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PART II – When hospitals can only offer prayer

The story continues…

Snake attack
Snake attack

I followed him into the house. I had some wits about me so I tore my shirt off, like he had already done his. I pulled off my vest and tore it into strips and bound his calf above the bite mark, so the venom would not flow into his heart. Or were we too late?

I asked for a razor to bleed the venom out. They just stood there, watching laughing like they had helped smoke the blunt. When the unexpected occurs it doesn’t help being known as an actor.

Fighting to survive

The realisation that a man was on the precipice of doom, done to death by the fiend of Eden struck when he got up, limping into the kitchen, pulled the cutlery drawer right out of its housing and onto the floor to select a knife, not necessarily the sharpest but the first to reach his hand and thrust it into his leg, stabbed himself over and over, bleeding furiously onto the white tiles.

Panic stations

I hope you never know how it felt, running through the night, the same quietness, which had served as a haven when we needed to partake of illegal pleasures, now a trap. We tried calling an ambulance from the number on a baby’s clinic card. Several attempts but it wouldn’t go through. Network overload. We had to find a car, anyone to help get him to hospital. I came upon a kombi. I had a bit of money on me, plus when I left to find a vehicle the bitten man had emptied his pockets and thrown their contents in my direction. Coins tinkling on the floor, bank notes floating after them. I had picked the notes and left the coins still spinning on the bloodied floor. We drove to the house but didn’t have to get there because he had crawled three gates up the road, half naked, his wailing complimented by that of the sisters.

We need a doctor!

I hope you never know how it felt, telling him it would be alright when all we had was faith, fickle faith; slapping his face to keep him awake each time he closed his eyes longer than it takes to blink. I hope you never run through the casualty ward with your unbuttoned shirt following behind you like a cape, while you scream with all your breath for a ‘f***ing doctor’.

I hope you never know the power of adrenalin when you lift a grown man like a baby into a commandeered wheelchair to run again, back into the mouth of the hospital, screaming for a ‘f***ing doctor’.

If you have known rage, you will understand why a man who would grab a male nurse by the white lapels, slam him onto the sanitised wall and threaten him with a hospital bed if he did not find that ‘f***ing doctor’.

Help, at last

They finally found a doctor, gave him a bed and stuck needles into his veins. The residual marijuana in my system was not enough to lessen the shock that followed. We were told to buy more drip kits for him, bring him drugs for the pain, blankets and linen but that wasn’t the worst part. Of course he didn’t know what type of snake had bitten him so anti-venom could not be administered. But that wasn’t the worst part: even if he knew it wouldn’t help much, it would only help anticipate the symptoms. There hadn’t been anti-venom in the country for five years – further horror. Another five have passed, I ventured past the hospital last week, there is still none. Every snakebite – at least the venomous ones – is invariably a death sentence.
The doctor’s prescription
“What shall we do then, doctor?” We asked. By then I wasn’t the adult anymore.

The man who had spent seven years in medical school, the fucking doctor, made his answer as brief and as unscientific as any prescription can ever be: “Pray.”

Conversation with God

Outside, I lit a cigarette to calm the nerves. Then, with lips quivering around the cigarette, drowning almost to the point of being extinguished in hot tears, I prayed. We had been there before a couple of times, God and I, taking oaths for favours. This time I had nothing to promise Him, except that I would never smoke marijuana again.

I went back and watched him. He was twenty-one and the doctor had given him two hours to live. If he survived those two hours maybe, just maybe, this would just be something to laugh about, someday.

inside hospital

Counting the hours

During those two hours we prayed, comforted him, sang hymns and tried not to cry in front of him. His stomach became bloated each time he tried to eat. That was not a good sign. But the wooziness was fading. A nervous glance at the wall clock. Three hours and he was still breathing.
I stayed half the night with him in the Casualty ward. Together we watched two people die.

***

Philani Amadeus Nyoni is a published Zimbabwean poet (“Once A Lover Always A Fool” and “Hewn From Rock”), short story writer and actor. His writings have been published in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday News, Zimbabwe Metro, South Africa Metro, Consciousness.co.za and Ghana Poetry Foundation.

He has often been referred to as a Madman.

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