- Published on Saturday, 09 June 2012 02:16
- Written by LAWI JOEL
- Hits: 1311
Once it was costly to draw your money from a bank. You would queue for hours on end, waiting to pick up a form to fill in. Then some officer would verify the particulars in the form before another one counter-verified it.
Yet another officer would approve the form as properly verified. Next it would be passed to the teller, who would call you to sign the form on the back and verify the signature against the one in the form.
That was Tanzania of the 1980s backwards - the pre-computer days when servants of the people, for the people worked as if nobody was certain with what they did.
Today, everywhere I have gone for some service, the common tool of work is computer. There can be no gainsaying that computer has expedited services enough. However, the result of its application is no more different than taking a means of transport say a car, from one point to another.
Then there is the mobile phone. The advent of this latest communication device merely adds to the reality that Tanzania has moved in tandem with others in the global communication march that averts unnecessary travels.
If I could use my phone to call a doctor the other afternoon I would avert an unnecessary travel. But going to the doctor provides a better chance for the doctor to diagnose the cause of the health problem. So, I went to the doctor.
A headache has always been associated with the invasion of a microorganism scientists call plasmodium. This parasite health experts say is a ‘eukaryotic protists’ that attacks red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically cause headache and fever and in severe cases progress to coma or death, has been my health problem ever since I was five. And if you see me wearing a pair of spectacles it is because of the anti-malaria drug, chloroquine, which ruined my sight.
So the fact that malaria can terminate life if taken lightly, prompted me to go to the doctor. I had gone to work as usual that day, but persistence of the headache, a signal that I might soon be renamed as ‘The Late’ or the deceased, made me do something wiser than to remain seated in the house, nursing an aching head.
After all, the deceased, which is in Kiswahili is marehemu, was just shocking. So far in life, I have been called many names at different stages of age. As an infant they called me a baby. A couple of years later I was a boy. At thirty onwards to early fifties whoever I came across referred to me as a man.
After that time, although I still was not a woman, they referred to me as babu – a grandpa. What would be the next? The late or the deceased - Marehemu! It could be consoling that when they use the name marehemu, one is in the yonder world, behind hearing, not knowing, behind knowing. But I did not think it wise to let malaria earn me or, to put it otherwise, to allow them baptize me ‘marehemu’.
I hurried to Tabata hospital as fast as I could. One thing a doctor had told me some years previously is: “Not every headache is caused by malaria.” At the hospital they would use a scientific device to pinpoint the cause of my headache.
I hoped mine was not because of malaria because that would entail taking some powerful drug. The doctor’s examination proved that I was malaria free. The next immediate thing that came to the doctor’s mind was my blood pressure. I am not heavy of body, but age is not kind to everybody either and has a lot of weapons it gently pounds the body with into submission to become a ‘marehemu’. One of those weapons is the bad blood pressure.
I know well that instrument a doctor take’s a patient’s blood pressure with – the sphygmomanometer. However, I could not see it anywhere. Unlike the stethoscope the doctor wears on their neck and walks around with, a sphygmomanometer always lies on the doctor’s table.
As the doctor rose to her feet, she said: “Let me fetch the instrument from the other section of the hospital,” and dashed out of the door. She took more than 15 minutes to come back. I remembered what one of my friends one told me. “Our doctors abound in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.”
As a matter of fact, not all Tanzanians doctors in foreign countries went there for a greener pasture. A good number of them went there because they had failed to have equipment to practice their profession. The shortage at Tabata dispensary in the city of Dar es Salaam is illustrative. One sphygmomanometer for a whole lot of medicsat a hospital with some wings! It is a pity. At a hospital in the rural the situation must be appalling.