Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
6 May 2021
2:57 pm

Tales from a hospital bed: A lesson in patience and real equality

Wesley Botton

After two weeks in a ward at Helen Joseph Hospital, sports writer Wesley Botton has learned that though unpleasant, SA's hospitals can teach you some valuable lessons.

Helen Joseph Hospital is a public hospital in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. It is affiliated to the University of Witwatersrand's Medical School as a teaching hospital. Picture: Gallo Images/Sydney Seshibedi

Thursday, 6 May

Day 14

Patience. It’s not something I’ve ever practised well.

But when I was bundled out of a car and into casualty at Helen Joseph Hospital two weeks ago, it changed me.

I’ve always been blessed and I’ve been lucky. Life has played me a pretty good hand.

In this place, however, there are no priorities given to anyone ahead of the person who is closest to death. That’s the order of emergencies. Worst injury first. And it’s a crucially important rule.

There is real equality here.

No matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone is given the same bed, the same bedding and the same bedside cupboard. We all get the same food, the same tea, the same coffee and the same bowl to bath.

I was shocked when I first arrived. I saw this place as a medical prison that was falling apart.

There is a basin shared by four of us in the room, and the two bathrooms – with a total of four toilets and one working bath – are shared by the entire men’s orthopaedic ward.

I flinched more than once at the sheer bleakness of it all and my only goal was to go home.

But when I was told that I would be here for some time, I had to shake it off and do what everyone here does. I had to sit down and wait.

Patience is not an easy thing to learn and I had to change my entire perspective of this situation to be able to practise it properly.

And I see now that this is not a prison. It’s a place of healing which is locked in a constant battle to help people with very limited resources.

As much as the government seems to ignore much of their plight, the staff here are trying their best and for that I must be grateful.

The last couple of weeks have not been pleasant, but this place has taught me to switch off in the midst of the chaos, stay calm and wait.

It’s a valuable lesson I will never forget.

After 12 days in hospital, Wesley has become the independent man he always knew he could be. Picture: Wesley Botton

After 14 days in hospital, Wesley has become the independent man he always knew he could be. Picture: Wesley Botton