Doctors without Ethics: My Diabetec Journey


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?

The trend
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.

My hand . fortunately for me I can still use it for most tasks..


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.”

From hand to Mouth with a Dream


The Realization
The common sight you find in Harare these days is a group of young people moving from one internet Café to the other. I am working from home out of choice these days and I left my job to write and create other new ideas in my very own space. I am not sure if that’s the case with most young people I see working on their laptops in internet Cafes, sitting in the same WIFI spot and conducting their meetings there. A few months back before I earned enough money to set up home internet for my work I was one of them and from the beginning I told myself that I had to get out of that zone if I wanted to make it in the immediate future as campaign strategist. As I rightly figured, most of us starting up projects and companies in Zimbabwe particularly amongst young people .we are living from hand to mouth. Borrowing to make ends meet and to get just a few dollars to go on the internet where everything is almost happening. So before I even thought of getting an office for my NGO Branding Project; Source International Zimbabwe I realized that I am one of these young people living from hand to mouth but my dream of engaging women of the world is real. At this point I’m not sure if funding partners will give me a second look in my office which is my room filled with large files and books, my modem, etc.. In this regard I’m sure it is every young person’s dream to start well but slowly as I progress and as I get recognized by the day I realize that I might just make it because I believe in the best resource which I have ..and that is me.

Fake or Real
The fact that I don’t have an office and the next thing which legitimises what I’m doing is my business card and the trust deed, does not entail that I’m a fake development consultant. A lot of people have reprimanded me to stop claiming that I am a consultant because I do not have an office or I haven’t really made it to lay such a claim on my name. Initially I listened to them and I’ve done so for the past two years. But I woke up one day and realized that it was time to create my own space whether my name and work was recognizable or not. It has been a difficult journey because as I watch my project grow I can’t help but want more for it, and more for the people I work with. All of this, being difficult to attain when the world wants you to prove yourself first before they can support you.
I have started to send in Calls of interests for consultancy tasks and I know the next thing they are going to ask me is where are your offices? Try telling them that you don’t have offices and they will kiss you goodbye. But I’m good at what I do. The few organisations which have taken an interest in what I do have not regretted working with me. I’m sure I even do better than those with offices since some of them sub contract me to do the work which they present to international organisations. So there I am little known without an office but critically contributing and fighting to be visible every day of my life. I do all of these tasks on my bed without a desk or in the lounge on our dinner table. Sometimes whilst there’s a blackout ,thanks to ZESA. I have made it somehow and I have managed to start without much. The other day, I almost cried because now more than ever I need an interactive website running by January 2013 in order to get young people writing for development in Zimbabwe. So I woke up at three and went on the internet and I searched for information on how websites are designed and I have started working on one. Yes the History student has started designing websites. Slowly I rise to become relevant. On top of my work I exchange my expertise for resources which are not always financial. Currently I’m doing a strategic working document for someone who has pledged to develop graphics for my brand. Yes I am finding ways to make it without money and the important thing is the work is going on. The office will come but for now my genuine intentions tell me that if I wait for adequate resources I will miss everything which my dream entails.
I don’t think the quality of the work which I am doing will be compromised because of my location. I am not fake, I just have an untold story and I am so sure most young people I meet on the street s of Harare who have sound and Innovative ideas have a similar story to tell as well.
Living from hand to mouth
I have a big dreams and ideas which I believe will create relevant action and will make the much needed difference in advancing women’s rights not only in Zimbabwe even all over the globe . This is why I decided to create an organisation with a global focus. When I shared the idea with most of my colleagues their initial reaction was its good to start small then you grow from there. I heard it from birth but as I awaken I realize that its almost as if it’s a mentality that no one is allowed to start big or rather is supposed to project big when starting something.
I have worked hard in trying to create space to get young women to be visible on the development agenda. We were small then and we remained so till I left. In the 3 years that I have worked with them I realised at the end of it all that I also needed to be empowered just like the young women I was working with. This was actually a difficult thing to discover because I had always thought that my contribution to the communities as a development worker of some sort I had leverage to develop better but I was wrong. Stuck and feeling like I couldn’t have it all at work I decided to start all over and reflect. The whole three years which I worked I never got financial empowerment to finance my ideas. I left my job with just but a dream. I needed to take charge of life with in a different and neutral space. As I resigned I forgot two things that I was 27 and the reality that I needed money to survive. But then I had remembered two things as well and they were force full; that I had a new progressive dream and I was the only one who could create that space. So with vigor I went home to work. In the moment I then came to appreciate one thing: that the things you don’t know, life will teach you in a harsh manner almost always.
The Lesson
For you start anything you need money even if it’s non-profit if you have no money you struggle and that’s just how it is. Money will make bringing a dream to come true a little bit easier. It makes networking easier and efficient you can plan well ahead, and you can do away with some bottle necks. So was I wrong to start working on this initiative with nothing? Technically I don’t think I was wrong for starting but I do know that I was wrong to assume that everyone will buy into it on its inception and resources will not be much of an issue. I was wrong to a point of frustration. There I was almost stuck with nothing but just my writing to remind me that I still have it in me to come up with something.
So this afternoon, as I write this article I realized that even though I am going through a rough patch physically, mentally, financially and socially (my friends are dwindling). I have lessons which no one could have taught me had I not experienced this space. As I rise in my spirit, I tell myself that the younger generation that seeks to start social Entrepreneurship projects need not to go through what I went through. My take is we can create better and cheaper ways of getting young people to initiate developmental perspectives that will make Africa critically visible on the globe. We can’t continue the conversation which reminds the world that starting something is difficult. That’s not true and it’s not a progressive reality. The resources are us.