When you ask a 6-year old what they want to be when they grow up, most will tell you they want to be a pilot or a fireman or James Bond.

When I was six, I wanted to be a doctor. I grew up watching Scrubs and ER on TV, and to me it seemed like what they did was amazing. Running through hospital corridors to reach the patient
in time to save the day. I wanted to be that hero. Saving the lives of all my patients.

As I grew up though, I realised that it was not at all as glamorous or as fun as TV made it out to be. I found out that to be a doctor, I needed to not only get all A’s in matric but I also had to be prepared to study for the next five years, having no life outside of my textbooks and university, and then spend another two years doing community service, working 24 hour – 48 hour shifts. To be a nurse you have to work just as hard because the course is three to four years long depending on whether you choose to study towards a diploma or a degree. I salute the men and women who have walked this path and reached the end to wear the coveted white coat and get to swing that stethoscope around like a medal of honour.

It takes hard work, dedication and most definitely a true passion for helping people to get you through that journey. And it is for this reason, that it shocks me when I read stories of patients who are left waiting for medical attention at hospitals and who end up dying because the very people who have worked so hard to get that certificate on the wall, did not do what they were supposed to do.

You walk into a government hospital and you see people who have been waiting for hours to be helped. They are in pain. They are scared. They have nowhere else to go. They are depending on the doctors and nurses to help them, because they are the only people who can. In some cases, they get that help, but a recent news report tells a sad tale of a woman who was taken to a local government hospital and made to wait for hours without receiving any medical care at all, despite her sister speaking to nurses at the hospital. She eventually died on a stretcher having received no medical assistance at all.

Why? Why is it so hard for the men and women who have taken an oath to save lives, to do what they have studied so hard to do? Is it that people have become educated but have lost their humanity?

We can say they are overworked and underpaid and we can blame the government for not giving them the necessary resources, but those are just excuses and there is no excuse in the world that can justify letting something die on your watch when you could have done something to help.

Don’t get me wrong. If you try to help a patient and you can’t and they die, it’s not your fault. But if you do nothing, if you leave them to sit and wait and don’t even try to help, and they die, then yes you have failed to do what you have sworn to do. Humanity is suffering because we have stopped caring or we have lost focus of what is important. I can’t begin to imagine the lives that doctors lead, but I can only say, “Don’t be a doctor for money. No salary is worth leaving your family at 3am for a patient. You have to love medicine” Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries.Without them humanity cannot survive.

We have to bring back the humanity and compassion in this world. It can start with you. No act of kindness is ever wasted, no matter how small. If you can only do one thing today, choose to help someone in need. There are many who are less fortunate. Take some time to lend a helping hand. You will be surprised by how much you will uplift their spirit.

Talk to Sipho at siphosaysza@gmail.com