I had long forgotten that hospitals were supposed to be spotlessly clean with friendly nurses who smile and crack jokes and doctors who don’t walk around with superior airs. But a few days ago, I regained my sense of what a hospital should be. It all happened at the Virchow-Klinikum in Berlin.
I went to Virchow-Klinikum, thinking I had malaria.
I woke up on Saturday morning feeling a feverish, with joint aches and a thumping headache. But I had to go on a guided tour of the German capital and so my body was more than eager to shake off the feeling of illness. But when I got out of the hotel, it was raining and it was very cold. I knew I wasn’t going to end the day a well man.
Somehow, the beautiful sights of Berlin, its rich history, the wide open spaces and the efficiency with which the city is run awed me so much that I forgot about the illness for a bit. Then I started thinking about Sekondi-Takoradi. And Accra. And Kumasi. I asked myself one question: When? When shall Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi be transformed into well-planned modern cities with efficient, dependable social infrastructure and open spaces for romantic strolls?
Just thinking about the lack of progress back home made me feel sick all over again.
I told one of my kind minders, Lucien, that I suspected malaria.
He looked quite alarmed. “It’s nothing,” I tried to assure him. But he didn’t seem convinced. “I get it about four times a year so don’t worry. If I get a few pills to pop, I’d be fine.”
“In Germany, you can’t walk into a pharmacy and buy malaria drugs,” Lucien said. “We have to go to the hospital.”
And Virchow-Klinikum is where he took me.
It’s a beautiful place. It’s what a hospital should be. It makes Korle Bu look like a filthy slaughter house which is not even fit for pigs. So clean is Virchow-Klinikum that I saw a little child crawling on all fours in the full glare of his parents, who made no attempt to restrain him. If your child crawls on the floors of Korle Bu or La Polyclinic, you would need to bathe him in a whole barrel of antiseptic to disinfect him. Even so, he might not grow up to be the healthy child you want him to be.
As I waited for my test results at the Virchow-Klinikum, I felt I was truly in a place of healing. Suddenly, it dawned on me that perhaps, falling ill every once in a while wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. In fact, this hospital will be a very nice place to die.
Then I started thinking about why our leaders like to come to Europe for treatment. It’s a shame we are going to live with for a very long time to come because they just don’t care. Therefore, I have started praying that when the time comes for me to die, God should be so kind to make sure that I meet the Angel of Death at the Virchow-Klinikum or some hospital like it.
In all, I spent more than six hours at the hospital as they called in an expert in tropical diseases to determine whether or not I had malaria. It’s a very rare disease here and it tends to scare the hell out of Europeans. For me, it’s “normal” and I didn’t understand the big deal about the expert in tropical diseases.
“There is nothing wrong with you,” the expert said when she finally arrived. “You don’t have ma-la-ria.”
I could see the look of relief on Lucien’s face.
But I was disappointed.
In what seemed like a gesture to lessen my disappointment, she gave me two tablets of paracetamol as she said in German that she was once in Accra. That should have made me feel better. But it didn’t. I still feel feverish and I have a headache. Perhaps, it’s because I allowed myself to slip too far into despondency. Lucien thinks it’s the weather and he just bought me some aspirin and a pack of vitamin C tablets. They could help. But I still think I need ‘Coartem’.