A cry of a village chief: How I almost died at Queens Hospital

On 21st October 2015 I nearly lost my life due to my toothache problem.

Village headman Chingalire

Village headman Chingalire

I went to our biggest Government referral hospital, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Malawi’s commercial City, Blantyre on 20th October around 11:00 pm to get some medical help because I couldn’t bear the excruciating pain that I was going through anymore.

The pain which was cracking, my head was pounding like a trip hammer. All that pain and anguish was but caused by a rotten wisdom tooth. So I wanted to have it removed, immediately.

Upon arrival at the hospital that is named after the Queen of England, Elizabeth, I was welcomed by a nurse on duty who told me the dental department does not operate at night but I should come the following morning. The pain was so much. Waiting until the next day wasn’t an option. I was so desperate, so I begged her to at least give me a sleeping injection because of too much pain to bear, even the strongest paracetamols were not working in my body.

The nurse, seeing that the village headman was in so much pain, she gave in and honoured my request. She gave me an injunction on my arm and it cooled the pain down a little bit.

The following morning at exactly 7 o’clock, I was already on the line to be attended first, and by this time the killing-pain was smashing hard again. They say a man is not supposed to cry but the agony I was going through was enough to even make Village headman Chingalire cry. The pain I was going through was too strong that even Goliath would have lost it.

After going through all the registration process and the paying in advance procedures, the guy in a white dust-coat, while still on the line made me open my mouth and with a metal object started hitting one tooth after the other asking me which one was the problem despite me telling him already that it was the last one on my right lower jaw.

He kept asking me while hitting “kho kho kho kho is it this one? kho kho kho kho is it this one?” and poor me, with my mouth wide open and facing upwards “mmmm,mmm, mmm, meaning No! No! No! No! No! No” in pain and tears pouring on the sides of my cheeks.I went through hell which I understood other toothache also patients go through every day.
Then I was given those injections round my tooth and told to wait on the line for 10 minutes.

Now, my turn came, to go through the actual pulling out. I don’t think the medicine I was given really worked for me to feel any dumbness, because I could feel all the pain when this guy was struggling with my tooth for about 30 minutes.

I could painfully feel him breaking bit by bit of my rotten tooth and failing to pull it out with his spanners and other tools. He could hold it and shake it to all sides making my head even move and I was helplessly thinking that this is the end of my life. Every time he did that I thought he would now finally manage it but all in vain. And the guy seem not be bothered that I was in great pain. He simply didn’t care. he was behaving like someone forced him to come to work that day. He was so disinterested.

I could tell from the way he was sweating that things were not OK until he decided to lie to me that he had finished removing all the roots and that all he had to do was to stitch up the wound. He did stitch it up but when I asked him if he was sure that he managed it then he said he thought so, but I should still go for an X-ray to double check.

So, he sent me to the X-ray department.

This time the pain was back again with full force and I went to the X-ray department only to find that I was maybe number 30 on the line. This is where I also discovered that despite me feeling the unbearable death pain, the other patients of all ages were much worse than me I really felt the anger why top officials don’t want to make life better in hospitals.

Time was quickly clocking towards lunch hour meaning we would have to wait for the hospital staff for another 2 hours because they would go for a lunch break but luckily one of the X-ray operators noticed me and despite me feeling bad that I am not supposed to be considered just because of my artistic fame.

He did the X-ray on a very poor unclear papers and told me to go back to the Dental Department where upon arrival I was told they were going for lunch and would see me in the afternoon.

I hopelessly and helplessly was rolling and turning on the benches all alone and bleeding continuously. Every time going to spit into a broken sink in the toilet with no water which made wonder how they clean their tools.

I tried to plead with him to check the outcome of the X-ray only to find that there is a big root left which by this time was pounding my whole head.Then this guy told me to come again the following day because he said he could not do it again by himself but his boss should do it.

I asked him why a qualified dentist could not see me the same afternoon, he told me that he would not come back to work after lunch. I could not believe what I heard and tears kept rolling down my cheeks and dizziness was about to bring me down to the floor.

To make matters worse, I didn’t have any guardian with me to talk on my behalf and I was very worried if something happened to me there would be no one to pick me up or to inform my relatives. He absolutely made it clear to me that there is nothing he could do. I begged him to give me an injection to ease the pain and I painfully and furiously told him if I am going to die it would be because of his department’s faulty. But, he simply was not bothered.

After keeping on begging and begging for his mercy for hours,  he reluctantly gave me the injection which temporarily killed the pain but it helped me to make it possible to go to a private dentist at Shalom Dental Surgery Clinic where by the grace of God they managed to remove the root. It took them almost an hour through a Surgical Operation.

Now after weeks of taking strong medicines, I can say Thank You Shalom Surgery Clinic for saving my life which I was about to lose due to several factors which you the reader can easily guess. If I wasn’t a chief I would have said it point blank here that due to gross incompetence, carelessness and lack of compassion and dedication and commitment to the duty of care, but as a chief I need to be diplomatic so I will not say what would have killed me. I will let you the dear leader make a conclusion or decide.

I now strongly believe any disease is highly potentially fatal in Malawi. We are quickly turning into a “No Money, No Survival Country.” Our hospitals are now death traps. Now I now why a lot people die in our hospitals. And I know that most deaths can be prevented if we change our approach.

Here are my concerns:

 If I didn’t have the cash to pay for the private clinic what would have happened to me?

If I died who would have known the trouble and bad treatment I went through since I was alone?
If I went through this agony at a very reliable big Government hospital, what about the many poor                                                     patients, children, mothers, the old, everybody going through in many numerous rural hospitals                                                         throughout the country where there is no transport, no electricity, no medicines etc?

I know we have many problems in Malawi but I think Health of the people is very crucial.

Please let’s improve our health facilities and services to build up trust and give help and hope to our patients.

  • The author, Ben Michael Mankhamba is a renowned multiple award winning music icon but also a village headman of Chingalire Village in Traditional Authority Kabudula in Lilongwe District, 35 kilometres away from the City Centre. 
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34 thoughts on “A cry of a village chief: How I almost died at Queens Hospital”

  1. Clement Chiwoko says:

    My sympathy to the Chief. I know of a number of Dentist who worked in Malawi in the Seventies left the country because when they tried to improve the Dental Services the then Chief Medical Officer and the Secretary of Health told them nobody has ever died of a toothache. One of them who is a very good friend of mine took upon himself to repeat the same words to the Chief Medical Officer when the Chief Medical Officer wanted treatment at night for a toothache and was told him he would see in the morning. Do I need to say what happened to that Dentist. Don’t worry he is well and working in USA.

    I agree with the Chief, Malawi Hospitals are places where your dying day is quickened or if you want to commit succide but you do not know how to do it go to the hospital. STOP SENDING PEOPLE IN POWER ABROAD FOR TREATMENT that is the only way our hospitals will improve.

  2. nabanda says:

    Shalom is the best clinic ever. I wish they can also have a hospital for all diseases.

  3. hoza john. says:

    So you Want us to believe you & sympathize with u? Shame. Anzako akuwona zosawona iwe.

  4. Jaluba says:

    This is very bad…everything in Malawi now is nose diving if you see clearly..In another way round, how do you expect a medical personel to attend to 200 patients in a day..some of the procedures done in the hospitals to treat the patient they take about an hour or 2 to effectively do it..So imagine if you have 50 patients waiting for you..Zithekapo?? what if the Gvt can pump more money into health field so that it employ more staff,! but they will tell you that Gvt has stoped employing doctors and all that..So how do you expect the few we have in hospitals to treat the big population we have in the hospitals..it an embarrasment but i think we can do something.. and then during the treatment process you have to clean your tools as per said and there is no water! You use hold fashioned machines and tools just cause the Gvt cant buy the new ones..With a huge group of patients waiting for you, how do you expect to give efficient treatment..Those pvt hospitals they pump more money into their system and they employ alot of personel just give good care to the patients and at the same time make more money… I think the system is corrupted. we have to change it other wise there are many people with this same story but u dnt knw it

  5. Mdzati says:

    These young doctors are supposed to learn from old doctors. If old doctors are selfish what wil the new doctors. But pls try your best to serve us in Good manner.

  6. Ytg1616 says:

    Malawi dzuka!!!!!

  7. safusa says:

    This kind of attitude is common throught Malawi.People do not seem to understand that they are employed to serve other people. As for hospitals in Malawi there is NOTHING| Why the late president died MHSRIP due to lack of vital drugs . Malawi is a very sad and bad country in Africa|

  8. wakummawa mario says:

    This is totally stupid!!!
    u spend our tax money for ur lessons at health colleges and many malawians believes that oh ,this young man or young girl shall one day assist me when i fell sick. But to contraly , u r just playing not exercising ur duty of care? u foolish dentist !! why did u do this to ur pple?u better take care don’t go to work but not working. I repeat, u r just lucky that this chief had decided not to know your name otherwise i could ‘ve to deal with u personally.Ndakwiya nawe zedi.

  9. Nabanda says:

    very sad. and that was a referral hospital, what about in many district hospitals and rural health centers with no resources?? I cry for my Malawi.

  10. PIxy says:

    Mrs Dorothy Ngoma has very Good words for the so called learned Malawi Leaders She was chatting with a German friend.LO LO LO!!!!!She managed to understand the meaning of their conversation of “WHAT” or “WHO” we Malawians are.SHAME.

  11. NVM says:

    This is witchcraft Mr Thindwa. The abduction of Albinos is witchcraft.

  12. man-yalo says:

    Malawi simply a sad country full of greedy leaders. We all at some point neglect other issues unknowingly in our bodies. How dare r u to criticize the chief for being in pain? This is the same as saying I go before I get sick for check ups so that I shouldn’t get sick, yet u will still get sick at some point. Will that be ur fault for getting sick? That’s pathetic!!I believe this is a shame on our government. Think of pple in villages what they go thru in rural areas. By the way, what’s up with this 2 hours lunch(kutema nsima) in Malawi while pple r dying? 15-30 minutes break is enough. That’s what advanced countries do. Please dzuka Malawi dzuka.

  13. Mada says:

    Malawi Watsopano Mbwiye! Tiye Nazoni,

  14. kamuzu kamuzu says:

    So sad.

  15. crazy stuff says:

    Smashing article. Well articulated .
    Hell with Malawi hell with the boma. Peter is always drunk at state house.

  16. nachisale says:

    A friend had a tooth removed in the UK under excruciating pain and almost died, so it’s not only in Malawi.

  17. levelheaded says:

    There is a stinking problem in the way government recruits the hospital personel. I have learnt lately that even nurses don’t go for interviews to secure a job in the public hospitals. Amadziwa kale Ali Ku college kuti ntchito ilipo kale ikuwadikira. How can we encourage competence in this wày.

    Posachedwapa Dorothy Ngoma wakatenga chiletso kukhoti kuti ma nurse asawapange interview koma boma lingowalemba ntchito onse, zowona zimenezo? Dzikolo la anyani kapena anthu?

    Lastly Mr Mankhamba mudakawapatsa nkhaniyi anthu odziwa kulemba kuti ayifupikitse komanso idzimveka bwino. Eeeeii multi kutali ndi zolembalembazi dala.

  18. Jeremiah says:

    Pepa Ben
    Tawauzeni anthu kuti nzotheka Malawi kulongosoka ndi kuyenda bwino.
    Komano zimenezi zingatheke ngati titadzipeleka,kugwila ntchito molimbika.
    Osati kulimbika kokha komanso mokhulupilika
    Osati kukhulupilika kokha komanso mwachikondi
    Osati chikondi chokha komanso mwa nzelu
    Osati nzelu zokha komanso motsata malamulo
    Osati malamulo okha komanso umunthu
    Osati umunthu wokha komanso mowopa MULUNGU.
    Amene ndi mwini wa zonse.

  19. Munthuwamba says:

    You Chiefs are the same people who sing praises about politicians at political rallies. Now what are you complaining about?? As for those who are criticizing the Chief’s writing style, I would say please leave him alone. He is a musician and not a writer or columnist for that matter. Where do you think he would learn the five W’s or journalese language for that matter??

  20. Concerned says:

    Plz. Medical people. Be empathetic. Just resign if you don’t want to work. I can’t believe you treat patients like that. God forgive you

  21. Mike Aissa says:

    Pepani amfumu ndikakhala ine ndikutha kumvetsa za ululu umene munaumvawo nanenso ndadutsamo muzimenezi mpaka kundithyola dzino katatu,kuyambira pamenepo ndidaleka kuchotsa mano ku chipatala cha boma lomwe ndimalipatsa msonkho.

  22. chaponda says:

    adakuchitani bwino amfumu paja mmatumbwa umati timagwira ntchito ndi boma limene lulamula kkkkkkk ameneyo adakhoza zeediiii limeneli likhale phunziro kwa mafumu onse bravo queeen keep it up komatu kumafumu okhatu osati anthu wamba ayi.koma mafumu akhawule basi

  23. Mkaidi says:

    Tikamati muzitsuka mkamwa, nkhani zake zimakhala zimenezo

  24. Team B special says:

    DPP government. Poor Malawi’s common people

  25. akuntinji anamuona says:

    The problem is our criteria of training medical personnel. We select students based based on class performance without taking into consideration of their commitment to the work. When such kind of people excel in their academics, they tend to be bad apples in the profession.

  26. WAMISALA says:


  27. The Analyst says:

    This is a very correct observation Mankhamba. However . . .

    In matters of life and death as in matters of love-making and others, “almost” doesn’t count. I almost died yet you didn’t? I almost became rich, yet you are stinking poor? The girl almost gave it to me today, yet she kept you waiting and never showed up? Just thank the Almighty, that you are still alive the pain you went through, regardless.

    Second, don’t you think that the pain you felt hence the agony was exacerbated by your delay in having the bad tooth attended to? Going to the hospital at 11 pm? You cant cheat us that the tooth just became bad overnight! It takes years for a tooth to become bad yet you just ignored it and then accuse others of delays yet you delayed yourself? We people need to be orderly and life will be easier for us.

    Thirdly, are you telling us that all the money you made is gone so as to fail to seek medical attention from a private hospital as the first option? We all know that our public hospitals are already overwhelmed hence increased inefficiencies. Are you surprised you were made to wait for hours or told to come the following day? Let us manage our finances well. Lest we feel find life hard for ourselves and our dependent.

  28. ellina maonjera says:


  29. mukharapwio says:

    Atleast nowadays everyone is feeling the pinch soon one vocal minister will be treated at a local hosper without water and electricity

  30. Tina says:

    Dental Professionals, let me teach you abit. If patient has pain it means there is infection. You can administer second dose of antibiotics if you start with minor one. Give the best painkillers you can with the antibiotics. In other circumstances you may need surgery. Where was the protocol. Government please provide reflesh courses to our medical workers. Is not chief fault, this is serious medical negligence. Do not cause harm for desperate patients. Shame service

  31. Bude says:

    Am astonshed. Thats how Malawi tarterd is. The authorities doesnt care bola iwo akushoper all over. But is this the essence of democracy? I cant believe wat is happening in Malawi.

  32. SALIMA BOYS says:

    Mmmh tsono Dala nkatsogolatu APA chifukwa cha dzino chipatala chachikulu ngati chimenecho koma Malawi APA nde basi watha.

  33. DA says:

    This is the worst written article I have ever read on Nyasatimes. The guy has no clue what is going on and writes in the 3rd person. He is under the impression that he has some godly Divine Right as a Chief, but is actually a waste is time with rotten teeth who cannot write. Rather than complaining about our hospitals, why doesn’t this fool try make things better? Oh wait, it is useless Chiefs like him that are the problem!

  34. patricia says:

    pepa phiri. mafumu mudzikumana ndi dzimenezo kuti musiye kusapota dzopusa , kumayankhula motumbwa pamsonkhano.

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