Assistant Features Editor Sateesh Maharaj fell off a ten-foot ladder on November 3 whilst fixing some moulding strips in the ceiling of his daughter's room. Following initial care at a private facility in St Augustine he was diagnosed with multiple fractures in his right foot and referred to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex. The following is his account of the events which transpired following his discharge from the institution two days later.
"Aye! Allyuh come back! They say they coming just now!"
I was already half way down the corridor when the nurse spotted me hopping away. I turned and tried to hop back, but couldn't make it all the way to that thing they call a waiting room. I had already spent over half and hour waiting for a wheelchair to get me to the front lobby. I was not going to wait any longer.
I saw a chair in a hallway and threw aside the piece of board that was covering it. I had to prepare myself. It was a long way from Adult Surgical 4 on the second floor to the main entrance.
Just the day before I heard one of the nurses asking for one.
"They use it to carry somebody for X-ray."
My mother-in law tried to find someone—anyone—to help me.
"When they take a wheel chair from here and carry it somewhere else they does feel it hard to bring it back," a male nurse explained.
Here we go.
I clung to the right side of the corridor as I hopped forward. Some of the nurses who took information from me while I was on the ward passed me.
"Yuh running away," one giggles.
"An he say 'yes'."
"Because nobody want to get a wheelchair for me."
They walk on, uncaring, towards the elevator. A few seconds later I catch up with them. They gasp as I hop in, my chest heaving, my left leg wracked with pain.
We reach the ground floor and I'm off again.
After I hop a few yards a security officer stops me.
"You trying to run away, or what?"
Me? Escape from this wonderful establishment?
"Sir, my mother-in-law have my discharge papers. She gone to see if she could find a wheel chair for me."
The interrogation would have continued but a disturbance is called in and he heads off to see what the trouble is. I can barely stand. My chest wants to explode and I feel my asthma knocking. Off again. This is the longest corridor, but a railing on the left hand side acts like the crutches they promised to lend me but never did.
I stop at a "work in progress" sign to catch my breath.
"That is a real picture, yes. He with one foot in a cast holding on to a work in progress sign. Trini to the bone, yes."
The visitor continues on her way. No help forthcoming. Water is dripping onto the floor here so I have to be careful. Another "work in progress" sign helps me.
My mother-in-law, laden with bags, returns after another futile attempt to get a wheelchair.
"You have to tell Ian Alleyne about this and let him do something about it!"
Another security guard passes.
"Is gymnastics yuh doing or what?"
"I wouldn't have to if somebody would just get me a wheelchair."
"What wrong with him?"
"He need a wheelchair," my mother-in-law screams.
"Oh," the nurse says and walks off.
No one cares.
Not the nurses with their faces buried in blackberries, not the female medical students who wear tonnes of make-up, model up and down corridors and feel a doctor's coat makes them superior and certainly not the security guards whose main purpose is to keep the "prisoners" from escaping. Doesn't becoming a doctor require that one actually care about the patients? Or is it all about just writing an exam, getting a title and salary and the prestige that goes with it? Who puts the "care" in "caregiver".
"Yuh cyar get a wheelchair after a certain hour here," another visitor says.
Finally I come to a Rituals cafe and take a seat. Sweat burns my eyes as I lean forward.
The couple that walks in turns the other way as they see me. The lobby is finally in front of me. A few more hops and a rest later I'm there. My sister-in-law arrives a short while later and buys me a pair of crutches, after begging a cashier to sell it to her before she closes. My wife isn't far behind and I have enough to just make it to the car.
I tell her the story and laugh.
"Why you laughing?"
"You remember when I came in here on Sunday? They say they had no beds available, so they push me in a corner in the asthma ward and leave me to sleep in the wheelchair. Now when I really wanted one they couldn't find any!"
Tips to survive Mt Hope:
• Bring lots of bottled water. According to one nurse who opened a tap next to me, "aye, aye! It coming out clear today!"
• Bring a fan. The rooms are not air-conditioned and turn oven-like fast.
• Bring a post-paid cellphone. This is your lifeline to friends and family. It can keep you from boredom or alert someone who actually cares. Don't forget the charger!
• Bring something to read or do. It gets pretty boring lying down all day. A portable radio, MP3 player or a couple novels will do nicely.
• Bring healthy snacks. Digestive biscuits, a small loaf of sliced whole wheat bread and nuts. Breakfast and lunch come when the server feels to bring it. Make sure you have enough to tide you over until someone visits.
• Have someone visit you regularly. It gets pretty lonely inside there and a loved one may be able to replenish your supplies.
• If possible, get a private nurse to visit. There are nurses from other healthcare institutions who make it their business to see about their loved ones in Mt Hope personally rather than rely on the caregivers at that place. I wonder why?