home expat wives. Immediately a couple of neighbours rushed in and an ambulance was called. Close to losing consciousness, I was helped onto the floor, my legs were raised and the company nurse appeared who kindly injected me with something that took the edge off the pain and then something else to stop the subsequent nausea caused by the stuff that took the edge off the pain. An hour and a half later the ambulance appeared and suddenly the house was full of Angolans who quickly popped me onto a stretcher (a hard one, not one of those nice soft ones) and whisked me outside. Ambulances aren’t in abundance here and the ones that are look pretty rough and ready. I wasn’t prepared for the sleek modern vehicle that I was loaded into. Apart from the mosquitos buzzing around inside (great, if I don’t die from internal bleeding then I ll have Malaria by the time we reach the hospital) and the fact that the paramedics (if that was what they were) sat about chatting and laughing in Portuguese, I could have been in any developed country.
As I have explained before, the traffic is terrible in Luanda and the roads are always congested. Even with the sirens and lights flashing, few cars moved out of our way. The driver had to resort to some pretty fancy manoeuvring to get through. I felt every bump in the road and despite the ‘paramedics’ shouting at him to be a little more gentle on the brake he continued to forge a path through the melee.
I think it took around an hour to get to the hospital that was 8 miles away. In my numbed state it was all a bit of a painful blur. I was unloaded and rushed into a small ‘trauma’ room. Crammed into the small space were two unconscious gentlemen who were clearly in a worse state than me. They were hooked up to various machines that made pinging noises and ventilators to keep the oxygen in their bodies. I really wished that there were curtains to give all of us some privacy, instead I distracted myself by staring at the ceiling and counting the dead flies inside the light fitting. A very officious lady doctor appeared and hooked me up to a couple of bags of clear liquids. She explained what they were but when simply trying to ask for a few hundred grammes of ‘your best’ ham is a challenge, I had no hope of navigating medical jargon in Portuguese. After a while another person in a white coat wandered in and told me in very slow Portuguese that the radiographers who would X-ray me were all at lunch but someone would come and get me when they were full and rested. Two hours later I was man-handled off the stretcher and taken for x-rays before being moved to another equally cramped ward. Over the next few hours I lay on my bed surveying the activity around me. There was a big sign on the wall next to me which said that the key to the Ebola quarantine room was in the desk draw. Ebola had not reached Angola at the time but it didn’t stop me from doing another survey of my room mates and wishing that I had some sanitising hand gel.
Some hours later I was discharged with intact ribs but torn muscles in between them. I was instructed to stay in bed for the next couple of days and avoid sneezing, coughing or laughing. I have to say that the health care wasn’t as bad as I had feared and, other than the traffic and language barrier, probably wasn’t too different to the care I might have received using the public health system back in Britain.
Its been 3 months since then and I am happy to report that I am pain free, have full mobility and a non-slip mat under my bike. I have also been given ‘The dumbest accident of 2014’ award by my tri-team coach so it wasn’t all bad.