Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bring your own TP

When you visit a Tongan hospital, there's a list of things you'd better bring including toilet paper, mosquito coils and matches, food and water, hand sanitizer, and sometimes your own bed sheets. We made a visit to the hospital overnight on Saturday for me, I'm not sure why I was so sick, it was mostly my stomache so probably something I ate. After talking to our Peace Corps nurse a few times she suggested the hospital to make sure I was staying hydrated. So in our whole time here in Tonga we made our second visit to the hospital (the first was during training for Brett in Vava'u).

This was our first visit to the hospital here in Ha'apai, we'd heard some stories that made us pretty nervous. In fact the Tongan word for hospital, falemahaki, translates literally to house of sick. But the US Navy helped out at the hospital in July and inspected it, and just recently a medical person from Peace Corps headquarters in DC had inspected it as well, so I felt a little better.

We walked into the hospital and found the "check-in" table towards the back, out in the open hallway. They pulled up a few chairs for us, and I had to go through my symptoms as the nurse wrote them down in a notebook and everyone wandering around the hallways and hanging around could hear everything. Not like in America! Some people that knew us even tried to come up and have a conversation during this. The nurse then called the doctor, and they decided to give me an IV to hydrate me and keep us overnight. I think we were treated a little better since we're Peace Corps, we were given a private room (the others all had 4 beds), and bedsheets.

After being here for over a year, we just expect things to be the way they are here. But if you're coming from the States you wouldn't expect open window slats with no mosquito screens in a hospital, so there were mosquitos that could possibly give you dengue fever flying around. And it's not exactly sanitary to have stuff flying in the windows. There's no AC or fans, so then there's the dilemma of having the windows open for a breeze and having the mosquitos, or having the windows closed and sweating the heat. And in the bathroom, there was actually a sink, but of course no soap... in a hospital. And no toilet paper. We actually forgot to bring our own TP, so the nurses were nice enough to lend us some until Brett was able to go back and get some more things from our house. Overall it wasn't a horrible experience, the nurses were all very nice, the needles were new and they used alcohol swabs, and they even gave us breakfast in the morning. So don't be too worried if you ever have to visit a Tongan hospital, just be ready for some of these realities. I did feel a little better the next day. It was really funny when we got back to our house the next morning our neighbors came outside and were clapping when they saw we were back and I was okay.

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