Friday, September 28, 2012


Last year when I was living in Sierra Leone my sister sent me a book called One Thousand Gifts. It was a great book that helped me changed my outlook on my situation there. It helped me find joy in everyday things I encountered. In the stressors I had, I was able to think about and notice the little things which caused me to see each situation differently. It helped me to persevere through some difficult times.

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
  • Kosai
  • 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


Yesterday we had one of the largest clinic we have seen. 30 women in four hours. Most were new women we have not seen before and the majority of them were scheduled for surgeries this month. We have a very busy month ahead but it's exciting to have so many women who will be able to come through our doors. For now they will be staying in the village where the village manager will be starting her literacy classes. 

Today there were two women who came to the hospital. One was here a few months ago and had surgery but she needed to return for a planned follow-up surgery. I walked her out to the village and when we were half way down the path, to the point where the women in the village could recognize the patient I was walking with, claps and yelling started coming from the huts. Many of the women recognized this patient from before and it was like a home coming. There was even one who jumped up and danced down the walkway to us so she could carry her baggage and give her a huge hug.

I love how the women become a family to one another. So many of them travel from one fistula center to the next hoping for a permanent cure and they get to know each other. The one who danced down the walkway to greet this patient I was admitting knew her from her previous surgery done here. Even on the ward it is incredible to watch the women and how they interact with one another. Not just with each other, but with the nurses. Last night one of the patients walked around to all the doors making sure they were closed tight and locked before the patients went to sleep. Another is sick with malaria and just feels awful. The other patients come, carrying their catheter bags, to help change the bed and pads of this women. They bring her water and talk with her. We are not short staffed with nurses and we don't expect this of our patients. We have never asked the women to do this. They do it because they know better than any of us what they are each going through. I watched as an older woman helped a girl about half her age use a pot to pee in because she had an IV running. When a woman returns from the operating theatre, there are patients on the ward who will make their own rounds. They will make sure the women have water or someone to talk to since they can not move in bed because of the anesthesia. They love each other and care for each other more than I ever could as a nurse. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I made a new friend. The boys who live next door lost their ball in a pile of bushes. The local boys they were playing with did not want to help them look for the ball because they saw two chameleons living in the bush. Most people here don't like chameleons because they think they bite. I don't know if Simon found his ball, but he did find this chameleon. I was in my house when he yelled for me to come out because he had caught one. It wouldn't be too hard to catch because they move so slow. 

I get a lot of questions about what I eat. This picture is bissap. I had it first when we went to Park W in April and I have been wanting it again ever since. Hauwa, my boss, picked me up some at the market. They are leaves that you boil and it makes a deep red, bitter tasting drink. Add some sugar and it's pretty amazing. 

In the mornings as I walk to work there is a small market right outside the hospital. Many people will stop and buy this, fanke. There is another fried ball like thing called kosai which I prefer to this, but it's more difficult to make so that will be for another days lesson. Ashley and I had a fanke cooking lesson this past Sunday. Hannatou, our translator in the hospital, and Hawa, one of the nurses, came to Ashely's place for the lesson. It's basically flour, yeast, sugar and water, then you fry it in oil. The kosai that I really like is similar and looks the same but it is made from bean flour. Add some yagi pepper to it and it's fabulous!