Natasha Mofya. The University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka Zambia. MJoTA 2016 v10n21216
I am just 20, and have completed high school, but I always remember the university teaching hospital mentioned on
television on the news about health matters. All I knew about it was it was
the biggest and the only teaching hospital in Zambia where patients
were referred if their cases could not be treated at local
I never even knew where it was, even though it is
right in Lusaka where I lived. Who could blame me anyway? I had never
been seriously sick and all my family members were all healthy, so
any little diseases we had were treated at our local clinics and the
story was buried.
That was so until this year, when we moved
to our new home and my mother suddenly fell sick, she complained of
body pains especially her feet. We thought it was just one of those
things that would go away with a painkiller but she only became
Within a week, my mother had difficulty walking. She
spent all the days sleeping in bed and her feet swelled up. My two
elder sisters were alarmed, and took her to the (ZAF) Zambia Air
Force clinic. This clinic was less congested and better kept because
it wasn't open to the general public. The people there did their best
to help her but could not find the cause of the pain due to the fact
that the clinic had no big laboratory to carry out tests.
at home I was taking care of my siblings, very worried not knowing
what would happen to my mum, but I had to be brave for my sisters and
brothers who were very young. My elder sister, who was 25, was the
one who took care of all financial costs both at home and at the
hospital, but she never had a job and this that she obtained this
money by asking from friends. My father actually played no role in
I remember him coming drunk at midnight only to wake us
up and he claimed to have no money to help mum or us. Well I don't
know how true that was, but it was all he ever said.
sisters' friends advised them to take my mum to UTH (University
Teaching Hospital). That there she would get the best treatment, but
they had doubts because of the picture they had of the hospital. They
believed the hospital was congested, untidy, with very unfriendly and
In addition, we heard very weird stories about
the hospital long ago, stories of witchcraft and mysterious
I remember one particular story we were told about
a lady who went to give birth and a midwife who had died a day ago
attended to her. After the lady delivered other midwives came and
told her that a ghost had probably helped her deliver because the
midwife she said attended to her had died and the story went on to
say they later found the baby in the morgue with the same
Sometimes on the news we would watch people being
unattended to and others died due to long hours of waiting without
receiving any treatment. This happened while the nurses and doctors
were chatting or making themselves too busy for nothing, that was why
my sisters did not want to go there, but finally after everything
failed they just decided to take her.
My sister (the second
born) and I switched places, she went home to be with the kids while
I followed my elder sister who was with mum at the hospital. When I
arrived, my stomach ached when I saw the big letters on the wall
written University Teaching Hospital, much worse, the casualty
There were so many people with serious diseases and
injuries. I failed to see how others were alive because they looked
literally dead to me. The first impression I had when I got there was
this is precisely what people talk about, my mum wasn't given a bed
just a small mattress in a corner because there was no space, but
what impressed me was presence of so many student nurses attending to
every patient, well that's better I thought.
Wait, where would
I and my sister sleep?? There was no space for us to lie down. We sat
the whole night while being worried sick about my mum.
next morning, we were taken to the wards, it felt a little better but
I felt miles away from home in a place I had never been to. We saw
many patients in one ward, others still slept on the floor with many
nurses passing by At 6am doctors attended to patients and then handed
over to the nurses who did the job day and night.
was so big, with different departments. I got lost many times and
wondering why the government never made use of this infrastructure
and improved the services they offered. It was a teaching hospital so
there were many student nurses and doctors present. I actually
admired the work they were doing because I always wanted to be a
My worst fears were being realized. The bathrooms and
toilets were a mess, water came at fixed times, even though the
janitors did their best to clean, people just lost their hygiene,
this was acceptable in a way I thought because some patients were
extremely sick such that being dirty didn't bother them anymore. But
I think their relatives could have made sure they took good care of
that, anyway, I still can't blame them because some of them told us
they had been there for months nursing their relatives and they got
so tired and frustrated, many stories I heard made me drop
Many patients who were there had older relatives taking
care of them, probably their mothers and aunts, but my sister and I
were the only ones present on my mum's bed side, with no older
relative to help us. We were the youngest persons nursing any
patient. Nobody came to visit us. I watched how a large number of
relations trooped in during visiting hours to see their relatives.
But we had no one.
Only a bouquet of roses that I picked
behind our back yard when coming to be with my mum, people really had
compassion towards us but I was so strong.
There was a
cafeteria upstairs but food there was so expensive and we didn't have
enough money, we would go to the canteens outside the hospital were
women prepared food, this food was considered hygienically unclean
but what were we supposed to do when that was the only food we could
afford, and my father just never showed up to help us. I really felt
like a single orphan about to lose a mother.
When night fell,
I and my sister slept under my mum's bed. She was given a bed
luckily, we slept on the floor literally with no blankets. What I
used to hear about this hospital was proving itself to be true but my
story was going to change in a few days.
Around 02am when all
was quiet, we saw cats passing in the wards, and patients and relatives next to us started wailing that their relatives had died. They wept bitterly
and I wept inside my heart too. I felt bad because these were people
we interacted with during the day and suddenly they were gone. I
thought is this going to happen to us too?? But I kept on praying and
having faith in God. When I saw the cats passing and people suddenly
dying I said to myself isn't this the witchcraft I have heard talk
about? Because I have heard that cats are linked to black magic.
My mum couldn't sleep, she kept on
complaining. We used a wheelchair all the time to take her to the
bathroom. But there was a shortage of wheelchairs at the hospital so
we really had to hustle for one. I cried within me. Was mum going to
die?? I remembered this particular verse in Thriving Ivory' s song
“Don't tell me if am dying cause I don't wanna know,if I can't see
the sun then maybe I should go. Don't wake me cause am dreaming of
angels on the moon..where everyone you know never leaves too soon”
it made me more sad, how were we ever going to live without her?? We
prayed when going to sleep and when waking up, despite all the
turmoil, my heart was at peace for I knew God was watching over
In the morning I saw a woman carrying food in pots passing
through the wards. I asked my sister who she was, and what she was
carrying. My sister explained that the government started providing
food for all the patients and the relatives at the hospital, I was
really touched and grateful in my heart, the woman actually came to
our bed and gave my mum some hot soya porridge. In the afternoons she
would again pass through with well cooked nshima and good relish and
she did the same in the evening. I didn't know such a thing took
place at the hospital people said was extremely bad. This food helped
us a lot, because sometimes we did not have money and just waited for
the lady so we could eat, and she was so friendly.
the government of the day for helping people in this way and slowly
my views about the hospital began to change during my stay at the
I began to notice how friendly the nurses were.
There was this nurse who gave mum a bath as if she were her daughter,
staying without a bath made her worse but after a bath, my mum became
I saw how the nurses would come to greet and
encourage us in the morning and give my mum whatever medicines that
were available, sometimes there was no water inside the hospital and
we would go outside to draw water in small bottles.
Around 5am the janitors woke us up so
they could clean. I was tired and still wanted to sleep but we were
told to stand outside until they finished cleaning. Another thing was
that they didn't allow two people to be at the bedside so sometimes
they chased me outside for hours until I saw that all was clear and
went back in again.
This place changed for me, it became more
like my home and the patients and relatives in the wards became our
family. We encouraged each other, helped each other with whatever we
were short of, through the struggles and pain we still thanked God.
Disconnected from the rest of the world I saw how we all take for
granted the good times we have and just complain. I thought of people
who were fine in their homes celebrating life and making merry and
never even dreamed of ever been sad: that is the circle of life under
I learned to appreciate the efforts the doctors and
nurses made while working under stressful conditions. Those on night
shifts slept in one room on mattresses just like us, it is not like
life on the nurses and doctors side was all juicy, no!! They also
faced many challenges, and I also got to appreciate how the
government had improved the services at this hospital: all services
we received were free. Yes, totally free.
It wasn't the best hospital, we were
in short of many things, but what matters is they took us in and took
care of us for free. And I think more than 100 patients checked in
each day from all parts of the country, and they all received
treatment unlike the stories people told us.
I also got to realize that this place
had changed a lot and people had to know this. Less people died and
the nurses and doctors were friendly plus many other good things I
saw there, yes the place had its bad sides but all in all they do
save peoples lives.
After almost a month of staying at the
hospital my mother was discharged, she got better and better, and
today she is alright. She was diagnosed with arthritis and takes
painkillers but she's ok back on her feet again and I really thank
God for that.
And one surprising thing was that the roses I had picked never dried
until we got out of the hospital. They somehow gave us hope and
signaled all will be well when I looked at them, I've actually made
it a daily routine to pick even just one rose flower and put it in my
room every morning, as the fragrance reaches my nostrils I know am
alive and destined for greatness.
It has now been months after
this happened and I learned so many things from that place, things
like. The hospital is not as bad as people said it was, never
conclude about something you don't know: always thank God in whatever
situation you are in because some people would feel ok to be were you
I've also learned that it is being unfair to yourself to
give up while you are still alive because for me as long as life
endures, stories change overnight and I will do great things not even
the sky is the limit. I have many areas of my life am battling with
but none of them make me shake the way I shook with the fear of
losing a mother and because of that, I've learned to thank God no
matter what am going through.
The university teaching hospital will forever be in my heart,
sometimes when am home I think about how the people are doing that
side and someday when I get older I want to make a difference and
help people in hospitals with whatever I can, probably some with
necessities like soap, blankets food etc and also just a smile to
show them you care this can really help them.
Now when I see it on television, it brings back memories that make me
know am strong and am a fighter.
But there's still one thing I do not understand. Why was this
hospital never given a name?? University Teaching Hospital is not a
name I think. This is like naming your school, “school”, is that
a name? I wonder.