Last year I dislocated my knee while visiting in Windhoek. It happened while I was crossing the street on a Monday afternoon. This was an old sport injury from my days of ice-skating, rollerblading and probably further irritated by my recent bungee jumping. Thus it is something that I can only blame on my carefree younger days without heeding the safety advice of my elders.
A friend was with me at the time and called the emergency number of the cellular network and we were quickly and efficiently helped to get in contact with the hospital services. Within half an hour the ambulance was there and I was transported to the Katutura State Hospital. Having heard so many scary stories about the cleanliness - and lack of service - I was rather worried about actually getting sick at the hospital.
However, I must loudly declare my fears were largely unfounded. Of course the hygiene in the emergency room was rather scary - especially for those of us who never land in such situations - but the service was exceptional. I was helped within a reasonable period of time and was given very good service by the doctor on duty. The trip to the Windhoek Hospital for the X-rays was a little bit crowded, but nevertheless I received the necessary treatment and examination.
The operation was the next day (as it was surgery day) and all went well. I stayed for two weeks and received good, healthy meals and pain medication almost every time I asked. The nurses were friendly and attentive and I never felt neglected though I stayed in a public ward that had extra beds in the corridor area.
When I was discharged, I received an account of only N$ 30.00. Wow. Reasonable service, good price.
I must add to the story that my step mother was a Staff Sister for many years at the hospital, and, on the last day of my stay, Andimba ya Toivo visited my hospital bed. This however was not known upon my arrival or during the initial part of my stay.
As a consumer we often complain about good service but rarely compliment the good service when we get it. From the time of the operation, the nurses made it a habit to stop at my bed and ask about my recovery. When I left and thanked them for the good service and for being patient with me - after all I am just as much a baby as any man when he is sick.
The nurses then told me something that made me think. They said it was a pleasure to have a patient like me. They had been overwhelmed that from the first day I had greeted them every morning and every night and gotten to learn their names. In addition, I had assisted one or two of them with personal problems (housing applications) and even helped one of the Sisters with her homework.
The nurses told me that when they found out my step-mother had been a nurse it had no additional effect in how they treated me. They had come to enjoy being told "please" when I wanted something and "thank you" every time they gave me something or even when they just made my bed. They also noticed how I had made friends with all my ward colleagues and shared my drinks and presents with those who were far from home. As one nurse told me, "It is a pleasure to help someone who appreciates what you do for them."
It is their work to help us, but do we really appreciate the long years of study and patience it takes to deal with all our impatience and the stress we take out on them because they are "beneath us"?
All it takes is a little bit of good manners from each of us to make this a better place to live in. Next time someone gives you something, remember to say thank you. It is a habit that can only make your life better too.
BTW - that is the story how I lost my front teeth and why I now look like a Cape Coloured. LOL.
Milton Louw is an author, consumer activist and socio-political entrepreneur.