Friday, October 5, 2012

Act of Faith

For many of the women we serve, coming to the center is an act of faith. On Thursday we discharged an old woman who had her fistula repaired and she is dry. In the clinic as we were doing her final discharge screening and education she told us it was difficult for her to come in the first place. She didn't have the support of anyone in her family or village. They kept telling her that the problem she has is not treatable. There is no help for her. It is pointless for her to even try. She has this problem for a reason so she needs to learn to live with it.

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

I have never been one to really be sick. Never broken a bone. Never been hospitalized.

Never, until a year ago. 

In the last year I have: broken my pelvis, been to the emergency room in Sierra Leone, had X-rays, a CT scan, ultrasound, mammogram, MRI and yesterday I was able to add Niger dentist to the list. All of those things listed, except the MRI, were all done in West Africa. Someone told me today I should write a book about my medical experiences here. I don't have enough to fill a book but I have come away with some good stories.

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.