Real Medicine

Scaring Kiddies… Unintentionally

When I rotated through Paediatric Oncology during my elective, I had some trouble. Remember how I wrote about the incredibly late detection of tumours – well, that is largely due to the fact that the Eastern Cape has a large rural population. Also, a lot of these children are first taken to traditional healers and only once these measures fail do they approach so-called “Western” doctors.

On the first day in the ward, things were a little haphazard and I wasn’t really introduced to the ward. Tired of standing around, I decided to show myself around. The children had had breakfast and were playing games or watching TV.

I walked into one of the larger rooms…

A child looked around, his eyes as big as saucers, his cheeks turned ashen.

And, running to his mother, he screamed,

Mama! Umlungu!

Which is Xhosa for, “Mommy! A white person!”

I blushed, and the other doctors and interns laughed. It turns out a lot of these children, who grow up in the deepest rural Eastern Cape, have only ever seen a “white person” from afar.

For some hilarious “Kids say the darndest things”, check out Trisha’s latest post here.

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4 thoughts on “Scaring Kiddies… Unintentionally”

  1. When I was in Uganda, the kids there had a similar name for me, and they would follow our van shouting “Muzungu!”. I learned quickly to keep my sunglasses on – the kids grew to accept us (very) white people, but my blue eyes really scared them.

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