Sunday, November 28, 2010
I have been home from Danja now for a little over two weeks. Internet was touch and go while I was there so I’ll try and touch on the exciting points I haven’t written about yet.
Early in the week of surgeries we came across a slight issue. A woman who had surgery was bleeding more than expected. Even though we quickly took her back to the OR and stopped the bleeding and she was doing ok, her blood level was still too low. She was going to need a blood transfusion. Two units of blood. When we found out her blood type we realized there were three people in our group with the same blood. Like blood transfusions on the ship, we were again, the walking blood bank. There were many differences between the lab on the ship and the lab at the hospital. They don’t do many blood transfusions in Danja and we quickly learned that. Someone had to go to Maradi first to get the blood bags. The lab then drew a unit of blood from two people in our group who matched the patient’s blood type. Then I drew blood from the patient so it could be tested against the donors blood for compatibility. The whole experience of obtaining the blood and checking it for compatibility all seemed a little backward to me. Drawing a whole unit of blood from the donor before even knowing if it was ok to be used. Here in the states if I give a blood transfusion there are so many checks and double checks to go through. Jolene and I were a little cautious, to say the least, about giving this transfusion. When I went to pick up the blood in the blood bank the people in the lab just pointed to the fridge. I walked over and opened it and there were two bags of blood sitting on the top shelf with A+ written on them. There was our blood. When I took it back to the ward, Jolene and I did our double checks… We checked the A+ on the blood bag against the A+ scribbled on a scratch of paper clipped on the clipboard on the patient’s bed. Jolene and I looked at each other, spiked the blood with tubing we weren’t quite sure of, but knowing it was all we had and knowing she needed this blood, looked at each other again and I’m sure she was saying a prayer along with me in her heart, we started the transfusion. The patient became a little itchy at the end of the first unit, but besides that there were not any problems! Phew! She went on to have a great recovery!
One of my favorite things about these trips to Danja is the tree. The women sleep in small cement type huts at night but during the day they all congregate under “the tree”. They sit there all day and talk, do each others hair, eat... Although on the previous trip we told the women who were coming back just for a check up to come a week later, many were already there. I think they come so early because they are so excited. Abou was a woman we did surgery on during the previous trip. She came early as well. The first few days there we were discussing how to teach the women about what they would be experiencing. It would be scary for anyone having these foreign people who can’t even speak their language want to cut them and touch them and put tubes in them. We decided the best way to teach would be to have a woman who has gone through this before tell them. Abou was our woman. She has this attitude about her. Not in a bad way, but just a confidence you don’t see too often in VVF women. I knew she would be great. I sat down with her and Houa and Hannatou to translate and when we asked her to tell us what she would tell the women I knew we had picked the right woman. We didn’t have to remind her about too many things. She talked about the sitz baths, the shower (and how to shower), not eating or drinking before surgery, about the IV and how they “give you water in your skin”, the surgery and how even though you can’t feel your legs, they will come back to you. She went on about the catheter, pain, bedrest… When she presented this to the women under the tree she did a fabulous job! She put on a gown. Put on a blood pressure cuff. Demonstrated a sitz bath. There is nothing better for teaching than having someone who has been there before teach. After her teaching she went on to sing. Abou was the one on the previous trip who sang the “Urine in the Oppressor” song. She sang that song but then continued on. She kept singing and then sang some song that had all our names in it. It was beautiful.
On Sunday night we joined the other missionaries from SIM for their time of worship. We were asked to do the speaking that night. We brought Abou and asked her questions and she spoke to the group. Again, she did a wonderful job. Dr Steve spoke then I was asked to share a bit. I shared about Aicha and the story I wrote about on the previous post then spoke about how the women care so much for each other. I think this is one thing I’m really going to take away from this trip. When a woman would leave the ward to go to the operating room, a woman who had gone through this before would come in, get her dirty, wet clothes and wash them. They would be clean and brought back before she was out of the OR. As I spoke, tears filled my eyes. These women show such love and compassion for one another. Only they can fully understand the extent of the pain and rejection each of them feels.
There was one event that happened that completely blew my mind. The day we examined the women from the previous trip there were also some other women there who we had not met before who needed to be seen. Dr Steve was examining a woman who had been leaking for 30 years. During the exam he looked at us and asked if we wanted to feel something. I put on a pair of gloves and felt it. It felt like a rock not too far inside. Dr Steve looked at us and he went to work to get it out. It was like birthing this rock. By the time he got it out I had to check my facial expression. I was cringing at this stone coming out. It ended up being an 8x5cm stone! It was huge. I know there have been larger ones in the history of VVF but this was gigantic in my eyes! We gave her antibiotics and a date to come back for her fistula surgery.
On Tuesday morning we had the dress ceremony. Eleven women danced. All left dry and I pray that continues.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
We arrived here in Danja Saturday morning. The trip here was pretty uneventful. Spokane to Seattle. Seattle to Paris. Paris to Niemey. Then early Saturday morning on a small six seater Piper plane, Niemey to Maradi. It was exciting to run into Jolene, Ginger and Jacqui in Paris. I hadn’t met Jacqui before but Jolene and Ginger and I worked together in Togo on the Africa Mercy. It’s great to be here with some good friends.
Harmitan is here so there is a constant haze. This is when the winds blow in the dust from the Sahara. Because of this we didn’t have great visibility flying here from Niemey. I’m hoping for a dust storm but I’m told it won’t happen this time of year. Bummer. From the pictures I’ve seen they look incredible!
The women are here! They were sitting under the tree when we arrived! Many of the women from the previous trip are here for check ups and many more are here to be seen. The rest of the team arrives tomorrow and screening will happen tomorrow afternoon to see who are surgical candidates. Surgeries will then begin on Tuesday. The four of us have been working to set up the operating room and ward. It’s been great reconnecting with the group here who help us. They translate for us, cook for us, laugh with us and at us, help us out more than we could ask for, and care a lot for these women as well. It’s a good team to be a part of.
More to come soon!
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I told you in my previous post about “the tree”, the place the women congregate. They lay their mats out and eat there and talk there and spend their days at this tree until it is time to be seen or have surgery. After the first woman left for surgery this morning I went over to that tree, my small book in hand which I am scribbling down the hausa I am trying to learn and attempted to talk with the ladies. My name in hausa is Sarahtou. I love hearing them say my name. Inakwana was all I said when I walked up and they started laughing and claping. I learned to say goodmorning, a change from yesterday when all I could say was sanu, hello. I have already learned more hausa in the few days I have been here than all the ewe I learned in my six months in Togo. Ina sunauki, what is your name. I am really bad at remembering names, but as they started telling me theirs I realized I would only have a few names to remember: Aicha, Howa, Mariama...if I say one of those three I will have a good chance of getting the name right.
Singing. I needed to hear them sing. After church last sunday, I needed more. The singing isn’t like what I have heard in Liberia or Togo. It’s not accompanied by the chicken dance or any other form of wild dancing. It’s slow and almost monotone. It’s really beautiful. I started moving my feet and clapping and they got the hint. I’m still trying to find someone to translate the words to the song they sang for me, but it was glorious. I could sit and listen to them sing forever. If they aren’t singing or telling me their names, we just smile and laugh at each other.
I feel like I have so much more to share but don’t know where to start.
For those of you who follow my blog, I wanted to let you know too that I received an e-mail today from Michael, Lovelace’s father. She went home to be with the Lord last week. I don’t know any details or how they are coping, but the last time Jane and I went to visit we had talked a bit about this time. He told us that he was never angry at God but that he trusted Him and knew that if Lovelace was going to be healed it would be and if she wasn’t going to be healed, then that would be. He trusted fully in the hand of the Lord and never spoke of anger or bitterness. She was loved so dearly here on this earth and I picture her now, asleep in the hands of God, no pain, no more dressing changes, she was a small girl who knew nothing but Love.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
I get asked what I do when I'm not working. Well, Tuesday evenings I go with a small group to the hospitality center to knit. The hospitality center is a place where patients go after their surgeries, if they are from far away, so they can come back to the ship daily or a few days a week for post-op appointments. It's a wonderful place for them. The wards don't have windows because they are below the water line. They get to go outside once a day to deck 7 for an hour. At the hospitality center they spend the majority of their time outside. They have room to run and play. It's a great place to go to hang out with the patients. I love going on Tuesday nights. I am never able to speak with the patients because there are very few translators there, but that's ok. Somehow you don't need verbal language to teach knitting.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
"Who touched me?" Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."
But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me."
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."
These women ache to touch the edge of Jesus' cloak. To be healed. Not only did Jesus heal her physically, he healed her body and soul. We have a wonderful surgeon here right now to help heal their bodies. Pray for this healing, but also pray that these women can start to experience emotional healing as well. To not harbor bitterness or anger, but to forgive and be able to go on living their lives in joy.
Five women danced today. They danced. They danced. They danced!
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
A few posts back I wrote about noma, the infection that invades your face and within days kills 90% of the people that it infects. Aicha, the seven year old girl that arrived on the ship from Camaroon with this, is doing amazing. The skin graft to the right side of her face is taking and she is healing more by the day. I had to laugh today because as I was working in A-ward, I realized every other patient in there knew her by name. Even the patients who were new to the ward. It's not because they know her history. How she was abandoned by her parents and taken in by her grandmother. How the last year of her life went from being moments from death to having the massive hole in the right side of her face being covered over by skin from her thigh. How her uncle has given up so much to be with here here and only having one other person besides Aicha that he can talk to in his own language. No, the reason everyone in A-ward knows Aicha is because of her bubbly, spunky, fighting spirit. This is definitely a girl familiar with the hospital setting. She no longer has her feeding tube in, but when it was in, she would give herself her own feeds. She would put on the syringe and draw back to see much of the previous feed was left in her stomach. She would push the medications down the tube. She would pour the food into the feeding bag and roll open the clamp to get the feeds to run. When it was finished she would let us know and she would flush the tube then go back to playing. I can't begin to say how funny this would be to watch. The day her tube came out was a big day on the ward. She had been wanting to eat for so long! Meals, even now, are an experience with Aicha. She can't eat rice because of her incision, so that doesn't sit well with her, but this girl likes to eat! If the meal trays are late, she will let you know. If she doesn't get enough, she will let you know. In the past year she has gone from perhaps a day away from death, to a bubbly, spunky little girl who knows what she wants and she will tell you. When you sit and think about it, it's amazing to see all the different people God has brought into her path, how far she has come and then to think about her future. She has one. What more is there to say?