Saturday, September 22, 2007

In Bere

September 18, 2007

I arrived at the hospital yesterday morning with Andre. We rode with the same moto drivers as the night before. Sonja, another student missionary here doing social work projects, welcomed me warmly and helped me move my bags to my hut. My African family lives very close to the hospital and they gave me a big hut to live in by myself! They have 5 kids who are very cute and Anatole, my African dad, works as a lab tech at the hospital. He is going next June to a medical equip. tech. program in western Africa and says that God sent me to him so that he can learn English well before he goes. It will be difficult for him because all his training and books will be in English.

Sonja took me to see the hospital after that and meet everyone. Soon I was running back to put on scrubs, grab my stethoscope, and start taking vitals as they admitted patients. The hospital is very primitive and they were very glad to see the supplies I brought, especially the casting and diabetic lancets to take blood tests. They had run out and were poking people with the same needles! James is the only doctor and he has to constantly operate even though he never studied to be a surgeon.

This morning I shadowed the nurses in the med-surg ward and maternity ward. I helped them change bandages, drain infections, and record medications. I wish I knew more French so I could talk to the patients more. Many of them are in a lot of pain and all I can do is somehow communicate that I am there to help them. When the babies see any of us with white skin, they cry! I guess we scare them. Liz, another SM who is doing nursing like me, came to get me this morning to see and help with a delivery. The mother was younger than me, about 15, and her pelvis was too small for the baby to fit through. James had to cut her to make a bigger opening. As I watched, I was doing my best to just keep thinking medically…giving James things as he asked for them and watching everything to learn as much as I could, but finally the other thoughts broke through. James kept suctioning the head to pull the baby out, but it still couldn’t fit, so he started cutting more where he hadn’t put anesthesia, trying to get the baby out quickly because it’s heartbeat had stopped. All I could think about was the mother yelling in pain as he cut, she was so young, and the baby that was probably already dead. I felt a tingly feeling creeping over me and knew that I had to get out of there fast. I excused myself and practically ran out to the little nurses room where there was a little bed to lay down on. As I tried to keep myself from passing out, tears ran down my face at the injustice of it all. Most of the people I had attended to all morning had serious problems, yet hardly adequate supplies to treat them. In the US, when people just have a simple sore throat, they go to see the doctor in an amazing clean facility where the doctors and nurses all have gloves and uniforms with nice music playing in the background. In Bere, the old beds have sticks tied to the corners to hold up mosquito netting, patients have to pay for each step of their care, including the bandages that the nurses put on them. Their families have to live outside the hospital to take care of them and feed them. When we change a dressing, someone has to stand over the wound and fan it to keep the dirty flies off of it. We use the same equipment for everyone and only wear gloves when we are in direct contact with a lot of blood…something my fellow EMTs would probably shudder at. I’ve forgotten all about BSI precautions J.

I had better get back to my hut for the night. I feel so incredibly blessed for where I’m staying. My hut has concrete instead of mud and a tin roof instead of thatching and it is big! My African mother warms water in a bucket for me to wash with every day even though I try to explain that I am fine with cold water…especially in this heat! This evening I ate a delicious meal of rice with mashed cassava leaves and I drink good water from a well. Life is good. And I must remember my blessings every night or I fear that I will become quickly overwhelmed by the poverty here.

What I’ve Learned from One Week in Africa

The art of tucking my mosquito netting in properly so that I don’t get the surprise of a cockroach stuck inside it…kind of an unpleasant night experience.
Saying “Lapia” and “Ce va” covers everything.
Everyone has malaria
Be careful around roosters
Check shoes before putting feet in them
There is no such thing as personal space…especially on a moto or bus
Chew carefully when eating to avoid breaking your jaw when you come across a few rocks
Guavas are the best thing created on God’s green earth!
The greatest honor you can bestow on someone is just to sit with or eat with them.

1 comment:

  1. Sarah, all of your blogs are so interesting and straight from the heart. The BSI thing is a shocker. I'll just pray that you don't get AIDS or something:) I hope that it continues to go well for you and I'll pray that God will help you to deal with all of the heartache that you'll see and provide you with an overabundance of wonderful experiences.