Friday, February 17, 2012

Sannu, Sannu

There are still certain words that I find funny that I have to talk about in my daily life. Today that word was viper. Snakes get talked about quite a bit but even less since most people know my fear of them, but today the word viper can not stop going around and around. There is a pretty good reason for this.

Nancy worked the night shift last night. I ran into her this morning and she told me that at about 2am she opened the door to let a woman out to use the toilet. Right outside was a snake lying across the walkway. She thought it might be dead because it wasn’t moving. She called for the guard but no one came so she got a broom. I still can’t believe she did this, but she flung it off the walkway and threw a cinderblock on it. It was alive as it started flailing around. The guard showed up and beat the life out of it. No one here likes snakes. A lot of people have been affected by them, knowing someone who has died from a bite so when a snake is found, it is quickly killed. This snake, Nancy told me, had the triangular head as vipers do. Ugh. It wasn’t just a snake. It was a viper.

On another note, I drove to a nearby village today, Madarumpha. I’m sure I butchered the spelling of that. We went in search of nurses to hire. It was a fabulous trip! I drove and it was the first time I drove off the compound. I miss driving. Basically I drove to the main road and kept going across the street. I didn’t know anything was out that direction but before I knew it I was driving through the desert. Thick sand for the whole 30 minute or so drive. It was like driving on snow. I haven’t really been anywhere besides Maradi and here so this was a good adventure. We drove through a Fulani village where I saw some storehouses I had never seen before. They looked like very large water pots, like the size of a hut which came to a narrow opening at the top. They put them up on large rocks to get them off the ground. I was told the only way in was from the top so I wonder how they get the grain out. I will have to stop sometime and see. The same village had probably ten camels just chillin’. Tied to their camel poles. Past the village was a wooded area. Massive trees! Camels just walking through, eating from the trees. I was in awe today. Eventually we came to a dry river. During rainy season there is water but it’s so dry now that this river is completely dry. It’s a pretty wide river too. Lots of reeds were put down to make the road so cars can drive across it. You can see the reed road in the picture. The most random thing though, was the bridge. There is a large steel bridge, looks like good construction too, that is the bridge to nowhere. It just stops in the middle of the river. I only got stuck in the sand once. I thought I was going to go through a big sand pile so I drove off the track made by previous cars because it looked like the ground was more solid. Nope. It wasn’t. I learned how to put the car in four wheel drive though, and get it out of four wheel drive.

The bridge to nowhere

We now have three women in the ward. We have a full surgical schedule but we are having to start slow, which is great. We are finding that even though we would love to have full days of surgery, there are so many things to figure out that we just need to take it day by day. Lately my phrase has been: sannu, sannu. Little by little.

Sannu, sannu…

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Opening Ceremony

Today was the second and final official opening of the hospital. The first ribbon cutting was last Monday with the minster of health and today was the official ribbon cutting with the rest of the world. We all got new clothes made for the event. I got this one and another made. They both have a few kinks which need working out but I think the tailor did a good job overall. The top picture is, from left to right, Nancy, me, Ashley and Jackie. Nancy will work in the ward with me. Ashley is the OR supervisor and Jackie is here for a few weeks to help get the OR set up and running. The bottom picture is me and Ashley. Lots of people came out for the celebration. It was a great morning full of wrong translations and the same band as last night. This week we will have two full days of surgery and fill more beds. I can't wait!

Friday, February 10, 2012


Morning walk to work.

The village.

Operating room.

The ward.

Last nights dance.

Life to the Full

When I left the hospital tonight I thought about walking around the hospital to avoid ‘the band’. I was tired from working and was ready to just crawl into my bed. I had not heard any noise yet so I figured it was safe to walk the normal way. Nuhu is the anesthesiologist and we found out the other day that he is also the manager of a band in town. Of course he is. We hired him to bring his band and put on a show for us. When I arrived to the front of the hospital Ashley and Mark were sitting on the hospital step while the band was setting up. I knew I was going to have to stay to witness this… the bass was just getting warmed up playing Amazing Grace while some other people were watering the sand in front of where the rest of the band was setting up. I sat down next to Ashley and we looked at each other and reminded each other that this is just another day in Niger, watching someone water the sand while instruments are being brought in and people are arriving. It didn’t take long to realize why they were watering the sand. That would be the dance floor. When the music started there were four girls who shuffled along in a line and danced, or shuffled, in a large circle through the sand. We all jumped in and followed and before long the fistula women from the village started wandering in from behind the hospital. They came and sat along the step to the hospital but after one or two of them got up and danced I knew the best was yet to come. People from all over the hospital, compound, nearby towns started showing up. I think we emptied out the village and all the fistula women came, even the two patients from the ward who had surgery were there. There were people dancing on the walkway to the hospital, on the ground, and as the circle continued to shuffle its way around and around I kept thinking to myself: John 10:10. This is living life to the full. Not just for me, but for the fistula women. Looking at all the women there laughing, jumping as Dr Steve had a laser pen he kept scaring them with, dancing, chatting, going up to dance then running back and giggling, just sitting and watching, laughing more. This is living life to the full. Even the woman who brought me to tears just a couple days ago knowing the chance of her being dry was slim, she was out there dancing, singing and laughing. I don’t think I have seen such a large group of VVF women laughing so much and just living without fear or shame. They were women sharing their lives together. The teenagers danced together. The older women sat and laughed. Everyone in between lived. No fear. Just John 10:10, living life to the full.

Night Shift

I wrote this last night when I was on the first of the night shifts. There is no internet at the hospital so I wrote it there and here you go...

Today was the first day of surgery! It was supposed to be on Tuesday but things can get a bit crazy when the minister of health decided to visit the day before you are supposed to open. We had to push the first surgical day back a couple days but it did give us more time to continue screening the mass of women we have staying out in the village.

I have enjoyed the clinic days. Two days a week we will have the clinic open so we can screen any women which have arrived and are waiting to see the doctor. We started by seeing any new women, those who have not had surgery here before, then moved on to those who have had surgery and need more help. I love seeing the women come back, those I have known from previous trips being here. One woman came in, basically to just say hello. She sat on the exam table and started talking and talking and talking and even though I couldn’t understand her verbal language, her body language said it all as she would get angry faces and pretend to spit and then smile. She was telling us that before the surgery, people would spit on her and avoid her and now she has found a new husband and people don’t spit on her anymore. She lives very close to here so I’m hoping to see her again. Another woman who I knew from before came in. She sat on the exam table and was completely wet. I knew what was coming, what the doctor was going to say, so I stood a bit behind her so she couldn’t see my face. I then had to leave the room because I couldn’t stop crying. The women who I know from before, I see them as my friends. I want the best for them, for all of them, but sometimes we are just about at the end of what we can do to heal them. I stood on the other side of the door and listened as the surgeon explained options to her, none of which are easy.

This morning we came to the hospital early to collect the three women from the village who would have surgery today. Today was a day of learning, to say the least. Everything from bathing to eating to handovers to making beds, everything was a first for here. To try and make this a place that will last and to do it well, you have to analyze every little thing. Why did it take over an hour for three women to bathe and have a sitz bath? Oh, the many reasons, but next week it will be easier. How do we get food from the kitchen to the patients? How can we change the beds so we aren’t constantly hitting our heads on the mosquito net frames? Ashley and I were sitting tonight talking about all the many things on our long lists of things to do and fix and review and none of them are bad. They are just things to have to work through and find answers to. All part of opening a 42 bed hospital.

I am sitting in the nurse’s station right now. It’s almost 10:30 at night and the three patients are tucked in, sleeping. Day shift. Night shift. How to make this work as well? The women were all asleep when I tucked their mosquito nets around them. I felt like a mother tucking in her kids. Before they fell asleep, two of the patients were laying in their beds facing each other, talking. Ashley and I were sitting in here wondering what they were talking about. I was mentioning things my friends and I would talk about when we would spend the night at each others houses and what we would say when we first turned the light off (Bridget). Ashley said they were talking about if they would be going back to their husbands now. Who knows what they were saying to each other, but they were super cute lying there in a stark white bed frame with a blue sheet on their bed. Each of them with their catheter so tonight they are dry.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


The front of the hospital

I am currently standing in my kitchen waiting for my tortilla dough to sit for fifteen minutes. I don’t know why it needs to sit for fifteen minutes but I am told it needs to before you roll it out so I will wait…

What made me jump this week? Not as many things as before. I am getting used to the spiders. We were moving the maintenance room out of the middle of the ward and behind a box I moved was a scorpion chilling on the wall. I thought it was dead. It wasn’t. Ashley was the brave one to kill it. Just a small one though. I hear they get pretty big here. The gecko still lives in my drain. We are becoming more understanding of one another’s space. I still laugh as he runs and squeezes his fat little body down my drain when I come in, but we are learning to live together and share the space in my sink.

In Maradi there is a ‘French Club’ which has a swimming pool and tennis court. It’s a good place to go on the weekend to relax. We went there last weekend and played tennis. It was fabulous! Ashely and I both brought our tennis rackets so we could play. I loved it! It was great way to relax. I’m wondering how we can make a court here… Put that on my list of things to do!

What a week this has been! The transformation of the hospital has been incredible, really. It’s been a ton of work but even through the early mornings and late nights putting shelving units together, unpacking boxes and scrubbing floors, I wake up thankful to be here and excited to head down to the hospital. It really still surprises me, although it shouldn’t by now, just how God gives you the strength and grace for wherever it is that He calls you to.

Dr. Steve and the rest of the team arrived this past week. Today was our first full staff meeting. Ready or not, Monday is almost here. Monday we will start screening the thirty something women already waiting to be seen. I wish I would have had more time to spend with them this past week but that time will come. On Tuesday we will start our first surgeries. We are starting slow and I’m grateful for that. Starting from the beginning means training everyone and working out all the kinks. Even things like this should go there or who was supposed to clean that and all the little details we may have overlooked. This will be a full week but I’m really excited! I do feel so privileged to be here for such a time as this. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else right now.

Please continue to pray for my Hausa. I have been getting better but still a long way to go. It was helpful having cleaners in the ward this past week. Zo, come. Shigo, come in… I threw out any and all words I knew to practice on them. They laughed, knowing I was doing my best but then they helped to teach me as well. Please pray for this coming week that kinks will be worked out and policies will be written and women will start to be healed. Thanks!