In Ugandan hospitals, you need a person with you. The food costs money, and they don't even give you water to take your meds with, or make sure you take them. If you have to use the bathroom, you unhook your IV, limp out of bed and outside, past the people waiting for the clinic, the people waiting for the woman having the baby, the men hanging out at the dispensary, and use the same bathroom as the outpatients, the doctors, the woman you buy chapati from.
You lie on your cot in your shabby clothes, quinine and anti-biotics shot into your drip, tetanus in your arm, and if you're 8 and you've had malaria and an untreated infection for weeks, and your muzungu auntie is with you, your back gets rubbed as you finally stop crying and sleep.
Babies suckling make the same noises in Uganda as they do in Canada, and little girls covered in burns scream as pitiously. Tiny little babies lie in the same hospital beds as adults, and labouring women make shockingly few noises.
If you're muzungu in a hospital in Uganda, people say thank you, automatically, as soon as they hear that the boy with you is an orphan. Who knew a muzungu could be like a child's mother?, says the woman. Local women accompanying their sick babies bring their ground mats to lie on, or sit on the bed, vacantly, while the doctor drips ointment on your daughter's burns as she tries to push his hand away. Muzungu get chairs, and thanks, and a tin cup so you don't have to share your water bottle with the sick boy. The bed with the green and white checkered curtain around it.
You don't smell dysentery in Canadian health centres, and doctors have more equipment than scales, blood pressures cuffs, ear-looker-inners. You don't have to get to the hospital, 12 of you crammed into a tiny suzuki jeep, 2 aunties in the rear hatch. But you never get your lab results in 15 minutes in Canada, with a consult between the aunties, the children, the lab tech and the doctor. And you never have a doctor with so much patience, humour, care, wry irony, who moves you and the 9 children to the front of the line, just laughs when one child's cough turns out to have been in second term (that is, a cold she had in May).
Ugandan hospitals cost 3000 schillings to admit, 10,000 schillings a day, plus medicine. About $12, all told. One slice in another century lived in a day.