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