Medical Misogyny in Ghana Brought Me To My Knees, So I Punched it in the Balls. Part 1

In the end, all I want is for the Ghanaian healthcare system to collapse in on itself and burn till not even ashes remain. Then from this funeral pyre, a better, more sensible, more patient-oriented system will arise. 

Bro, I’m in tears as I type this. Serious tears. Because I have never been in this much pain in my life. I know pain. I am familiar with pain. My mother used to beat me with wires and ropes and sticks with nails on them. I have had my hand outside a “trosky” and the mate slid the door on my fingers to open the door and had to close it again so I could get it out. I know pain. Intimately. I’m usually the M in BDSM. I know pain.

And I swear on everything I hold dear that I have never been in this much pain in my life. And you know the most annoying part of this all? The dissolution of my pain is in the hands of misogynistic, male doctors who think every woman must bear children. The shit I have been through these past few days? The bullshit? 

I am this close to telling someone bullshit but I am in too much pain to care. Let me start this story from the beginning. 

I have always had painful periods. Period cramps are a thing, so I just assumed y’know, it’s a woman thing. They began to get a little too painful for comfort. In uni, I suggested to my mum that I may have endometriosis and we should see a gynaecologist. She blasted me and told me that why am I always calling sickness on myself. Since then, I have just been doing odeshie and machoing my way through it.

When my period came in August, I went through a lot of pain, per usual. Then the period ended and the pain doubled. I was like period cramps end with the period so what is this? I have a high threshold for pain, which means that I don’t usually express pain physically. The pain has to be overly painful, which is why Kojo was alarmed when came to find me lying on the floor crying. He was like you know I assumed you were just having cramps too but damn this can’t be just cramps and we’re going to the hospital. We went to Greenville Hospital. I said exactly what was wrong with me. 

My period ended yesterday, yet I have a very terrible pain in my abdomen and lower back, all on the left side. 

They asked me routine questions. When did the period start? Was it on time? Have I been pregnant before? Am I certain I’m not pregnant? I answered them all. The doctor didn’t ask for my consent for a pregnancy test. He waited till I’d been taken to a ward and drugged, then he asked Kojo to pay for a pregnancy test. I know it’s routine, and I am not mad that I got tested for pregnancy. My point of indignation is that my consent wasn’t asked. If it was, I would have on the spot told the doctor that I am a gay woman. My vagina hasn’t been exposed to sperm ergo I can’t be pregnant. Besides, I was broke and that test alone cost me 80 cedis. It came out negative, of course. 

They gave me painkiller shots. The pain wasn’t receding. I took three different shots. I soon got drowsy and fell asleep. When I woke up, I was high as fuck. The pain was there but it was minimal. It was dark out by now. When the nurses asked me if I was in any pain, I told them it wasn’t as bad as it was when I came in before. This nurse literally said thank God and sent me to the doctor.

The doctor (atp i’m not even sure he’s one) asked me if I had any allergies or drug allergies. Kojo can testify to the fact that I said I have ulcer at least three different times. He asked me before I went to sleep. He asked me after I woke up. I told him that I didn’t have any allergies I was aware of, but I was lactose intolerant and had an ulcer. I said it every time I was asked if I had allergies. Why am I saying this? You, lemme come. 

Right in front of me, he tells Kojo very dismissively, complete with hand gestures, that oh she’ll be fine, it’s just cramps, with an expression that says, women, eh? 

And after that, prescribed Ibuprofen for me. Remember how I said I have an ulcer? Ulcer patients are not supposed to take NSAIDs. I know I’m not supposed to take certain painkillers, but I don’t know exactly which. I don’t have healthcare expertise, which is why I go to the hospital. And I trust that the doctor would do what’s good for me. Which is why when he prescribes me a whole week’s worth of Ibuprofen, I take it. I told him I have an ulcer so if he gave me Ibuprofen, then surely it’s one of the drugs I can take, right? 

Wrong! This creates further complications for me. I have to buy other drugs to fix the fuckery this causes. But that’s getting ahead of the story. 

Before I go, he tells me that if the pain persists by the following day, I should return for an ultrasound scan. It persisted, so I went back. I am not comfortable being even slightly naked around men, even if they are healthcare professionals. I have experienced so much unwanted lechery that my body cannot relax around straight men. So, I take Kojo along with me for moral support when I go to get scanned. The technician asked him to leave.

After he left, the man began to make small talk. I was in a lot of pain and I winced as he passed the wand over my belly.

“Is that how you do your face when you’re cumming?” His words were so unexpected, I thought I misheard. I asked him to repeat himself and he did. He actually did. I was in too much pain to mind him, but he persisted, proceeding to ask me to “do your face like you do when you’re cumming and lemme see.” See I felt so violated as the man was touching me. He told me I have fibroids. 

Back at the (different) doctor’s office, he asks me why I came yesterday and I tell him. I tell him I still feel the pain. He looks at my history and says I was given Tramadol, morphine and ibuprofen. (Explains why I was high as shit when I woke up) He said I couldn’t still be in pain after being given these in a tone and with a look that suggested that I was just drug-seeking. I was mad because nigga the only reason I am in this hospital is because my housemate dragged me here. Like I would be at home odeshiing my way through this like I always have.

After he looks at the results of my scan, he tells me to go to the pharmacy for my drugs. I was like excuse me? What’s the diagnosis? Why am I in pain and what drugs have you prescribed for me and why? He looked annoyed that I was asking questions but he answered them anyway. Well, some of them. He said I had a haemorrhagic ovarian cyst and the meds would take care of it. I’m no medical professional but I know haemorrhage means bleeding. I asked if this meant I was bleeding inside, he said I had a cyst and it had ruptured which is why I was in pain. He gave me metronidazole, amoksiklav and nospa. 

I asked him, just out of curiosity, if a hysterectomy was a viable course of treatment. I wasn’t asking for a hysterectomy. I was just curious. He gave me a strange look and said no. I asked why. My logic was, there is fuckery going on in your womb. If the womb was no longer there, where was there going to be haemorrhaging and cysts? He looked me dead in the eye and said but what if your husband wants kids? I told him that I didn’t have a husband so that wouldn’t be a problem. Besides, wasn’t the first thing he should be asking me be don’t you want kids? Not if some nonexistent man wanted babies from me. He gave me another look and said you’ll be very stubborn. I’ll tell your cousin to watch you. (We said Kojo was my cousin.)

I was leaving when it occurred to me to ask if I didn’t need to come for a review. He said I could if I wanted. I went home and took my meds religiously.

The pain left after a few days, but now there was a new problem. The ibuprofen I had been drinking started fucking with me. I had taken all but the last dose. Like I had low-key poisoned myself for a week. I didn’t even know this until one of my doctor wives texted to check on me. I told her I had a terrible pain in my stomach, aside from the abdominal pain. I couldn’t eat anything, etc etc. She asked what painkiller they gave me and when I said ibuprofen, she screamed. She was texting but I could hear the scream in the way she texted. She knows I have an ulcer. She told me to go and  buy Nugel and Omeprazole immediately.

I didn’t eat anything for a week. I couldn’t. The best I could manage was milo and that one sef the ensuing nausea wasn’t a joke. I had no appetite at all. All that passed. Then my period came in September. Same format as the previous month; painful cramps and lower back pain that got worse after my period ended. I went to another hospital; Mt. Carmel Fertility Centre. Greenville was out of the question. I had been sexually harassed and treated like I wasn’t the owner of my own body.

At Mt. Carmel, it was vastly different. The doctor patiently listened to everything I had to say. He called the gynaecologist who scanned me and declared I had endometriosis and an endometriotic cyst. He also confirmed the fibroids Greenville found. The other doctor explained to me with a drawing and everything about the position of the fibroids, etc etc. I asked him if this meant I had to live with the pain until menopause or death, whichever came first. He said yes. He said though that many women stopped experiencing this pain after childbirth. I told him that I didn’t want kids. I have been certain for quite a while that I don’t want to bring any children into this world. Any children I’ll have, if I ever have any, would be children who are already in the world but aren’t getting the love children need. 

I told him I didn’t want kids so there was no “after childbirth” for me. I asked about a hysterectomy. This time, I wasn’t just curious. I was actually considering it as a viable course of treatment. I mean, this organ is going to cause me pain at least for the next two decades, if I don’t die first. Its primary purpose is babies, and I don’t want any. What’s the harm in cutting it out?

The doctor started to talk about how they see people who want babies and can’t have any, every day. If I had the ability to bear children, I should be thankful. What if I got married and my husband wanted kids? I told him that then said husband should go and have his kids elsewhere but it’s not me who is pushing babies out my vagina. He looked to Kojo for help and Kojo told him that he’d been about to ask if they did vasectomies. The doctor couldn’t believe that we both didn’t want kids. He said it was against their policy to perform hysterectomies unless the woman’s life was threatened. They prescribed drugs worth over 1000 cedis for me. I went home and drank them religiously.

The pain was still there but it receded over the next few days. In the meantime, a hot water bottle became my new best friend. My period came again and it was the same routine. I went back to the same hospital and they told me the same things. They were about to prescribe the same drugs for me and I refused. I told them I was here last month and you gave me these drugs. I am here again with the same problem. Clearly, something isn’t working, I would prefer a different course of treatment, thank you very much.

They gave me a shot of medroxyprogesterone acetate, which apparently is birth control. The doctor said something about not being able to have kids for at least two years. I reiterated my desire for zero biological kids. It was Monday. They sent me home. I was back by Wednesday.

The pain was unbearable. Tuesday night was the longest night of my life. I live in a part of town where it’s difficult to get cars after a particular time. Even during the day, you can’t get an Uber. The pain got worse at night. I hadn’t slept a wink since Monday night. I couldn’t. My abdomen would spasm painfully every few minutes. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t lie down. I ended up dancing all night. It sounds silly, but movement takes your mind off the pain. I cleaned my room from top to bottom. I did every doable thing that required movement.

By six thirty am, my other housemate, Nana, had gotten his friend to come pick me to the hospital. They put me in a bed and gave me painkiller shots. I asked a doctor what was wrong. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t even think.

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