Friday, August 31, 2012


I have been wanting to write this post for a long time now. I love that we hired a gardener/landscaper. He has been working here for a couple months now. What I didn't realize until yesterday is that I have been calling him the female form of his name for the last two months but no one wanted to correct me. I feel so bad. He just laughs and says ba matsala, no problem. He has done a great job landscaping the area around the hospital. I was really excited to talk with him about planting moringa trees when he was hired.

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.


Crops and Painting

On my walk home from work today Ashley pointed out how tall the crops are getting. I am 5'8'' tall so you can see the height. These crops are huge! We have been getting a lot of rain which is fabulous for the crops but not so fabulous for Niamey. If you have not heard, Niamey is flooding. It has completely flooded the SIM school there and they are having to look for another place. Please pray for Niamey and the flooding. It has left many homeless and destroyed many crops with the rising river. Check out the BBC news on it here.

Last week we painted again. Again, when I told the women to paint whatever they wanted they giggled and just looked at me before they painted random shapes. I painted the picture in the upper right then they all started copying mine. I think I will make some postcards as samples and see what they do with those as far as copying them. I really love what they came up with!

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
The other day was painting afternoon on the ward. First, it was the painting of the fingernails. Then we pulled out the paints, paper and brushes that my parents and Anita and Cal donated. Thanks! When I told the women what we were doing, they looked very confused and asked what they should paint. We told them they could paint anything. It took some time for them to get into it but when they did they enjoyed it and painted some great things.

A bladder stone
This picture was taken on a short trip I made here to Niger in 2010. It is a picture of an X-ray of a bladder stone which was in one of our fistula patients. This woman was transported to another hospital where she had it removed. We had to send her in an ambulance because she was very sick and we wondered if she would survive. She returned to the center two weeks ago and on Tuesday she was discharged home. Dry. She has had multiple surgeries for this problem and she is finally leaving happy! I love it when patients from my first trips here come back so I can see how they are doing.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nurse Picture

My ward nurses

It's difficult to get lined up. Smiling is even harder for some. It always makes me laugh because you can be talking with someone and tell them you will take their picture and they automatically put their arms to their sides and don't smile. For many of the patients, if I want them to smile I ask to see their teeth and you will at least get half a smile. 

We started this week with a couple surgeries on Monday and that was all. By the end of the week we were all learning more about what it means that things happen best in God's time. Wednesday and Friday we had surgeries. The new moon is coming soon to signal the end of ramadan. Hopefully along with that we will have more women arriving for surgeries. Please pray for this.

If there is something specific you would like to hear more about, leave me a comment and I'll fill you in on what you would like to know more about.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just Another Saturday

The pastor with baby Rebecca
My day started at seven this morning. I got up, put on a new outfit and met with some others from the compound to walk to a nearby fulani village for a baby naming ceremony. This 2kg baby was born a week ago. She is so tiny and so beautiful. After visiting the mother and holding the baby we went out and sat with the women under a covering. They wait about a week to announce the name of the child. All morning I was hoping the pastor would hold the baby above his head and say, Simba. Spoiler alert: that did not happen. There was buildup to the name being announced. It is a biblical name. From Genesis. The sister of... someone I can't remember. Rebecca. The child was named Rebecca. After the announcement the town crier yelled out and for the rest of our time there, at random intervals, he would cry out her name. After the pastor gave his sermon the baby was brought out by a friend since the mother stays in her house area for 40 days. Festivities go on all day but we only stayed for about an hour and a half.

My new outfit
On the walk home from the ceremony
From the ceremony we drove to Maradi for Saturday shopping. Today was the first day I bought what I call fly meat. Meat from the market. I will let you ponder why I call it fly meat:

Fly meat
From the market we went to the hospital. If you read my last blog post, you may remember that I talked about to do lists from January. The very first thing on my first to do list was to tile the patient sinks in their bathroom. It was really grossing me out that they were just cement. Today when we got to the hospital, there were two guys there tiling the sinks! Eight months later I can cross that off my to do list!

Patient sinks being tiled
After grocery shopping it was time for henna in the village. Hawa, Ashley and I spent the afternoon in the village with the ladies. Haoua, the nurse in the operating room, brought a girl out to do this for us. We had been talking about getting it done since we got here. It took all afternoon and into the evening but it was a really good afternoon. Ashley went first then Hawa so it gave me time to take a nap under a tree. There was a nice breeze all afternoon and the ladies were a blast to hang out with. It was the most relaxing afternoon I have had in a long time. I don't think I would ever want a tattoo, but this will wash off in a few weeks. I kind of feel like Madonna with her 80's style gloves although I love the design on my feet. I have been trying to get my Bible study homework done this evening but I am so distracted by my hands that I don't know if I can.

This week we have two surgeries on Monday. After Monday our surgical numbers are a bit low. Because we are in the season of ramadan, people do not travel. Many Muslims also do not like to go to the hospital for elective procedures because then they will not be able to participate in the fast. Because of this, we have a long slow month ahead of us. We know the women are out there so please pray that they will come. Coming right off of July where we did 40 surgeries and we were pretty busy, I am nervous about slowing down the pace because of my nurses. Being new, I'm afraid they will become lazy even though I have no reason to think that of them.

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

My Office

I have an office. It's a good size at the end of a long hallway. It has two windows and a lot of light. It's the second office I have had since I got here. A few months after opening we decided to swap the clinic and administration. My most recent office has a sink in the corner. A little funny to me, but it wasn't until today that I really spent any time in my office and noticed it and noticed the two phones I have sitting on my desk. I have just been dumping things in the room. Beads and paints and other crafting supplies. Papers, a batik I got in Niamey, all just piling up on my desk until today. I finally had time to clean it and hang the batik. I was sitting at my desk going through things realizing that today was a big day. Having time to spend in my office to organize it and also get a lot of computer work done that I have been putting off, showed me how far this hospital has come. Can I tell you how much I appreciate my nurses? They are fabulous. Four new ones were hired just over a month ago and I don't know if I could have found better ones. They ask questions. I am having them read all the policies and they are asking questions. They are asking questions about patients when they don't know why they should be doing certain things. They are doing their job and not sitting down through work. They are critically thinking through things. It has almost brought me to tears sometimes. The first time I got a call from my nurse working on the ward and we were struggling through her French and my Hausa and she finally just said come, and I went, I knew they were going to be ok. She was not afraid to call for help when she needed it. I appreciated it beyond words. Now when she calls we don't even try to talk. She just says come and I get in the car and go down. I think because I worry about the patients, having these new women care for them and not knowing them, I didn't know if they would get it. Get how important the patients are. I think they do. Yes, we are all still growing here and learning every day, but knowing that they will call for help when they need it and not be afraid of calling, gives me peace knowing the patients are in the very capable and caring hands of my nurses.

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.