In between trying to raise money for my surgery and worrying about appropriate prescriptions, life was still happening to me. and life as we know is quite... ahem eventful. I was getting kicked out by my friend as I described here. I had to move to another friend's house quite a distance from my former location. Now bear in mind that my former location was an estate (that is a gated community for my foreign readers) and that the clinic where I was slated for surgery was located in the estate. It says a lot about my state of mind then that despite all I had discovered I still wanted to go through with my treatment and delivery in that hospital; I felt I had no options.
Luckily for me at that time I was contracted as a freelancer, to carry out an extensive recce for a show so that meant some money for me- or so I thought.One of the suppliers I needed to get quotes from was an airport protocol personnel, let's call him Peter. He came to see me at my friend's house and when the discussion shifted to how I really needed money for my surgery so I hoped the client would pay on time, he told me of a public (maternity) hospital in Lagos where his wife had delivered 3 of their 4 children by Caesarean Section. he spoke glowingly of how the hospital had very experienced staff and how they had taken good care of his wife. he also added that I would have my CS at a fraction of the cost I was being asked to pay at my present hospital. I took in all this info with a bit of joy but with trepidation; he didnt know about my status so I felt all the benefits of going to that hospital would not be applicable to me. Nonetheless, I decided that I might try the place.
Peter had mentioned that he had a cousin that worked in the Hospital Management Board offices so if I wanted to register at the hospital he would facilitate it for me. I therefore called him but I told him that a friend wanted to register at the hospital but she was HIV positive and afraid of stigmatization. (How I hoped to get away with it is still a mystery to me but desperate times...) he gave me the contacts for his cousin at the HMB offices and I went there, and there the real issue actually begins.
Lagos state probably has the best public healthcare system in the country. For starters it is heavily subsidised/ funded and full of very well-trained personnel. However, there are a few loopholes and chinks in the system which I will discuss later but for now let me give an objective description of my visit there.
Peter's cousin took me to the hospital, a large noisy, bustling, building next door, where he proceeded to personally 'midwife' my registration. (The registration is a relatively tedious process that requires approval from several offices and a number of tests.) One of the requirements for registration is that you get someone to donate blood. This I guess, is for any eventuality on the day of delivery, and there is no going around it. Usually the pregnant woman's husband or relatives make the donation but in my peculiar case that wasnt possible so Peter's cousin had to get a note from a very senior official of the HMB that my registration should go on and I would get the blood donation before I gave birth. As a matter of fact he had to come down to the records offices himself and speak with the man in charge. Another small delay was the problem of next of kin and maiden names. For some reason it was difficult for them to put me down as a 'Miss' with the same surname; but we got over that.
I forget if the registration issue took more than one day or not but when it was close to ending I was sent for a compulsory HIV test in the laboratory and for counselling at the VCT centre within the premises.This is a compulsory step for every pregnant woman registerd there and one I must commend them for. Because everyone went for the tests and the counselling you would never know who was positive and who was not. And when the results came-the lab sent them through the VCT to the nurses- the nurses never treated you differently except to ask you privately what drugs you were on and if you were taking your drugs. It was there and then I learnt that the Nevaripine was also not the right therapy, and the nurses were dismayed because it was quite late for anything to be done about it. I was also told there that the name of the medication that an HIV positive person was on was not supposed to be secret. Unlike other drugs that the doctor would take out of the pack and place in sealed bags, HIV ARVs were exposed and the patient is informed of what she is on and why she is on it. To say I began to realise the exten of the mess my doctor had put me in , would be an understatement. However, my antenatals went on.
To attend antenatals you had to arrive really early in the morning because there was always a long queue of expectant mothers.You would request that your case file, it would be sent to the waiting room and arranged by order of arrival. The nurses would then weigh you and you would have to buy a little bottle to pee in. They would then dip a test stick (one for each person) in your little bottle to test it. After that you would wait until your name was called in to see the doctor.
Seeing the doctor is a whole other thing really, and one that can be defined as burdensome.'The doctor' consisted of several residents and -I suspect- some interns under the supervision of a consultant. The consultant was rarely ever seen by anyone except there was a major emergency. The doctors were not so friendly and quite rushed, all they did was just check your fundal height, ask if you had any complaints and prescribe medication..but I was lucky as I struck gold in my own doctor. He took time to talk to me. He later told me it was because he never actually spoke to educated people in the line of duty.
(to be continued)