Medical Emergencies

One of the first weekends we were resident in Gaborone (Gabs), I was walking around the brewery, trying to get a feel of things when I was suddenly assailed with a terrible pain in my back.

            To cut a long story short, Wally, the brewery’s faithful German secretary eventually arranged for me to be admitted to The Princess Marina hospital in Gabs. An intern came and took blood samples. A drip was attached. “That is to stop him escaping,” announced Dougal my then six-year-old. Diana brought me food from home. By Sunday morning I was feeling fine again.

            Then I was told: “Our machine here is broken and the technician has to come from Jo’burg, so you must go in the truck, with all the other patients, to Ramotswa, tomorrow, which is Monday,” I was told.

“What is at Ramotswa?”

            “Mission station. They have an X-ray machine.”

            “Ok, I will go to the mission, but I will not go in the truck, I can drive myself.” 

            “You must go in the truck.”


            I eventually won the argument.

            On Monday morning, when I asked if the drip could be removed so I could drive. Another argument ensued, where I again prevailed.

            I duly arrived at the mission hospital, about fifty kilometres to the South of Gabs. The hospital had a very good reputation. I was met in the car park by a woman speaking with a strong German accent. She was covered in blood from head to foot. She took one look at the form I presented her with and said, “Crazy, zey mus’ be mad.”

            Looking at the woman, from her appearance it seemed to me that there were others who had much greater need of medical attention than anything that was afflicting me. “You can’t do it then?” I asked. She shook her head, returned the form to me and I drove off.

            When I arrived back at the Princess Marina the hospital head said to me, “The machine is now fixed. Come at 730 tomorrow morning and I will be there. We also need another blood sample.”- This was blood sample number three. I had by this time discharged myself.

            There was no sign of the doctor the next day at 730 but nevertheless I was injected with some sort of substance and the technician spent an hour or more taking X-rays while turning me upside down and round and round on his equipment. I left and went to work, returning in the early afternoon to take the X-ray plates to the hospital head, who I found in the leprosy ward.

            He berated me for a few minutes saying, “These are useless I wasn’t there and you have discharged yourself anyway.”

            I returned to my post at the brewery. We decided I had probably suffered from a kidney stone, which passed. It was never properly diagnosed though.

            When the employees at the brewery found out what had happened, they said, “You went to the Princess Marina and you are still alive?” They looked at me in amazement; a couple of them touched me to see if I was real.

            “Why, where do you go when you are sick?” I asked.

            “Us, Baragwanath, always Bara, never Princess Marina.”

            When I asked how a citizen of Botswana could get treated in a South African hospital they laughed saying: ‘we just borrow a friend or relatives’ pass book’. 

The now re-named Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg had and still has a very good reputation in South Africa and beyond.

Guy Hallowes