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Day 6 – Home

I woke up early from the little birds pecking the side mirror of my car outside my window. Another grey and misty morning in Mosselbay. Somehow I never learned to like the town. It was always the last bit of sea we saw before we went over the pass to boarding school in Oudtshoorn on a Sunday. The rondawel at De Bakke is furnished like so many holiday places across South Africa, with cane furniture and thin towels.

We drink our tea on the stoep in cheap glass mugs before I head up to the hospital. Cleaning time – scrubbing machines cleaning floors, moppers and dusters and sweepers. Staff scurry. Again too busy to acknowledge the presence of anyone.

By now the faces are familiar. And they obviously got the message to greet the grumpy guy with the beard. They are wonderful individuals, caught in a terrible system.

The minute I go out of my way to make contact, they engage and become human. It is clear that they are not required to do that normally.

I hear my Father’s gasping breathing as I approach room 403. His poor new roommate, a young man waiting for a CT scan, must be desperate. I immediately ask the nurse to please turn my Dad on his side. It is much easier for him to breathe. Only when I go back into his room do I notice an IV saline drip going into his arm? Very calmly, fuming inside, I stroll to the nurse’s station. Even more calmly I ask who put a drip in my Father’s arm. “The doctor,” she says. I ask to see his cardex. There is no name next to the person who administered the drip, nor an instruction from the doctor.

Purely by the look on my face, the sister says “I will take it out immediately”. Obviously, by now they are convinced that I am a murderer and that I might just murder one of them as well! Any person who can so blatantly kill his Father must be capable of killing them as well. THAT is how I feel when she removes the drip…

Yesterday I sent my posts for the last two days to the Nursing Manager of the hospital. She replied, asking if she can see me about my “strongly worded” perceptions. Die jirre weet. Just as I leave the room to restore my breathing and calm myself down, Head Nurse appears, inviting me to join her in her of ce. We march down the busy passages. It is clear that she is as upset as I am.

Head Nurse informs me that she has “never really come across an advanced directive”. Life Health Care. That is the name of the hospital group. LIFE HEALTH CARE. The Head Nurse has never come across an advanced directive OR a living will. I promise to give her a copy of my Father’s. It is clear that I am from Pluto and she is from Mercury. “What would you like us to do now?” I assure her that the only thing to do is that they must discharge my Father. As soon as possible. We leave each other’s company with a rm handshake.

On my way back to the ward I happen to bump into the (cocky) doctor who took over from the physician who saw my Dad since Saturday. Very, VERY calmly I ask him why he prescribed a drip for my Father. He assures me he did no such thing, that he saw my Father for the first time this morning. This is not the first time that I realise how quickly and easily the staff will tell a lie to protect themselves. (This is the doctor of the man who was sharing a room with my Father, whose Sister promised that they gave his patient water and food when we know it did not happen!)

I am beyond exhausted from having to fight this system. I ask the Sister in charge to phone an ambulance to take my Father home. NOW! And so the next drama follows. The medical aid does not pay for an ambulance on discharge. My argument that I am about to save them thousands and thousands of rands by taking my Father home is met with “These are the medical aid rules”. I give up. I will pay. JUST BRING AN AMBULANCE! I am now begging.

At 11h45 the ambulance arrives. The road feels endless. A soft rain falls gently, the fields are green. It is not our season for rain, usually at this time of year the fields are scorched. We arrive about half an hour before the ambulance. My Dad is obviously distressed by the journey. It is a battle to get him into the house via the back stoep. I carry him on a stretcher with the ambulance man. I know that soon I will carry his body out of the house again, this time dead.

Sally, the love of my Father’s life barks excitedly, gets into bed with him and starts licking his hands. For now, he is home. Hopefully, we can start to focus on his transition.

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