Let's fast forward and begin with a photo of Jill recovered and about to be discharged from her hospital room in South Africa. Spoiler alert: Jill is fine now. Strangely there is no photo documentation of her suffering in Congo.
When it became clear that Jill was not getting better in Kinshasa and could not get better anywhere in this country, we knew she needed to leave. But like any rational person on their death bed in Congo, she said no. I mean, think about the last time you were sick. The thought of picking yourself up and going to work feels impossible. So when we proposed to Jill that she would need to pack a suitcase for an indeterminable amount of time, leave her house, drive to the airport, fight N'djili, then walk on a plane, she gave us a look like, nope that ain't happenin'. It's much easier to languish in Congo than make this trip. This would not be a medevac via helicopter scenario. This was a commercial air/DIY medevac.
But we did it in 3 easy steps:
1- Lie. I told Jill the car would take her straight to the plane. All she had to do was walk out of her house and then walk up the airplane steps. This clearly was never happening, but it made the journey seem more manageable. We ended up arriving at the airport 6 hours before the flight with much waiting ahead of us. Whoopsie!
2- Cheat. It turns out if you're wearing an eye patch, look pathetic, and have a really bossy friend in tow, doors will open. Literally. We made our way into the diplomat's lounge. We did not check ourselves into our flight, we did not check our own luggage. We did not even enter the airport. This was all taken care of for us.
We just sat in the lounge for 6 hours, which was conveniently located next to the airport's latest construction project and thus a few feet from a jackhammer. I did not account for this glitch, so I forced a Percocet down Jill's throat as she listened to the audiobook of Bossy Pants (because remember, she couldn't see) and in solidarity, I read my own hard copy. Tina Fey always saves the day. In retrospect: a precious moment. At the time: the worst 6 hours of the whole ordeal.
From that point on, we cheated the rest of our way through. Turns out when you shout: Medical Evacuation! Urgence! and Step aside, blind girl coming through! You can make your way to the front of every line from here to the hospital in South Africa.
3- Steal. Jill had been sick for several weeks before her evacuation. We were led to believe that her Congolese doctors knew what they were doing. That she would get better. But in fact the situation was quite the opposite.
A funny kind of PTSD comes over you when you're in the hands of a questionable doctor, and then it turns out he's completely incompetent and might have actually blinded you. You learn to trust no one. Therefore we convinced ourselves that even though every medical professional at one of South Africa's best hospitals (shout out, Sandton Mediclinic!) was lovely and capable, there's a chance they might not actually be doing their job. Because we had trust-no-one-PTSD. Were they really giving Jill her meds every 4 hours?! Had they woken her up overnight? I bet these people are incompetent!
So we stole her chart to take a look for ourselves. And in it we found the kindest, most careful medical notations. They noted her sleeping patterns. They noted our friendship. "Laughing with friend" and "Having good relations with friend" and "Friend still here, doesn't she have anything better to do? Starting to suspect they're more than just friends." (Kidding, but that's what all the nurses were thinking.)
They also noted their careful administration of her medication overnight. We discovered they were giving her sleeping pills, so they wouldn't disturb her when they needed to give her medicine. To thank all the lovely nurses and apologize for our PTSD, we left them with flowers and our hundreds of gift shop magazines that were starting to swallow us in the hospital room.
Those wonderful women even brought us tea. How could we have ever thought they were less than saintly?
|The only evidence I was there. Most likely sorting magazines in Jill's room. |
Captured behind Jill's evening Rooibos tea. That girl's got her priorities straight.
And just like children's hospitals that dress up their window washers in super hero costumes, they knew it would cheer us to send this incredibly beautiful man to clean our window.
|We have more pictures of this guy washing the window than of anything else during our trip.|
Jill and I sat there the whole time he washed and stared and gazed and giggled. And remarked at his beauty. Our oogling proved to the nurses that 1. It had been a really long time since we had seen our husbands. And 2. We were not actually lesbians. Just really good friends. Really, really "special" friends.