Tue | Nov 30, 2021

Painful water situation

Published:Monday | May 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Garth Rattray

Miss Mary stood still for a few minutes vacillating as she tried to psyche up herself for the task ahead. She replayed her proposed activity several times, but vivid memories of the severe pains that were to come and linger for many days, perhaps even weeks and months, daunted her. So she stared, contemplated, hesitated and took several deep breaths before finally committing to the job that she must do.

Every muscle, joint, ligament and tendon screamed their protestation as she leaned forward. Her knees sent sharp barbs of pain to her brain and she groaned in unison with the creaks emanating from her hot and swollen joints. Her back and shoulders made audible noises as she continued her slow but determined flex towards the object waiting silently, almost jeeringly near her tired feet.

No one else was home at this time of day. She was alone, and afraid of what could happen if things went wrong. What if her heart gave out? What if her knees failed her? What if her back snapped? What if her shoulders, elbows or wrists got dislocated? What if she fell?! What if, what if? But, she had no choice ... she had to do what must be done, and now was as good a time as any. Or was it as bad a time as any? Only time would tell, I suppose.

Finally, Miss Mary reached her goal and she grasped the plastic handle of the water bucket firmly. Her grip wasn't nearly as strong as it was 30 or even 20 years ago; nonetheless, she held on tightly and gave it a pull, but, aided and abetted by gravity, it fought her efforts at lifting it off the floor. Miss Mary prevailed but as the water sloshed around, she felt the weight tugging at her lower back, neck, middle back, hips, shoulders, knees and ankles ... but she hung on, turned and began her ascent up the steep flight of stairs, one painful step at a time. The pain was so bad that she knew she would suffer for weeks to come.

Health affected

Water barely reaches some homes (sometimes only occasionally) and the pressure is often so low that it can't fill a tank/container placed at ground level, let alone find its way upstairs. Many people have been forced to lift heavy vessels with this precious commodity all over the place - inside, upstairs, uphill, to wash, cook, bathe or flush toilets. Some have opted to make countless trips in order to circumvent lifting weighty containers.

Because of the drought, I've been seeing patients with exacerbated osteoarthritis, disc prolapse, sciatica, spondylitis and/or spondylothisthesis. Others have emerging fasciitis, tendonitis, tenosynovitis, bursitis, capsulitis, muscle and/or ligament strain. These victims represent both genders, are of varying ages and from all social strata. The compromised hygiene, distress, discomfort and financial burden of this drought are remarkable.

People's lives and schedules currently revolve around the availability of water. Manufacturers of plastic water tanks can barely keep pace with the demand for their products. Plumbing and trucking companies are kept busy supplying consumers with the means to store and retrieve water.

People are now paying exorbitant bills for air pushed through their meters ahead of the water as it rushes to briefly alleviate thirsty households.

And, in spite of all this, we still have the same old catchment areas, the same old feeder systems, and the same ancient and leaky pipes with no serious long-term plans for drought relief. Our water situation is painful in more ways than one.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Feedback may be sent to garthrattray@gmail.com or columns@gleanerjm.com.