13 03 2013

As I negotiated the substantial puddle in the car park and drove off I reflected that the imaging centre was typical of the paradox that is Zimbabwe.

I hadn’t had need to be imaged for some three years when the machinery at the imaging centre was more than old and run down so this morning I was pleasantly surprised at the profusion of new equipment. A new digital X-ray machine, MRI and CAT scanner were evident. White, pristine and oozing current technology – I felt reassured that the future of medical imaging technology in Zimbabwe seemed good even if little else did. The staff was pleasant and helpful, the image intensifying dye was injected under a real-time digital X-ray (“text-book stuff” commented the radiologist – clearly delighted with his own handiwork though I suspected it also had something to do with the medical student watching) and I was soon being strapped down on the MRI bed in the “superman position” for my left wrist to be imaged. The equipment was so new that the staff admitted it was only the second wrist that they’d imaged which accounted for the false start whilst they repositioned my wrist without the CD case under it for support!

I was told on the way out that I could collect the DVD of images on Thursday to take to my doctor. Amazingly there was no charge as it was all covered by my medical aid which at $95 per month just for me is well out of the reach of most Zimbabweans. Imaging facilities do of course exist at government hospitals but tend to be basic X-rays and ultrasound and the days of free healthcare for anyone are long gone (though they did exist in the early 1980s).

It was time to get back to work and the reality of puddles and potholes in the road and no phone line because it had been stolen too many times – some 10 years ago!

Time off

29 03 2010

I was totally unprepared for the “aftershock” of the neck surgery in Joburg. I guess I was a little naive in thinking that after nearly 5 hours of surgery I’d be up and about in 5 days or so and ready to do a bit of easy shopping. The pain was intense and not very well managed. Nursing varied hugely from non-existent to professional which was not great for what I’m lead to believe is the top private hospital in Joburg. One thoroughly nasty little woman on hearing that I wanted some pain killers plonked them down on my bedside table with a glass of water and walked out leaving me flat on my back and unable to sit up unassisted. Another nursing aid could not understand English and had no idea how to adjust the back of the bed. Thank goodness for Moira, the hilarious Scottish physiotherapist who could not do enough for me and always had some amusing anecdote.

The surgery consisted of a 3 level cervical spine fusion and a corpectomy on the C4 vertebra. Now I am held together by a titanium plate and screws. The surgeon was pleased with how it went though on the 4th night I woke to realize that I couldn’t get my right arm off the bed and my left hand was also losing strength. Panic! The surgeon ordered another X-ray and MRI but they showed nothing untoward and my left arm recovered fast. My right is back to about 70% pre-op level so I am hopeful.

Initially I was scheduled to have the surgery done here but on advice I brought my offshore medical aid to use and had it done in Joburg. Subscribing to this medical aid some years ago has been one of my better decisions as I am not at all confident that the 79 year-old surgeon who was going to do it would have been up to the task. Not doing anything would have been disastrous eventually leading to a form of quadriplegia.