Bernard, part 4

Bernard, part 1
Bernard, part 2
Bernard, part 3

I drive in a haze of fear, insecurity and disbelief. There’s only one hospital. The brain drain, particularly of trained medical staff, has been a topic of discussion at our dinner table, along with the need for educators and farmers. There are no doctors.

The hospital is a series of buildings, white, low to the ground, except for the main building. It could have been a church, dirty lime green exterior. Two, maybe three stories. I step past a man in torn clothing, washing the hospital steps with a bucket of the blackest water. There are no doctors.

The double door entrance is a time portal. It’s 1940. The wood floor and walls of the long hallway muffle my footsteps. I ask after Bernard at a reception window. A woman walks me down the hallway, the only light coming from the open door at the far end. She takes me to a room with two iron beds.

Bernard is in the first. His thin body is even less substantial. His eyes, more prominent in his face, are full of pain. The bed sheets have been washed in the river. Bernard could disappear like a chameleon between them.

“The surgery went well,” the woman said, still looking at the tea stained sheets. “You’re here to care for him?”

I was there to find him. But what did I find? There are no doctors.

“He’ll need to begin to eat soon.” I looked at the side of her face. “Mild things at first.”

I opened my mouth to ask what she meant, when two women came into the room each carrying a cooking pot. They greeted the “nurse”; I didn’t know if that’s what she was. The two began setting up a makeshift picnic on the floor on the far side of the second bed. Bernard’s room mate was bandaged up like a cartoon hospital character, complete with one leg in a sling.

“Families provide food,” the nurse said, watching the women get settled. She turned then, to walk out of the room. Stopping at the doorway, she looked back at me, and for the first time looked me in the eyes.

“And bring aspirin, if you have any. We don’t have any pain medication.”

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