Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, April 02, 2015

9. Maun, Botswana, Southern Africa

Maun, Botswana

Flight from the Delta to Maun
Instrument Panel in Bush Plane
Our bush taxi was a very new, small plane, all electronic, very impressive. Yet in the Delta one lands more or less by sight. The runways in the Delta are just dirt tracks, flights after dark are impossible due to possible animals on the runway. Those small landing strips inside the Delta have no guidance system, nothing but either grass or gravel and cannot be seen in the dark. Still it was a nice plane.

He Doesn`t Look Sick but he Really Was

Dr. Max Assisted by Hanta to put in 3 Stitches when Hans
Fainted & Cut his Head Due to low Blood Pressure
We were greeted at the airport in Maun by a representative of the tour we signed up for, put into a SUV and taken directly to Dr. Max Nhlatho. Everybody knows Dr. Max around here it seems. No appointment needed. His assistant, Hanta, took my vitals; fever around 39 to 40, BP 82/51. I guess I am sicker than I thought. IV was first to replenish my fluids. Blood test was next (finger
prick) for Malaria which was negative. This Dr. does not mess around. He was the most personable Dr. one can imagine. His office is sparse but very clean and modern. Dr. Max does the talking; and Hanta, the male nurse, does the hands on work. What a great team.

After 2 hours of evaluation we were told the sad news. No more safaris in the Delta for me. We had to scrub the rest of the 3 safaris we had booked. Instead I am off to the hospital in Maun, Botswana. I need more tests, maybe different medications, who knows what else.
Dr. Max runs a private clinic, a way to still separate the rich from the not so rich. I went along with how it is here and opted to follow Dr. Max’s suggestions.  We
The Hotel (Temporary Hospital) in Maun
checked into a hotel 10 minutes from his office; which was booked for us by the tour representative and preferable to the State run local Hospital. Dr. Max approved of this hotel and this is now my hospital room for a few days. Dr. Max comes and visits every day (sometimes twice a day), he is available by phone and internet. We have Internet in our room and one restaurant within walking distance. Horribly expensive, but I have no other choice. The other option is to quit the whole vacation and cruise trip and go home. I don't want to do that. So basically I am in a “Hospital” in Maun, Botswana.
Beautiful Sunsets Here

I am not going to bore you with each temperature reading but let me say this, Carol is a gem. She is dedicated, precise and knowledgeable; having her around helped me a lot. Sure, a good Doctor, a good assistant is nice; but nothing beats Carol’s help. Thank you, Carol.

Please remember this is Botswana, not Canada, not the U.S. While the modern, young African Doctors are often trained in Europe, Australia or the Americas, they lack the resources once they are back in Botswana or any other African Country. The Drs. have the knowledge and training and know what to prescribe, for example; but the meds are not always available in Botswana. Even simple things like a supply of needles, special band aids, IV stands, etc. need to be approved by the government for importation. This is a bureaucratic nightmare and an arcane set up, ripe for corruption. Africa, especially Botswana, needs better leadership.

The Internet is great, if a question arises, a look up will clear things up. Doctors can use the internet and they do it without much difficulty. But what do you do if you’re short of needles, what do you do for simple things like band aids?  The supplier does not have any, he says. Really, is this true? Or is he waiting for you to up the price to find some items for you? There is a demand for medical supplies but government control of supplies is not a good set up.

I was impressed with the thoroughness of the lab guy, Chris. From the small samples he received he sure spit out a lot of info in his lab reports. There is a synergy between the Doctor, his Nurse Assistant, Lab Technician and Pharmacy guy. A real support group that work in harmony and for the same cause. Everybody is very friendly; they stop and talk to you. I did not feel like a number, but like a human being who needed and received help. My health was their main focus.

I received better than first world care in a third world country. The final results of all the tests indicated and confirmed that I have a bowel infection (colitis?). But so far nobody can find the balance between food intake, expulsion rate and medication. My body's immune system wants to fight the bacteria, which it thinks is bad. Instead of fighting just one special bacterium my body now attacks everything, even good bacteria. How do you talk to your body? 

Restaurant at Maun Lodge but There is Little Hans can Eat
With the help of medication I can subdue my body’s immune responses but those meds are not healthy in the long run. Every time I stop taking the meds by body goes into attack mode again. Where I can consciously help is with food intake. But when traveling worldwide; being picky about food is almost impossible. I need plain food, simple items. I know the limits, but those are not always practical. The meds I am taking also suppress my appetite so I am taking in fewer calories than I burn. Sounds great if you want to lose weight; but you don't want to have colitis to lose weight. Believe me, it's literally a pain in the butt.

So after Dr. Max and all his support group patched me up I am now in Paarl, South Africa.
The one day travel from Maun to Paarl, with a stopover in Johannesburg, was a nightmare. There were many misunderstandings, wrongly understood instructions and plain incompetence. During all of the hassles I left behind my camera bag. It was a nice, but older camera, including telephoto lenses, chargers and memory cards. I had someone check if the bag was found but, as is expected, gone!  Such is life.

Now I rest for a few days in Paarl, a town about an hour East of Cape Town. We could get no other accommodations over the New Year’s Celebrations going on in Cape Town. CP was booked solid.

No matter to me, Paarl is good. It is a historic town where Nelson Mandela ended his “Long Walk to Freedom”.

Happy New Year!   May the year 2015 be a healthy year for all!

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