Give me time to tell you my story
posted by Bonginkosi Khowane on 4 February 2013

Before I begin to write, allow me to look at an angle that is often untold. Time to reflect back on our customers’ tragedy is never done and does not exist. Time is now to listen vigilantly to all the stories untold and begin to expand attentive ears. Time is now to start a debriefing forum to share our stories. One wonders how we feel about our customers, and nobody cares about how we feel as the health care workers and what daily challenges we have at work. The empowerment we impart to our clients gives much strength to them, but we seem not to drink the same medicines to help us when the storm comes. One day, I was listening to one health care worker who told us about the burns of her child. She had no delusions of every inch of sorrow she went through when she forgot how to help her child, just to apply first year management of burns to her own flesh and blood. Clinicians will tell you that episodes like that come and hit you in the back each time you face the very same challenges in your own backyard. In fact, I like to call it black-outs of the educated mind.

Time flies when having fun. Looking back through memory lane, if you had asked me where I envisaged myself in the future about twenty years ago, I would have never told you that one day I will be a health care worker caring for other people. Yes, those were the days then. Today, I talk the different language not everybody can actually understand where only the very few privileged people who know the story very well. How many of us unwind and put a pause in our daily life activities to think about other helpless young people who find themselves in situations that they have no choice over and never bargained for. It takes a lot of brainstorming and hard work to listen to cries and moans of souls who have become the victims of what others called ignorance and misfortunes. How many of us have thought how the young people feel about life? How many of us have ever thought how the young people feel about the world? If we can listen to them to tell us their stories, nobody will ever begin to impose our undesired quick fix solutions that they not looking for. I am obliged to say that what they want from us is a listening ear only of which most if not all of us are lacking. We listen to ourselves rather than paying attention to all the untold stories. Give me time to tell you a story that I am haunted by from my previous work experience.  Allow me to share my sad story of patients I once met in my previous work. There was this patient who was so quiet and would come to the clinic and collect her treatment monthly. One day, she came back to the clinic routinely as she always did. Our conversation began with questions of: “Was there any problem she had that I could help her with?” She told me that she had a vaginal discharge. I took history on duration and recurrence of the problem. I realized that her file had a recorded history of episodes of this vaginal discharge problem and she had been treated for it several times before. Well, my brainstorming reached a point of unpacking the problem at hand. I asked her about Pap smear, then she told me that she had never been offered one before, so I decided to do the Pap smear. The story began with my failed attempt to insert the Cusco, since she began to sob endlessly. I took out gloves and asked why she was crying. Her response was “I have been the victim of sexual assaults. It is the day I contracted HIV. I have never had an intimate relationship in my life”.

My mind started to run in circles. I suffered some personal grief since it never came to me to think sexual assault could be the possible cause of the problem. I would not begin to blame my thinking since I cannot judge by only knowing the health status of my customer. My premise is how many of us take time to listen to our patients assiduously? I do not wish to blame all of us who worked diligently and run around like headless chickens due to our challenges to meet obligations and our customers’ expectations. Nobody cares what challenges we have as health care workers. Nobody seems to give us time to listen to our stories. Give me time to tell you my story and I will never begin to judge how you feel until you tell me your story. The better the story is told, the better the understanding of my customer’s challenges.

In conclusion, how many of us have listened to people who feel self pity about themselves? How many of us put a pause to reflect back and debrief about our daily work? Just give me time to share my story and I will leave no stones unturned. One of the lessons of my life I have learnt is: you are either infected or affected.



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