A slurping sound from her left side drew her glance. A little boy, seated with his mum, was noisily emptying the cold, clear liquid from an equally transparent plastic cup.
Her gaze shifted to the water dispenser at a corner of the waiting lounge by the entrance. Then it slanted to the six-year-old besides her; she had forgotten to bring along a bottle of water for him, and they had a long wait ahead of them.
‘At least two hours’, was the nurse’s response 10 minutes ago, when she had enquired how long it would take to get the results of the blood sample they had just withdrawn from her child.
So they settled in for the wait; another torture to her night time ordeal of tepid – sponging her fever – ravaged son two days in a row. Her swollen, sleep – deprived eyes spoke volumes of working overtime while monitoring his temperature which yo-yoed between hot and scorching. Even now, they drooped intermittently. The 10-minute snooze she had snatched earlier proving ineffectual. But wait, they would. Anything to set him on the path of recovery and regain her beauty night’s rest.
There was just a small snag; if he asked for water, then she’d…Her thoughts froze, half – formed and her once sagging eyelids widened measurably. She watched as one of the clinic’s security guards halted by the water dispenser, fit a bottle (of his personal use) securely, firmly into the cold-water sprout before flipping it open.
Her eyes, cleared of all soupcon of sleep, followed the gushing water as the bottle filled up, and her mind envisioned as any and every bacterium from its mouth surrounded the sprout.
Stunned, her fingers dug deep into the armrest of her chair as she slowly processed the incident and its implications.
How many times had she drank water from that same dispenser on her many, many visits to the hospital? Especially very recently. How many times had her children? Was the guard completely clueless of the import of his actions? A guard in a clinic no less?
She had indeed read somewhere about the myriad of diseases one could encounter in a clinic. How ironic. In a place meant for healing. Since then she treated clinic visits pretty much the way she did grocery shopping in marts while handling carts/baskets – wiping and sanitizing her hands once she was done.
Not once did she include a seemingly innocent water dispenser into the fray.
Her stunned emotion dissolved into a sickening pit in her stomach, seconds later, when another staff re – enacted the same act right down to a T – personal bottle, jamming it up and firmly into the sprout, allowing no healthy distance between the two…
It was obviously an insalubrious custom, one she had unwittingly drank from in the very recent past.
Déjà vu and a strong desire to retch almost overwhelmed her; her thoughts flew to another establishment when it was revealed that expired products were used to prepare their goods. Miserably, she tried to recall, over the years, just how many cartons of croissants she had bought and consumed from them. The sensation in her stomach then was a familiar one.
‘Mummy, can I get some water to drink, please?’ Tiny, shrill tones cut into her reverie.
Without a word, she was up, stretching out a hand to take one of his. ‘Sure. Let’s go buy you a bottle from outside. ‘
All water dispensers, save for hers back at home, were off-limits; she’d inform the doctor about his staff during their time with him.