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Last night I was desperately in need for a veterinary doctor for stray cat living in my house which couldn’t pee anymore and had a bladder the size of a grapefruit (i.e. on the brink of exploding). In the absence of finding a vet, the second best option was to just empty the bladder myself with the use of needle and syringe. Normally I don’t go abroad without bringing these materials, just in case I end up in the hospital with Frankensteinish-materials. But thinking of Zanzibar as a touristy place, I thought it to be unnecessary. Deadgummit!

So where to find a needle and syringe at 10PM when all the lights are out in town and you only find drunk men and fighting alley cats on the streets of Stonetown? A hospital.

I have already experienced two types of hospitals, mind you private. One is a small clinic (although it claims to be a hospital) with the facilities of a normal GP clinic including an operating room. This one is managed by an Indian doctor who spends more time networking with celebrities and politicians than on actually practicing medicine and a handful of very capable female doctors and nurses, both Zanzibari and European.

The second is a recently opened, so-called state of the art hospital building, also opened by an Indian with too many financial funds, who functions as the director, press officer and physician. In my experience, all at the same time, while being treated or loudly clearing my throat due to the lack of treatment. Here a lot of nurses work, one Indian head nurse (let’s call her Nurse Ratched[1]) and a handful of Zanzibari nurses who wear their usual Islamic robes instead of uniforms or scrubs. Of course the doctor cannot do the physical examination himself, because he’s Indian and I’m a woman so enter Nurse Ratched and her dutiful followers. She had to grope me to feel the lymph nodes in my thighs and report to the doctor. Upon answering her which lymph node hurt the most I pointed to one cluster in my groin upon which she pushed it multiple times and asked me again and again: “Does this hurt?” After pressing on it four times and me saying ‘Yes’, I screamed: Yes it hurts, NOW STOP IT [you psychopath[2]]!! Afterwards, her two little helpers had to take my vitals, which was actually funny to watch. Where did these people get their training?!

My temperature was low (it was taking under my armpit), my blood pressure absent (because one nurse couldn’t tell if she had to push the button of the meter or turn it (I was thís close in showing her how to do it) and my heart rate not specified because the other nurse didn’t wear a watch, so looked at her wrist as if she was wearing a watch and just guessed a figure. The funders of the hospital claim that they wish to provide healthcare for all, the affluent and the not so affluent. I wonder how they manage to do this, when you already have to pay EUR 12,50 to sit in the waiting room.

Bartje: Day 1-7

Back to the needle-syringe mission. None of these hospitals were open at night so my last option was the state hospital. I have been to one of these kinds of hospitals before, in Moshi where my cousin was working at the time, and had no intention of returning to such a place ever again. The stench of a mixture diarrhoea, vomit, blood and masala herbs still sits in my olfactoric memory. But, what other option did I have if I wanted to save my kitteh?! So, being hassled by Rastafari for Ganja and some drunk men who were very much willing to show me “the way” I set foot to Mnazi Moja hospital. Apart from a few cries coming out of the building, it was in a peaceful coma like state. As were the twenty-something people lying in front of the main gate. They were probably there for their family members who were lying in the hospital and travelling back home is too much of a commute. Thus, that hospital was out of the option. Then I found a small clinic next to the hospital, run by the Feed the Children NGO. The clinic, similar to the Frankensteinish hospitals I had in mind when travelling to other countries making me bring my own materials, was packed with people. Lethargic children, elderly on oxygen and hysterical husbands of recently deceased wives. I almost felt horrible for wanting to safe my cat and having to take one syringe and needle from the people who needed it too. Fortunately, I met a really great doctor who was actually grateful of me helping the feline friend so he helped me with materials.

In the end, I could help Bart the cat and relieved him of his grapefruit-size bladder with the help from this one incredibly humane human. The vet at the WSPA clinic treated him this morning, although without the help any blood/urine-analysis machinery, and he’s on his way to recovery. I just wish that both the animal and human doctors I have encountered the last 12 hours could have some more resources to proceed with their line of excellent work. Maybe the inadequate staff of the “state-of-the-art” hospital should have a look at how a real doctor in a real clinic works and learn from it.

Written during my time working and living in Zanzibar.

[1] I would rather be treated by a Nurse Hathaway from ER kind-a-gal/guy, as I am one myself. Loving but strict to her patients.

[2] Okay, I didn’t call her a psychopath, but I would have liked too.