I am on call on Wednesday night. At Kalafong.
Please bring me food. And chocolate. And a kitten. Anticipating my call made me think of when I stayed over at Kalafong for the first time earlier this year for my Anaesthesiology rotation, in the student quarters which are surprisingly-clean and comfy. Naturally, students would rather stay in their own beds. I – however – wanted to try this whole staying-over thing so I could tick it off my bucket list [I have to take what I can get, okay!].
It was a fabulous night. No sarcasm intended. Despite missing dinner – which they serve at some ridiculous time, like 4pm or 5pm – I was able to finish my call on time, walk [read: sprint, holding pepper spray, despite the fact that the corridor was well-illuminated and still bustling at 21:30] to the student quarters incident-free. AND I only had to wait 10 minutes for the security guard to open for me. Once in, the courtyard was my kingdom. I frolicked past the deserted lecture halls and cafeteria in my ladybug onesie, feeling quite cheeky and liberated, and then retired to my castle to fall asleep to the sound of Kalafong’s malfunctioning aircon system.
The following morning I left for breakfast [yup, Kalafong supplies dinner AND breakfast to students staying over] – sad to leave my castle, but happy that I could sleep in an hour later than usual – and followed directions to the ‘breakfast hall’, which I found quickly. There were already about 20 nurses in the line, and shortly after I joined the line we started to form a circle. I didn’t think anything of it; often before ward rounds in the morning the sisters will break out into a beautiful and goosebump-ifying prayer song and dance to welcome the new day. I assumed the same was happening as a pre-meal prayer of some sort. After this song – throughout which I stood awkwardly dangling my arms, the ONLY one not rejoicing in song and dance – a middle-aged man went to the middle of the circle, and exclaimed: “Today we are presenting our meeting in MetroFM. Usually we present in KayaFM, but we want every member of our family to understand” – glancing not-so-obviously at me. Ah! The penny dropped. I realised that the only nourishment I was going to get that morning was in the form of a Kalafong-themed praise-and-worship session. Needless to say, the singing and dancing lasted 45 minutes and I felt like an intruder 100% of the time. The smiles and warmth I got from every member of the congregation – however – is something I’m unlikely to forget. And the fact that this prayer meeting was presented in English JUST so that I could follow along.
It’s been a tough first week in SIC. It makes you reflect back to those pre-SIC days where things seemed less strenuous, and the liability was non-existent. But thinking back to that fateful call at Kalafong/Bible lesson proves the point that there will always be moments to appreciate amidst the stress and chaos. Ortho is not really my thing, but the way the Orthopaedic registrars care for us by helping us fill our log-books, and ensuring we present flawless presentations to the unforgiving Professors in the morning meeting, takes me back to when we were little ducklings last year. Last night after my call I got to leave the wretched emergency room and go home to hugs, food and a warm bed, while patients were lying in the cold casualty for hours with femur neck fractures and ankle injuries while overworked Doctors and tired surgeons still had 12 hours left of their call – operating through the night while their wives slept at home alone. This – to me – placed me in a beautiful position. A lucky position, despite how overwhelmed I feel as an SIC student already.
The beauty is not always easy to see and I have a feeling that this will ring more true than ever over the next 18 months. But it is there. And maybe when I go in search of my breakfast at Kalafong on Thursday morning again, I will have the chance to open my eyes and to SEE the wards with a glass-half-full mentality. OR I will just get stuck in another praise-and-worship dance party – at The Fong you never know what might happen.
“Medicine is a science of uncertainty, and an art of probability” – William Osler