|Medicines without prescription|
|Thursday, 16 August 2012 00:00|
Passengers normally sleep for the greater part of the journey, but as the wheels start straddling undulating terrain characterised by hairpin curves and sharp rises and downs, everyone becomes awake.
Shells and mangles of haulage trucks and buses compound the fear. They are a stark reminder of the means of transport that met with their fate on various journey that never were.
Just recently I travelled this journey.
Having travelled from Lusaka to Chirundu Border Post with the most talkative lady I have ever met, I took out my small notebook and started writing down all the staff I needed to declare, since the border post beckoned.
I also wanted to divert my attention from my neighbour but she took out a bottle of mineral water and drank it all so quickly.
Taking down a 500ml bottle of water in about three or four mouthfuls was no surprise considering the scotching temperatures in Chirundu. So unusually high were the temperatures that one needed a lot of water and a wet towel to survive the hour-long customs and excise duty clearance process.
What was amazing about this lady was that after drinking the water she just went mum until we entered the border premises. Although for me, it was relieving that her lips were finally together, it was worrying at the same time. It was deafening silence, the sort you would expect from an old cemetery.
For some time I suspected I had offended her by paying more attention to my notebook. She had suddenly changed. At the border post, we all alighted from the bus except for my now very quiet neighbour.
I went back to the bus to check on her and when I got there I saw the bus crew helping her out and she was wreathing in pain and sweating a lot. I asked what was wrong and was told she was no longer feeling well.
Well, remembering our conversations from Lusaka up to the time I decided to ignore her I knew she was a great strategist and I thought she was faking the pain. I thought of mentioning it to one of the crew members (remember as a journalist chest control is something I lack, I see or hear and then I tell) but the look on her face brought a little doubt to my suspicions she was sick for real.
Female immigration officers came and assisted her go to the ladies room. I went back and cleared all my goods and went back to check on her and she was still in the ladies’ room and was said to be having a running stomach. One of the immigration officers was helping her clear her goods.
After about 45 minutes she came out looking very pale and was helped into the bus while everyone was finishing the usual border post business. We all went back into the bus and it left the border post, by then she was drinking medicine from some bottle that she had taken from her bag. She continued drinking a lot of water as she had been advised by a self-confessed nurse (those ones are everywhere if you ask me).
Just outside the border post we were stopped by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officials who made everyone alight off the bus with their passports, declaration forms and luggage.
The bus driver pleaded with them that he had a very sick passenger on board and needed to get her to Harare as soon as possible. They understood and let us go.
As the bus was negotiating its way up the Zambezi escapement in Marongora and Makuti she was suddenly back to her old self and started talking like she had gone crazy.
“Wow!” I thought to myself, this lady was really good at theatrics. There was one question that kept coming to my mind and I could not hold it back any longer, I definitely had to ask.
“Tell me something, how do you fake a running stomach,” and then she replied, “simple, I mixed bicarbonate of soda with my mineral water and I drank it as we were approaching the border so the running stomach was not fake it was real, only that it had been induced.”
Even more puzzled I asked why and she replied: “I was carrying tablets for sale back home so I did not want them to search me and it worked, didn’t it?”
She was really sounding very proud of her achievements. I asked where she had bought the tablets and she told me she had bought them at Inter-City, which is just like our Road Port here. I was shocked.
Over the years people have been buying tablets, painkillers and even contraceptives from street corners and business is brisk at Mupedzanhamo Flea Market.
I, being an asthmatic patient for the past 23 years, know tablets need certain conditions for storage in order to ensure their effectiveness.
I used to know of one lady who sold tablets and lived in a one-roomed cottage and at times when she went to sleep the tablets would be stored in a pot on top of a stove that she been use to cook that very evening.
Most drugs manufacturing companies clearly state how and where to store drugs some are written, “store below 25 degrees Celsius”. Keep tightly closed and protect from light but at Mupedzanhamo you find them displayed on a table in the sunlight.
After going around Harare seeing people buying these black-market drugs I felt pity for the old people of our time because they shall forever bury their children and grandchildren who are dying because of drug abuse some are even labelled witches for outliving the younger generation.
At times you even hear my fellow women accusing their boyfriends of negligence after falling pregnant while on black-market contraceptives but then after thinking about it carefully I realised that it is never the boyfriend’s fault but the woman’s.
He might have been the one who bought them for you but he definitely did not flush them down your throat you took them by choice.
At times you go to a clinic and you are told a certain drug is out of stock but then if you talk to one of the dispensary nurses nicely you can get them (I mean talking with a US$ note in your hand) that is the way to go in this life we are living.
The situation is the same with anti-retroviral drugs which are very much in short supply but are said to be in circulation and even news from the grapevine says some of the ARVs are being fed to chickens to ensure fast growth so that they sale faster but their source is not yet known.
Even HIV+ people are also selling their free allocation of cotrimoxazole tablets back home at the same time bleeding our health sector.
I do not know that if a dollar or two in you is more important than the life your hospitals and clinics are very much struggling to protect.
I mean the drugs were given to you to boost your immune system and then you sell them to a flu patient.
The blame also goes to those who are buying the drugs because how do you know if she/he has given you the right dosage lest you develop drug resistance or side effects.
From time immemorial we have heard or read of stories of people who lost their lives because of overdosing or abusing prescription drugs.
Michael Jackson is one such example and his doctor Conrad Murray was tried and convicted in a US court for administering the drug Propofonol that is said to have killed Jackson.
The sudden death of American singer Whitney Houston in a hotel was also suspected to be linked to abuse of prescription drugs. She is believed to have taken a cocktail of drugs for an unknown reason.
Whenever you are not feeling well and cannot afford to go to a clinic or hospital and you are tempted to take the fast way out of your situation remember that same route might be your fast way out of the world of fresh air. The choice is yours.