Acting Ambulance Driver Scott
Posted by Keith and Lyn Scott on Tue, 24 Jan 2017 | 1 comments | Bookmark:
Anyone who tells you that the pace of life in Africa is slow is mistaken.
Life for the seminary staff gets busy. As well as teaching, organising the courses, assessing the students and all those other things that goes with a small third-level institution, the staff members all have something else to do.
Fr. Francis is priest-in-charge of a group of three churches in Kwacha township, about 5-10km from the seminary. One other priest and I assist, taking services and covering pastoral emergencies. Sam, the other priest, also has another job, so what is a fairly sizeable township community is looked after by three part-time clergy who, between them, can manage to cover the work of one full-time priest.
Sunday 22nd January was my first day in the parish. Francis has just taken over, so he too is fairly new to the community. Although the service is supposed to start at 9am, this is Africa, and time slips easily. It has also been raining. When I say ‘raining’, think in terms of the Niagara falls, and then keep going. Thirty seconds in the rain and it will take a week for your shoes to get dry again. Needless to say this adds to the delays.
After the service Francis and I are asked to go and visit an elderly lady who is very ill, in order to say some prayers with her. The house is a typical small township house, like something out of the Ulster Folk Museum. Two rooms, cement floor, rough cement plaster on the walls painted a long time ago, and a corrugated asbestos sheet roof (yes asbestos is still used as a building material here), and there is no ceiling. There are a few pieces of shabby ancient furniture that was never too good even when it was new about 50 years ago. The old lady is lying on a single foam mattress on a locally made double bed frame. Her body is thin and wasted and she is more or less comatose. It is clear that she has not long to go. We pray for her.
The women from the parish explain that the old lady is more or less alone in the world (an unusual state of affairs for an African woman). The Mothers’ Union of the parish have been looking after her, providing 24/7 care in her own home with the assistance of a home care programme providing the necessary medication and advice.
It is, however, clear that the old lady is at the point where the local parish resources are stretched to breaking point. They want her to go to hospital where she can be more comfortable and where they and the nursing staff will be able to offer better care. I’m, hesitant, both Francis and myself wonder if she can survive the journey in our ancient X-Trail, especially over the township ‘roads’, which are not tarred, and are cut to pieces by the rains. They have ‘pot holes’ in them, filled with murky brown water, which could harbour their own mysterious monster.
Nevertheless, needs must and acting ambulance driver Keith Scott springs into action. The car is duly prepared, the back seats folded down and the patient carried from her house and carefully laid on some old cushions. Three people cram in beside her and it’s off to Kitwe Central Hospital.
Kitwe Central sounds grand, it even looks grand from a distance, something on the scale of the Ulster Hospital at Dundonald. Inside it is a good deal less grand. The elderly lady is lifted out onto a bare metal trolly of indeterminate age and wheeled off. To be fair, she is taken into a side room in what must be A&E, where she has a little privacy and dignity after her journey. In A&E there is a nurse and a doctor available and the hospital staff will do their very best for her with resources which are thin, by even NHS standards. The ladies of the parish will wait with her until she is admitted.
Francis and I, having done our best for all concerned, head home to a very late lunch.
As I sit and contemplates life in the aftermath, a figure passes the window. It’s Pastor Marvellous, one of the people who works at TEEZ, the organisation which owns the house Lyn and I are currently renting until our own is ready. His wife Mary is very pregnant and there are some signs that it might be time. Could Lyn (whose knowledge of midwifery is confined to giving birth to our children) come and check…She puts on her shoes… I prepare the ambulance for the next trip…