Survival kit for a breast cancer patient in a South African State hospital

Survival kit for a breast cancer patient in a South African State hospital

You will need many things but patience, sense of humour and appreciation will be your most important tools!


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CJ Carrington shared an honest, some-what funny recount of her “boob wars” in a South African State hospital.

The incredible South African has been going through breast cancer treatment and wanted to share some of her tips, when being in a State Hospital.

“When going for surgery in a State Hospital, here are some practical tips to help. I recently had major surgery at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (Jhb Gen), so this is written from that perspective.

Note: If you’ve had a different experience in a public hospital – good for you! Sadly most people are so scared of speaking out and being victimized as a result, that nothing ever gets said or done. I suspect the problem is far more widespread than we realize.”

In her entire ward, of about 25 people at the time, not a single other patient wanted to say anything publicly. Privately, however, it was a way different story. They just wanted to survive and get out of that place.

You will need:

  1. Disinfectant wipes! 🔥 For EVERYTHING you touch. Everything. Also handy for face. And in the 50% likely event that there is no toilet paper.
  2. Sleepmask: to keep the flickering, broken, fluorescent lights from driving you bat-shit crazy.
  3. Supplemental meds, and Allergex: Because your pain medication dispensing regime is in the hands of someone who might not like you – especially on night-shift. Hide it, though. The pocket of your nightshirt is a great place. Allergex is for the first hint of post-nasal drip which could turn nasty quickly.
  4. Battery-powered Hand-held misting fan: For pain-relief and cooling down. You could add a small dose of disinfectant to also disinfect surfaces and yourself. This empowering tool also enables you to accidentally point at and spray the coughing, sneezing night nurse who takes your blood pressure.
  5. Earplugs & headphones: Because you might not do gospel or shebeen music, or even just 8 of the other official languages.
  6. Mug and straw: Because you don’t get anything to drink out of. YOU DON’T GET ANYTHING TO DRINK OUT OF. And you most likely won’t be able to reach it if you did anyway.
  7. Waterbottle with water: BECAUSE YOU DON’T GET GIVEN WATER, OR ANYTHING ELSE TO DRINK. EVER. YOU. DON’T. GET. WATER. 😡 Don’t cry, you need the hydration of the tears.
  8. Nail clippers and Nail file.
  9. Cellphone charger with adaptor plug: You might even have a working plug by your bed if you’re really lucky.
  10. Lip balm and eyedrops. Not shown.
  11. Spoon, knife, fork: Because you get given ONE PLASTIC SPOON AND FORK WHEN YOU ARRIVE. To use for EVERY CONSECUTIVE MEAL. Whether you are able to wash it or not. See (1). Also to cut the chunks of unidentied ‘food’ into edible sizes. You’re a vegetarian? You’re a vegan? Hilarious. Their response is most likely to be: ‘What is that and when were you diagnosed’?
  12. Pillow. Not shown. Because chances are about 50 % that they won’t have any.
  13. Pillowcase. Not shown. Because chances are 100% that don’t have any.
  14. Sheets. Not shown. Because chances are about 50% that they won’t have any.
  15. Blanket. Not shown. Because chances are 100% that they won’t have any.
  16. Socks and slip-on slippers. Not shown. To keep your feet warm, because of (14) and (15). Also because nobody gives a shit whether your feet are cold or not. And it’s dangerous to touch the floors with your bare feet.
  17. NB!! Lanyard. Not shown. To hook your drains up to so you have a hand free to do stuff. You could also temporarily hook your IV onto it, in the 50% likely event that they don’t have drip stands. Can keep your cellphone safe, or your waterbottle close too!
  18. Hairbrush. Not shown. People with long hair: have it tightly french-platted before any procedures to keep it out of your face.
  19. Cellphone with password and enough data for whatsapps. Not shown. Handy to phone the ward nurse at night when they’ve placed the bell out of reach.
  20. Rose-tinted glasses: Not shown. Because you will need to look at everything in a positive light, if you intend to survive.
  21. Insect repellent. Spray type is best, because you can’t reach to rub cream on. Not shown. For mosquitoes, flies etc.
  22. If you are able to, #choose a bed furthest in the ward, closest to the windows. That way it limits the amount of sick people walking past your bed, and reduces risk of infection. It also diminishes risk for opportunistic theft.
  23. Notebook and Pen: To take down the details of who said what, for future litigation purposes. Note EVERYTHING.
  24. Toiletpaper: See (1).
  25. Patience: At least one box full.
  26. Sense of Humour: at least a case full.
  27. Appreciation for those staff members who do treat patients well, often in very difficult circumstances.

Leave at Home if you suffer from any of these: (self-explanatory)

  1. Attitude
  2. Racism
  3. Sense of entitlement

Did I mention that you don’t get any water?

Sources: CJ Carrington
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and man in charge at Good Things Guy. Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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