Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Every single patient admitted to St Francis has a “bedsider", usually a relative, who looks after them during their stay. If we are lucky the bedside will speak English and act as an interpreter, but this is rare in a poor rural area where very few residents have attended secondary school.
The bedsider performs basic tasks of caring for their patient, such as feeding and washing, leaving the nurses to take care of drugs and procedures. Almost all of the bedsiders are female – I didn’t really pay much attention to this in the female ward, but I really noticed it when I entered the male medical ward and discovered that most of its inhabitants were female bedsiders – about 3 for every male patient.
 There is a single male bedsider in the female medical ward at the moment. His wife is in with gross ascites due to liver cirrhosis, and has a hugely distended abdomen with about 25L of fluid. He helps her dress, helps her sit up, and washes her dishes. When one of the doctors drained some fluid from her abdomen, the hole from the drain kept leaking fluid, soaking through the gauze and running onto the floor. Her faithful bedsider took a mop and quietly mopped up the fluid which was running along the floor.
Thank God for bedsiders.

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