“Uyagoduka namhlanje!” I say with the biggest smile. You can go home today! It’s one of my favourite things to tell patients. Sometimes I think it’s the only time they ever like me.
And she does smile. The physiotherapist discharged her day one post-op and she wanted to go home so badly, but I felt day one was a bit soon. What can I say: I’m an intern, I’m too careful.
Then she asks, “So what thing did you put in my leg?”
She injured herself playing contact sports and sustained a mean distal femur fracture. I tell her the basics: we put some hardware in her leg to keep the bone together.
And her neighbour, a middle-aged woman, says, “So that means she can get a disability grant.”
This healthy young woman in her twenties, who finished her schooling as so few of her peers did, and who has managed not to get pregnant yet, and is lively enough to play contact sports traditionally dominated by men – NO. Why would an elder even plant the IDEA in her mind?
No. She absolutely does not qualify for a disability grant.
“R1,400 is too little,” I say.
And she laughs at me. What must she think – of course it’s too little for you, Doctor. R1,400 would be a fortune where I come from.
“But who else is going to pay me R1,400 for doing nothing?”
Doing nothing! Why do you want to do nothing? You don’t want to do nothing. You don’t want to be bored. You are too intelligent to be bored.
Now I explain to her that she is worth more than doing nothing. But has anybody told her that before?
I try to explain that a job will empower her, give her independence from having to grovel in front of anyone. She reaches for the word. “Independence.” Rolls it around in her mouth. Tastes it.
But I know the reality is that we live in a county with too few doctors, too few lawyers, and always, always, too few teachers. But jobs for intelligent young men and women who have finished high school but have no further qualifications… there are too few of those around. I know – not from experience, but I do know – how hard it may become for her to find that job. Sometimes, “having the will” is not enough.
I try to explain that the country does not have the resources to give grants to people who are well enough to contribute to the economy, but what she knows is that her country has plenty enough resources to build her president a mansion.
So I try. Encourage her to apply to university AGAIN. I wish for someone who will teach these intelligent young people life skills and CV skills and job-hunting skills. God knows I would if I had the time.
And I tell her, as kindly as I can, that NO: You Cannot Get A Disability Grant.