One Night in Parkhurst…

The lights went out. That’s what happens occasionally in Johannesburg for any number of reasons and last night, Thursday, was the night the lights went out in Parkhurst. The suburb was incredibly dark, the streets pretty menacing in their blackness. If you happened to look up at the sky the stars were an incredible sight to behold, bright bold and beautiful but who looks up when you are not sure what could possibly be lurking in the street with you?
My house is pretty similar to most of the others in my street, it has a serious big driveway gate topped with spikes, inset into a tall menacing wall, all crowned with an electric fence that under normal circumstances would be humming away into the night, but for some reason wasn’t last night. In fact, nothing was working last night, the entire system had crashed including the battery back up that should have allowed us to still open the gate regardless of there being no power running to it.
I had been forewarned that there was no electricity and that the gate wasn’t opening so it wasn’t a surprise when I got home to darkness. I had called my housemate who was still at work late in the evening to please meet me at the house so that we could make a plan to get into the house, we had to “break in”. He was waiting for me when I pulled up outside the house and the two of us stood outside looking at Fort Knox brainstorming the way in. Not having criminal minds the solution isn’t always so obvious, particularly when there is an electric fence to surmount as well.
The end result of our cat burglar debate was that he would go over the gate, the spikes and the electric fence and somehow override the motor on the gate so that we could get onto the property. Seemed simple enough but first we gingerly had to explore if the fence was live, and believe me I had no intention of testing it. We all know that touching live wires is a man’s job, well in my house it is even when I am standing outside the house in the street in darkness. Being the boy scout that he is, he came equipped with a bright torch and of a course, a panga (machete), you never know when you are going to need a rubber handled panga to touch an electric fence with. A sigh of relief when we finally decided the fence was not live and he was about to do the boy thing and climb over. Wait, you cannot go I said. I will be left standing in the street outside the house in the dark all on my own, it’s a girl thing and I have seen allllllll the movies! Who knows Jason could be stalking the streets of Parkhurst tonight and Valentine’s Day is not far off and I was not going to be standing there by myself with him somewhere on the other side of the wall. So I called the security company and then the party started.
I am pretty sure my very calm words to the lady who answered the phone were “please could you send someone to wait with me, while we attempt to break into my house” and I gave her the address. Housemate and I then set about finalizing plans for the break in and waited until company arrived before he could attempt to summit Mount Everest.
Within minutes a security vehicle pulled up screeching, and then another one arrived. Followed by another and another and another, followed by a couple of police vehicles and one or two other security companies, and a neighbour or two. Pretty shortly the smell of burned rubber, overworked clutches and testosterone was very strong in the air and we were magically surrounded by men with very big guns and body armour. I guess when calling ones security company the two words “Break and in” should not be used unless of a dire emergency and I felt like a complete tit having caused this adrenalin fueled mayhem and shattering the calm peace of the night. I have to say they all, including the police went off with good grace having seen the humour in the situation and not hauling me off to jail for almost being the girl who cried wolf.

Two vehicles remained shining their very bright light up the drive way, whilst my housemate scaled the gate. He very nearly managed to remove the family jewels at their root on the spikes, but luckily only ended up tearing a teeny tiny little hole in his jeans. Following which he, hey presto, opened the gate and we could drive both vehicles in and park for the evening, smiles on our faces and mine still a pretty deep shade of red.
Of course five minutes after we walked into the very dark house the electricity was restored……

A very big thank you to Cortac and the South African Police Service for their incredibly rapid response, you guys were amazing of course to my housemate who thankfully today is not speaking with a squeaky voice.

Note to self and all of you out there: Maintenance is required on the security system and peripheral devices

Rest in peace…… and quiet

your heart is beating wildly in your chest, you can’t breathe properly, you can’t get warm. Three blankets and a 47 kilo dog on top of you are just not doing the job. Then suddenly you are so hot that  the dog gets booted off your chest, the blankets hit the floor and you use your toe to nudge your thick hiking socks off your feet.  You’re dying! You’re positive you’re dying! It is not possible to feel this bad and still be alive, it’s time to phone a friend. Help! I need to get to casualty, I’m dying you say. All the time you are thinking please hurry I really don’t want to die alone at home………….who will feed the dog?

Your knight in shining armor arrives and drives you to the door of Casualty while he heads off to park his trusty petrol stead. You amble your way in through the door past the tired looking security guard who merely looks at you and cocks his head in the direction of Casualty. Just as well you know the way, you’ve been here before to bring in a friend with malaria.  After walking 900 miles of corridor you stumble upon the reception desk (wo)manned by 3 somewhat bulky nurses who look at you blankly, apparently mystified at your arrival, it is after all 21h30 at night. I’m dying you mumble as you bang your head down onto the reception counter. The nurses continue to look at you with glazed expressions on their faces. Where is the sense of urgency here, don’t they realize I’m dying you think to yourself. Eventually one discovers the gift of speech, can we help you, she says. Yes please, I’m dying you say. Still no sense of urgency. The consultation will cost you anything from R550 upwards she says, they appear to want the money before they will help too prevent your  imminent death.

I leave my knight in shining armor to fill in forms and get lead into the consultation room, all I want to do is fall onto the very high gurney but the nurse says boots off, jacket off, jersey off. Enough already I can barely stand, I am dying after all y0u say. Finally a doctor comes in, thank you, thank you thank , whisper to the gods above. Doctor I’m dying, I have never felt so bad in my entire life, I’m hot, I’m cold, my body aches all over, I am nauseous, my throat is sore and my heart is beating up a storm in my chest. Sounds like flu she says, you’ll live and  proceeds to shove a needle in your arm. You now have a drip attached with blessed pain killers to reduce the aches in your body, relief is almost instant. They take enough blood to resuscitate a starving vampire. Your bp starts to drop your heart is no longer playing the drums in your chest and your temperature is starting to come down from 39.3 degrees. Y0u’re being booked in for the next few nights, you have bronchial pneumonia.

The doctor herself pushes you up to the ward, where are the  porters, the orderlies, the nurses. Maybe you have seen too many Hollywood productions ER was never like this and where hell is George Clooney when you need him. She hands you over to the kind of waiting nurse, relief you think, now maybe I can get some sleep and start to feel better but you are wrong because the fun is only just beginning.

You’ve lost count of how many times they have asked if you are allergic to anything, the nurse brings along the blood pressure machine to take another reading. The machine sounds like it is from the dark ages as it cranks up. Does no one know how to do manual BP readings anymore? It is almost 11pm by  now. You have sent your knight in shining armor home, some one needs to dog-sit The ward is still brightly lit. Only 3 of the 6 beds are occupied you will fill the fourth.

Imagine the 3 Stooges arriving at your bedside with an ECG machine, the doctor on call has requested your heart gets checked. All these three trained professionals have to do is apply the 12 odd pads to  the skin on your chest and abdomen, connect the plugs to the pads, press start and voila the machine will do the rest. Alas the machine can only do this if it is connected up properly so Moe, Larry and Curly spent the next 20 minutes re-arranging the plugs and printing out results that reflected exactly how you were feeling at the time………..dead. Flat-lined. Caput. Of course you would think that the Sister in Charge would come charging to the rescue and put the plus in the right place, except that she didn’t appear to know which plugs go with which pads either………..this scene is best imagined in black and white, in keeping with Moe, Larry and Curly, that way you won’t notice that the plugs are colour coded and labeled R and L. Finally the 4 Stooges manage to determine that you are alive with a regular heartbeat and they toddle off and then of course the nurse with the paperwork arrives. Forms. No I don’t suffer from an entire list if illnesses that I have never heard of. Midnight.

The doctor on call has just been to see you, listened to your chest,  your chest hasn’t had this much attention since you first grew boobs at 14. Bronchitis he says, possible pneumonia. You need to stay here for a couple of nights to recover, massive doses of anti-biotics and you will be fine, the cough will last about a week he says. He is an older guy, a little portly, smelling of smokes and Old Spice, he makes you feel a lot happier about how lousy you are feeling. Already you are feeling better. A couple of nights in hospital to rest and recuperate will do you the world of good he says. He will see you again in the morning  he says.

The ward is hot. You look around at your fellow roomies. There is a little bird in the bed nearest the bathroom, she is tiny, she looks pretty old. The sign above her head says she must be turned every 30 minutes and no solid foods. The lady opposite me is very regal looking, very dignified. It turns out she has leukemia, was in remission but it has come back with a vengeance. The medication is giving her grief and she is struggling with diarrhea. The last filled bed is a lady from an old aged home with serious bed sores, there are nurses working on her even at 1am in the morning; making notes of the lesions and sores she has, cleaning them up. You feel sorry for her at the time.

They have asked for a urine specimen so you take your drip stand on a walk to the bathroom, getting a glimpse of a big white bottom through the gap in the curtains. You catch sight of the sores,  not pretty. Finally 1.30am they put the lights out you manage to get an hour or two of sleep, it is hard because every half hour you hear them turn the fragile bird over. You are coughing and chesty, and you know you coughed during the night  possibly keeping everyone awake except the regal lady, she had  sleeping tablet. Until 4am that is when a vampire swooped in to take blood from her. The urine sample is still on your bedside table.

The lights go on, 4.30am. The lady with the bedsores complained very loudly that she hasn’t slept at all because of all the coughing. You know she slept, she snores.You feel a moments guilt, you cannot help coughing, you were dying. By 5am she has started to chant an ongoing manta ow ow ow ow ow, no no no no no no, omg omg omg the pain, omg omg omg the pain, oy oy oy oy. It isn’t even 7am yet and you are wondering if it is okay to put a pillow over her head. You no longer feel guilty about the coughing. Bathroom break, you take the drip stand for another stroll. The bird looks at you and very politely asks you what page we were on, you smile at her, ask her if she remembers what page, she says 18. That’s right you say, carry on reading love. Ow ow ow, oy oy oy, omg omg omg. You cannot shut it out, it follows you to the bathroom.

The shift is changing so all the nurses are busy, ow ow ow, oy oy oy, omg omg omg, the regal lady in the bed opposite is in trouble her stomach is running and she hasn’t made it out if bed or to the bathroom on time. She is standing distraught but with refined dignity next to her bed, her PJ bottoms covered in watery shit waiting for a nurse to come and help. The shift is changing we will be along  just now, one says. For 30 minutes she stands next to her fouled bed waiting for assistance to the background sound of ow ow ow, oy oy oy, omg omg omg the pain. You marvel at her stoicism. She eventually ends up cleaned and in an adult nappy. The urine sample is still on your bedside table.

The birds husband has arrived, he kisses her tenderly on the cheek, he hugs her delicately. He is amazing. she has no idea who he is. he spends the whole day with her the regal lady says to you. he feeds her, holds her hand and talks to her. He is even more amazing. The ward is abuzz with doctors, nurses, cleaners, the tea lady pops in, breakfast arrives, noise, noise, noise, visitors for the regal queen, eight of them! ow ow ow, oy oy oy, omg omg omg, finally they put something in her drip there is a brief respite blessed silence from that side of the ward. 10am, doctor arrives, smelling of smoke and Old Spice again. Doctor can I please go home today you ask, you should be here another night he says. I can’t stay here you say, ow ow ow, oy oy oy, no no no, omg omg omg starts again, there is no way to rest here you say, looking pointedly in the other direction, just as they starting drilling and hammering in the offices next door. He nods, go home today he says with a sad smile, he understands. Spend a few days in bed he says.

Just after 12 your  lift arrives and you walk out the ward carrying your plastic shopping bag with toothbrush and paste , it so frenetic that you don’t think anyone has actually noticed until the sister comes charging after you with a pink discharge slip, don’t forget to pick up your meds at the dispensary she says and races away. Ow ow, oy oy oy, omg omg  omg falls away behind you, you go home to sleep and curl up with a 47 kilo dog.  The urine sample is still on the bedside table.