You promise there won’t be a blood test …?

Today, and to my chagrin, I realised that the medical forms I ought to have had completed, ”by a medical professional”, for the big kids before they begin boarding school in a week were still sitting in the midst of the bomb site I optimistically refer to as ”my desk”. The school had written a sharp little reminder.  Which served to summon in me guilt pangs about not being a good enough mum, pangs which bubble forth all the more freely as imminent start of term approaches.

We ought to get these filled out, I said to the kids. They looked at me crossly. Which made the guilt pangs worse. Couldn’t we have done it in England, they demanded. We could have. If I hadn’t forgotten (in manner of really bad, really errant, really utterly bloody hopeless mother).

What shall I do, I whined down phone to husband.

Go and see Dr Ruth, he suggested.

Dr Ruth, who I called and who charmingly offered to oblige right way, runs a local clinic to which she gave me directions: on the other side of ”town”, beyond the bread shop, bus stop and bright red new Celtel office. We piled into the car. Me and three cross kids. Hat cross because though she wasn’t going to be subjected to the medical, she was having to accompany us. Big kid cross because they have useless mother who can’t get act together.

Are you sure there won’t be any injections?

I promise, I said.

Blood tests?

I promise, I said, crossing my fingers on the steering wheel hoping they wouldn’t see.

What about this bit where it says “Blood Group”, then?

Oh, I said, cheerily (and – on reflection – really, really irresponsibly) we’ll just guess, shall we?

Ruth’s clinic is typical of many across Africa. It’s full of patiently waiting Africans sitting on narrow benches. There’s a quiet air of reverence as each of the dozens of patients wait for their number to be called. We ”fast tracked” the system – you pay more that way, which is fine, the kids don’t have to wait whilst being closely scrutinised (being the only non Tanzanians, aside from Ruth, in the building) and the clinic benefits (albeit marginally: it cost me four quid).

Ruth is friendly and vibrant and efficient and puts two anxious teens at ease. We talk about the prevalance of malaria here in Outpost (high, very high: one can expect 300 infected bites a year, she says). We talk about preventation and treatment and the advantages of partial immunity afforded my children because they’ve lived in Africa all their lives: I try to feel encouraged. But I’ve had a child teetering on the edge of a coma with malaria, reassurance doesn’t come easy.

And then Ruth says it’s time for the blood tests.

My big kids’ jaws drop and two pairs of angry eyes bore into me. I look at the floor.

Blood tests? they say, outraged.

Yes, says Ruth, cheerfully, we need to identify your blood group. And then your mother can make a note of it so you don’t have to go through this again she says, a little sternly (so another discomfiting little pang rises in my throat).

We trail to the lab where tourniquets are applied and blood deftly taken.

See, I say, not so bad. My children ignore me.

I thank Ruth, thank the lab staff, thank everybody I see, pay my dues and follow my children, who can’t get outside fast enough, to the car.

I give them all some money to spend on cheap sweets in the Arab duka on the way home.

When I get in, I skulk off into the anonymous refuge of cyberspace and notice that the Good Woman has given me an award. Which makes me feel alot better about being a crap mum.


3 Responses to “You promise there won’t be a blood test …?”

  1. The Good Woman Says:

    Glad it made you feel better. And let’s face it , there were more interesting things to do in the UK than get medicals – think of it as priority education. Which reminds me – did you get them into the schools you’d hoped – the ones with fabulous cricket pitches?

    Bambi and I went for our shots last week (Yellow Fever required by law, HepA and Thyphoid while we were at it). Bambi was very brave but now firmly beleives that no illness will touch her ‘in Africa’.

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Aw, poor Bambi. Good girl for being brave. Did you have to bribe her? I bribe my children shamelessly. Schools … the boy has to go back … to sit a scholarship exam in November … his dad will go with. All grown up now (the boy, not his dad necessarily!). Sad really.

  3. The Good Woman Says:

    Fortunately, at two and a chocolate button per shot and a big sticker from the nurses at the end was sufficient. Somehow not sure that would work on your lot!?

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