Doctors without ethics
In 2011, on the 29th of March around 7pm I walked out of my doctor’s surgery, I walked out of the doctor’s office in disbelief. My tests had tested positive for diabetes…I couldn’t believe it. I cried like I’ve never done before but it didn’t change anything. I just couldn’t understand, I so much wanted my youthfulness to save me but genetics took its course. As I reflect on my diabetic experience it has been a journey. I can now say with confidence and not enjoy hearing it, that I am a strong woman. It’s been 25 drips, a month in hospital, and 50 units overdose of insulin instead of the prescribed 5units, several hypoglycaemic attacks, and bouts of low blood pressure, minor strokes, and losing much of the use of my left hand…when I reflect I have no choice but to come to a conclusion that I am alive for a purpose.
Today I woke up not feeling well. This made me reflect on my journey with diabetes for the close to two years now. I couldn’t help noticing that I have been subjected to gross medical malpractice and I just cannot figure out how I am still alive at times.
I have changed my general practitioners more than 4 times in the two years , and I’ve had three different specialists. Is something wrong with our Health sector such that different doctors make the same mistakes on a patient? Still wondering, I also question why I have to pay USD 80 per session to get a doctor to do a review for ten nanoseconds and then he writes a prescription card with pain relief tablets for a diabetic patient facing complications. Has anyone experienced this or it’s just me?
Today, I told myself that I wasn’t going to the doctor. I would lie in and work a little bit. I’ve had flu for the past three weeks so now I’m tired and I just want to be well. But the thought of getting another doctor just drains me. My current doctor keeps accusing me of not maintaining my sugar levels well which is why I’m not getting better even after a full course of antibiotics. It’s the same diagnosis all the time. No suggestion for any other tests like an X-ray or something.
It has been a journey of unethical practice
My first GP was a good man, young and enthusiastic about his job. From the onset when I walked into his office with a swollen face and feet he told me that I was diabetic. I laughed at him and told him that he was out of his mind out rightly. So we proceeded to do tests for kidney, liver function tests and but not diabetes. I thought I was young. Finally I agreed to the diabetes test reluctantly. Deep down I was tipped to get positive tests for the condition, there was no way out. Most of my family members had the condition. I just knew but I was in reasonable denial. I went for it and he was right. I did several other tests until we had exhausted them all. On this particular day of the 29th of March my doctor sat me down and told me that I didn’t need further confirmation. I was running out of time but I needed to be sure. I was already losing my sight by the day. So I walked out of the surgery and went to sit on the pavement along Fourth Street. In the moment it was the end. Before I had left I had asked for a referral to see a specialist physician and that was the beginning of the diabetic terror.
I was given options and I went for the one he recommended and that was the beginning of a horrendous journey with several doctors. The first thing that made me doubt the practicing abilities of this man was that he asked me to remove my top in the absence of a nurse. I asked for a nurse to be present and refused to have any procedure or observation done on me in her absence. Armed with my previous tests the physician just announced that I had been I had been admitted. Before I knew it I was at the Westend Clinic on a trial run for insulin which they call a sliding scale. Whilst the tests had proved that I was diabetic, the specialist did not even bother to confirm on the diabetes type before prescribing the insulin type. For three days I was starved having abruptly put on a diabetic diet, whilst the nurses were teaching me to inject myself. I couldn’t contain all this so for all the five days which I stayed in Hospital, so I decided to be numb. This specialist had taken over convincing my parents to proceed with whatever he was deciding.I wasn’t consulted at all.
I left the hospital and went home and I started injecting myself. It was torture just waking up and realizing that I was now living with a certain condition. My mum, just like me had a feeling that even though the tests were positive for diabetes, prescribing insulin was a little bit over the top considering that my readings were not extremely high. We went to the Zimbabwe Diabetes Association just to get support and more information once. After the visit I didn’t want to go back there anymore. The counsellor who handled my case then told me explicitly that young women like me with diabetes have trouble getting marriage partners. I was pissed off because I hadn’t gone there to look for a man I just needed help and some information on my condition. So I walked out and never went back.
In the few days that I went home my sugar levels rose and unfortunately I had to go back to the hospital and this time for a month. I stayed in a different private hospital with unprofessional nursing staff and one of them almost killed me after injecting 50mls of insulin instead of just 5. I was also on drip for the month that I was in hospital until the last week when I removed it and dared anyone to put it back; my mind was made up then. I was fed up of lying down and having my life turned upside down by a doctor who kept me in hospital because he felt that I wasn’t responsible enough to inject myself at 25 and also to see if the overdose of insulin hadn’t affected me. He wasn’t even professional enough to monitor his own staff to see if the nurses were doing the right. I had raptured veins from the drips and scars all over my hands. I was just grateful that at least I was administering the insulin myself.
I started on insulin at home watching my diet and after about two months I realized that I was the whole of my left side was getting numb and I was grinding my teeth to a point of making noises. I remember my cousin coming to check if I was breathing at times. Sometimes, I just went to bed not sure if was going to wake up. I watched my thigh getting scarred from the injections each day. And when I told my doctor of the complications he simply said I wasn’t monitoring my diet well. And so did the next, no one paid attention to the fact that I was slowly stroking, in the care of qualified medical personnel. I went for physiotherapy. After paying thousands in medical bills I finally decided to go to South Africa for treatment.
A whole new medical experience
My SA experience was quite unbelievable. I went to Johannesburg General Hospital and was seen by a Masters student. In 30 minutes, I was seen by a professor of medicine after the student referred me to her. I paid R200 which is just about 24USD. From there I had several tests done including X-rays all for 24dollars. Apparently, I paid more because I was a foreigner. After that I went home and came back for the results. The professor explained to me plainly that they were not sure which diabetes type I was so they couldn’t treat me until they were sure. The next step was to go to Zimbabwe and record my sugar levels for a month and come back for more tests. They were not in a rush to treat something they did not know.
A month later, I was back in South Africa , this time since had registered in the Diabetic Clinic I was not going to pay for anything to see professors of medicine treating me. Now that blew me away. On the day of my review, a team of doctors met to review my blood sugar level recordings and they interviewed me. And this was in a public hospital with several hundreds of patients also getting the same treatment. My diagnosis came. It was something I never heard all the Zimbabwe doctors mention. My condition was that of a MODY-Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young or type 1.5. All along I was being treated for type 1 diabetes hence the minor stroke. My condition was less serious than what I was being treated for. It was a condition which I could manage with a diet control or just oral tablets not injections. I wasn’t admitted or anything no drip, nothing? How do you administer 25 drips on a patient who is not dehydrated?
From that time I have heard of people who die due to malpractice, just few days ago we lost a family member who was pregnant at Parirenyatwa. The initial diagnosis was that she had meningitis and they started treatment when the sample for the tests hadn’t gone to the lab. The contents were just by her bedside until she died. What puzzled me is that upon collecting the body they had removed the baby from her womb and a fellow patient confirmed that she had gone to the theatre the night she died. Since when do we have people being operated on without the next of kin signing any papers? Had I continued to listen to doctors what would have happened to me. I shudder to think about it.
There’s a lot of malpractice going on unnoticed and the sad thing is we have never heard of cases where these doctors have been prosecuted. As for the doctor who kept me in the hospital for a month I fixed him myself. I knew the courts would trivialise the issues. So when his office started calling me in regards to their bill which ran into thousands bugging my dad about it. I went there and explained calmly how he almost killed me and I never heard from them again. He knew he was wrong.
We then need to question as Zimbabweans that apart from the huge bills which we are running are we then getting the values for our money. Is the doctor always right? What has the medical Professions council done about all this? Shouldn’t they be doing medical spot checks for women? One of the things I dream of is for Zimbabwe to have a state of the art hospital; for women and would want Zimbabwean medical professionals to run it. But after this I’m stuck.
As I look at my hand (see pic). It reminds me if the slow resurrection of the health sect and unassuming political will by pour leaders to ensure that as a country we have the best health care.
On a day like this when I do not have time to go to South Africa to get treated I get goose bumps before I go to the doctor. I’d rather stay at home and monitor my sugar levels myself than to go and get wrong treatment. This is not to say all of them are not good. I had the privilege of being treated by a good man, Professor Matenga one of the first few black doctors in Zimbabwe. The other time as I was giving him my medical history he said something that I heard well, he said “You need to have some kind of knowledge about that thing living in you and you don’t need to pay a lot of dollars for that. Diabetes is a basic disease. Knowledge on medicine is not only for health professionals.” My physiotherapist said “Nyasha it’s up to you to live. Make that choice to live. If you do that they won’t kill you.”