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.