Friday, October 5, 2012
She came anyway.
I laugh thinking about it because she told us there are four other women waiting for her return in her village. They all have the same problem she did but they waited for her to come back and report what happened here. This older woman came out as a guinea pig to see what would happen to her. I have heard this before. Patients coming out, knowing others in their villages who have fistula. There has to be one brave enough to make the first step to come. For this one woman, if she goes home dry, the others will follow.
No pressure here.
The hard part is when a patient comes and she leaves wet. There are many reasons a patient can leave wet: a failed surgery, a healed fistula but the woman has stress incontinence, some women need multiple surgeries to be completely dry... When she goes home this won't be translated well. You are either wet or dry. If you are dry, others will come. If you are wet, they don't see the point in coming.
This patient is dry and she will go home and report what she experienced here. I am looking forward to the day I look out the windows in the clinic and see the four patients from her village sitting there waiting...
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
|Me and my dentist|
It's always a good day when the local grocery store has chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but good chocolate. The Toblerone, triangular goodness that melts in your mouth unless you forget to put it in the fridge, then it melts in your cupboard. On Sunday I was enjoying my piece of chocolaty goodness when it became a bit crunchier than normal. It wasn't the grit of added sand that accompanies many meals here, this was like a rock. This was a big part of my tooth. Luckily it was one of my back teeth so you couldn't see it, but I wanted to gag when I felt this gaping hole with my tongue. Being a nurse my mind started racing. I was going to get an infection, then abscess, then major tumor. Luckily I live with missionaries who have lived here for a long time and knew of a good dentist in the area. He was able to see me early yesterday morning and June, Leng and Ashley all accompanied me on this adventure.
We walked right in to this small room that had a desk, a dentist chair and supplies. I was quickly told to sit down so I did. All I knew was that I didn't want anyone drilling in my mouth or doing anything that was not necessary. I didn't want any shots or teeth pulled. I can't believe my lack of French or Hausa after living here for almost ten months. June and Leng did a great job keeping me informed about what was going on. Yes, a large part of my tooth broke off but luckily it was a clean break and all the dentist had to do was fill it back in. Only a small amount of drilling to make it possible to add more cement to fill in the hole. It was even white. I kept my eyes closed, knowing Ashley was right there taking pictures and making sure everything was ok. I had to. The needle, which was never used, was sitting right at eye level tempting my fears. It was better to just close my eyes and pray it was all over soon.
All in all it was a memorable experience. The hole is filled and even though it is temporary, June had the same thing happen to her a long time ago and went to the same dentist and her temporary fix lasted a long time. I pray that is the same in my case as well. It is still a bit rough. The dentist apologized for not having a buffer to smooth it but it's not bad. All this for about $4.
Visit the dentist in Niger... check.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Last Sunday I decided to start a list. I have been making a list of things I am thankful for. It has helped me change the way I have looked at some of the situations I encountered this week. As I started writing this list I kept having an overwhelming urge to write a list of challenges this week as well. I didn't. I needed to focus on the blessings of my days. Yes, there were days I just wanted to come home and crawl back into my bed, turn on my ac and sleep, but when you take the time to stop and look around, you notice blessings in the midst of challenges. Here are a glimpse of things I have been thankful for over the past six days:
- Having a flashlight on my phone
- I have not gotten malaria this year
- Packing nyquil/dayquil when I came
- Purple flowers growing among the corn stalks being harvested
- Patients being discharged to the village
- Dead earwigs
- Bananas erupting from their pods on the pigmy banana tree
- Moringa trees growing larger
- Women returning on time for their surgical appointments
- Ants marching creating veins in the sand
- A newly hired nurse
- Long walks home
- Skirts that make you walk a step slower
- Receiving two roosters as a thank you gift inside the hospital
- A finished malaria policy
- Old patients returning dry
- Watching people harvest their crops
- Women pounding their grains
- Listening to country music in the car
- With the windows down
- At night
- Turning down country music and rolling up the windows while passing through checkpoints
- Water filters that make brown water drinkable
- Friends who will protect me from bats
- Two hens purchased for the roosters so we can have eggs
- Air conditioning in my bedroom
- Watching patients doing rounds on each other--on the fresh post-op patients to make sure they are ok
- Losing patients but then finding them sitting under a tree in the dirt behind the OR
- Training nurses to take over my jobs
- Nurses who work hard
- Rice and beans for lunch
- Learning a new word in hausa and using it appropriately
- Just standing in the pharmacy (the only room in the ward with air conditioning)
- Being told I can go to Niamey with Ashley to say goodbye
- The way the young patients wear their gowns
- Having my massive set of keys reduced by three
- Excitement by patients who are brought into the ward for surgery
- Bottle of some sort of sugared nuts
- Chocolate in the grocery store
- Buying a purple shirt at Wrangler
- Witnessing an ultrasound of a patient who did not know she was pregnant
- Showing this woman her child inside her womb
- Seeing the tiny hands, feet, spine and all four chambers of this tiny heart beating inside her
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Friday, August 31, 2012
I first heard about moringa trees about ten years ago when I took a Mercy Ships class about tropical medicine and they spoke on moringa trees. These trees are incredible. They were basically created to grow here. Everything I read about these amazing trees calls them nature's medicine cabinet. One ounce of moringa contains 7 time the vitamin C found in oranges, 4 times the vitamin A of carrots, 3 times the iron of spinach, 4 times as much calcium as milk and 3 times the potassium of bananas. What else is there to say? I get so excited when I think about these trees and what they can do for this area of the world if people would tap into them. I can't wait for ours to get big enough to have pods. I read they can produce 400-1000 new seeds a year. Plenty to send all the women here home with some seeds! I have a great vision for these trees and the ways they can first help our women, and then teach the women how to take them home and help their communities with them.
So, my first talk with our gardener was about planting these moringa trees. Two days later he brought in about 25 of these trees to line the walkway out to the village. Yesterday we had our first moringa harvest and ate of the abundant leaves. Another great thing about moringa is how quickly it grows. Our trees were planted about six weeks ago and we are already eating from them. I have a book on all that you can do with the leaves and plants and pods. Everything from antibiotics to skin infections to diabetes and low blood pressure, anemia, diarrhea, water purification... the list continues of all the ways it can be used.
I don't eat a lot of meat here. When I go home, one of my major food cravings is for Red Robin. Here, we pulled over and got guinea fowl from this guy. It was pretty pretty good. There are some things I continue to struggle with food wise. Meat is one of them. I was excited that when I bought this because he cut it up and cooked it longer on the fire. When I took it home and started pulling if off the bone I hit a vein and blood came spurting out. Overall it was good meat, but I don't know if I will buy meat again here.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
|Painting on the ward|
|A bladder stone|
Sunday, August 12, 2012
|My ward nurses|
Saturday, August 4, 2012
|The pastor with baby Rebecca|
|My new outfit|
On the walk home from the ceremony
|Patient sinks being tiled|
On a side note, I have been asked to post more pictures of the patients. Being here and working so closely with the women, I would love to post lots of pictures of them. The more time I spend with the women, the more protective of them I become. I can not post pictures of them on my blog though in an effort to protect them and their privacy. Sitting with them today in the village, all of us resting on the mats, I was thinking that if I was at home on a Saturday afternoon I would probably be hanging out with some friends. Yes, the women are our patients, but I do think of them as friends. We laugh together, cry together, rejoice and hug when they come back for three month follow-ups. Today I spent my Saturday afternoon with friends and I loved it.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Cleaning off my desk today I also came across the notebook I was using January through March when I first arrived. I took a few minutes and looked through it. Again, it showed me how much has been accomplished in just a short time. I had to do list after to do list after to do list in that book. Looking through and seeing the things I stressed about back then, just a few months ago, and now seeing them complete brought me joy. The walkway from the village to the ward is complete. Staff has been hired. Lights have been put in the bathrooms in the village. A flow of seeing village patients has been established. Policies have been written. The kitchen has been built and we are feeding our own patients from it. There are still some things left undone, even from my very first list: tile the patient sinks, finish health teachings for the patients, write more policies. It didn't bother me the things left undone and yet to be done. We will get there.
Two weeks ago I threw my back out from a sneeze. It put me in bed for two days in pain. It was during the week on surgical days. I was really anxious about it, knowing I should be at work. I learned a whole lot those two days. First, don't take the random German medication in the cupboard even if a doc says it's ok. He doesn't speak German and has no idea what it is. Thank you Ashley for sitting with me through that experience. Second, it's ok to slow down. It's so easy to get caught up in work, work, work. I came here to work. It's hard to stop sometimes, or to even slow down during the day to stop and just talk to my nurses or patients and to invest in their lives outside of work. Things did not fall apart during those two days. Nurses still treated the patients well. Surgeries and clinic still went on. As silly as it may sound, I learned that things will go on without me even if I am not there. It was a good and timely lesson for me to learn.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
I have been trying to get pictures to post for the past few days. These are the only two I can get to work. A few of us went to a village to visit a two day old baby and we passed this cute kid on our walk out.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Monday, May 21, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I was told that one day the temperature would change and hot season would be here.
That day came yesterday, April 1. I wish I could say it was an April fools joke, but with a temperature of 106 degrees, it wasn’t a joke. I moved a table into my bedroom, turned on my fan and air conditioner and tried to stay cool. Many people move into their bedrooms for the hot season because the smaller rooms stay cooler if you have ac. My ac decides to blow hot air sometimes which makes it worse.
*Don’t sit on your couch if it is covered in fabric. It will just make you sweat more.
*Don’t sit with your computer on your lap while it is on. I was afraid for my life and the life of my computer for a second when I realized the computer was sitting in a pool of sweat on my lap.
*Don’t stop drinking water. You should really drink ORS, oral rehydration, frequently. It’s impossible to keep up with your water intake.
*Don’t think a cold shower will cool you down. The pipes just heat up the water so your cold shower is now a warm shower. When you reach for your towel, don’t expect it to be cool. Wrapping yourself in your towel is like wrapping a towel around you which has just come from the dryer. Getting dressed, again, is like freshly pulling clothes from the dryer. Everything is warm.
*Getting into bed at night is like laying on warm sheets, again, from the dryer.
*Sleeping under a mosquito net, although a necessity, increases the temperature even more…
*Don’t cook or use your oven. All it will do is increase the temperature in your house.
*Don’t stand in the sun to talk if you run into someone on the road. Walk your conversation into the shade. There is a huge temperature difference between the sun and shade.
*Don’t make the wrong decision when you debate which is worse: not sleeping under a mosquito net because it increases the temperature you have to sleep in, or risk malaria.
Please don’t think I am complaining. I’m not. It’s just another thing I need to learn if I am going to be living in Niger.
Ten days since I wrote this post. Changes in the heat since… 114 degrees in the shade yesterday.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
Ashley hired Nuhu's band to come play for us again last night. Again, the watering of the 'dance floor' was a sight to see. The band set up right outside the hospital and Ashley, Anna and I went and got the women ready. We tied their gowns tight and hung their catheter bags from the knot we made with their gowns. We hung their bag inside their gown so you couldn't see it and then the patients put their zenni, their fabric wrap, around the outside of their gown for added security and coverage. Add a head covering, or two, and we were ready to dance! Ai*, who has seemed sick and depressed since she arrived on the ward, would hardly let me sit. She would sit next to me and look at the circle of dancers, then at me, then nod to the circle and away we went again.
This has by far been the busiest week yet since I have gotten here, and my favorite as well. I am privileged beyond words. I wish you could all witness what I am watching unfold as I type this. Hannatou* is laying in bed singing. Nana* is stading up clapping. Saratou* is smiling ear to ear clapping while laying in bed and the other nine women I am watching are trying to sleep while these three won’t stop. I can only laugh. They are the true picture of beauty.
Last Thursday an anesthesia provider arrived from the states to be here for a week. A huge answer to pray. He could only be here just under a week so we pushed through and did twelve surgeries during his time here. Long days. A few cases of malaria. Two women returning back to the operating room because of bleeding... in the same day. Lots of singing. Knitting. Coloring. Laughing. We made it through. Out of the twelve women, twelve are dry so far. It’s incredible. In all my previous trips here and stents of surgeries, never have I seen all the women dry for this long together. I am filled with such joy!
I was not scheduled to be at work right now. It’s 10:15pm and at 7:30 I got a text saying the nurse who was on brought her sick baby to work with her so it could sleep next to her here. I am here now. She is at home. I don’t mind it. It just makes me laugh that she would think that was an ok thing to do, to bring her sick baby to work with her. She speaks hausa and French. I don’t. Let’s just say handing over the patients was interesting with me and a French language book. Night time here is one of my favorite times with the women. They are relaxed and chatty. They lay in bed and talk to each other and try to talk to me and laugh and say babu hausa, no hausa. Aque hausa, there is a little hausa, I tell them. Kadunk a dunk, small small, I say. They laugh. They sing. I shake, they laugh more.
During this process of opening this hospital I keep referring to it as the birthing process. This past week was a big push. The times up until here have been contractions. Some big and some small. The water breaking was the first surgery. Contractions started building with the grand opening. Surgeries continued. We realized we were going to have to change our course of action with anesthesia and things paused. An epidural was put in so we could rest. Anesthesia showed up last week and we pushed through. By the middle of April we will close for a few weeks due to the intense heat and then I feel like the birthing process will be over and we will start the growing process.
Some things that have happened since my last blog… the weather has been interesting. I feel like I haven’t seen a blue sky in weeks. The dust has been so thick and the wind, iska, has been pretty constant. No major dust storms yet. I had been looking forward to one. I think I have changed my mind. Yes, I would like to experience one, but even with this constant blowing of the wind off the desert, I never feel clean. The children look like the have put powder on their faces because of the dust turning them white. Men with once black hair now have grey. One of our cleaners shaved his head yesterday and when asked why, he said the dust was turning it white, and it was. My house is in a constant state of dirtiness. I had it cleaned today and had my mosquito net washed. It was turning brown. Coming home to a dusted, clean place made my day. It wasn’t the easiest thing for me when I hired someone to come clean my place once a week. I figured I could do it and be fine. With the long hours and constant need for dusting, it’s been a huge help. Also, it helps the community and families to hire someone so I don’t mind anymore.
I feel like there has been a plague of crickets. When I say crickets, I don’t mean the cute, tiny Jiminy Cricket types. I guess these could dress in a suite and top hat and carry a cane because they are so big! They are everywhere and fly around right outside my door under my light. At night it sounds like someone is knocking because they run into the metal door.
Another answer to prayer is that the container with supplies arrived yesterday. It’s like Christmas when a container arrives. I was helping sort out what belonged to us and what belonged to the leprosy hospital we share a compound with. I was excited for our supplies but almost even more so for them. The guy unloading for their side spoke English so we chatted and when the magnesium sulfate was pulled out he got so excited. This is used for pre-eclampsia in pregnant women and he said they had been out of it for so long. This and other drugs made him so excited. It was great to share in his joy. It’s not an easy place to be when you can only get so much in the country. They really do the best with what they have and they do it well.
Before Dr. Steve left here he shared a story with us a few times. It has stuck with me since. It’s from 2 Samuel chapter 24. I won’t type it all here because it’s too long but I encourage you to read it.
…I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.
2 Samuel 24:24
A thought to leave you with…
(*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the patients.)