Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cleaning, Talking, and Hippos

On Friday we cleaned the floor in the medical ward. It was a little different than the typical floor cleaning. Step one was to send all of the patients and their things outside. Most of them walked, but a couple of them were carried by their families. We rolled up our scrub pants and basically threw soapy water on the floor, and scrubbed it with squeegees. At first it kind of felt like playing in the mud. Especially because I kept splashing myself (don't worry; there was bleach in the water as well, so all of the microbes were dead). When we were done, we swept the water out through a little drain hole in the wall, or out through the open door. The second time we went over it the water was much cleaner, so I guess it's a more effective cleaning method than I thought. Which is cool, because it was much more exciting than mopping a floor the way that I'm used to doing it. Although I wouldn't want the floor in my house to get as dirty as that floor was; cleanliness is more important than level of excitement to clean.

A few days ago I was talking with a friend here, and she told me I speak lots of French. I don't; but that made me feel good. The feeling good lasted until we started talking about Nangéré, the primary local language here, and I told her that I want to learn to speak it. She started asking me if I knew various basic words in Nangéré. She was very impressed when I knew all (4) of the words that she asked me. And she went on to tell me that I speak lots of Nangéré. Ok, so maybe we have different ideas of what "a lot" means....

This weekend we took a trip to the "hippo river." We don't have TV here, so we have to find naturally occurring entertainment. Hippo watching turned to be a good choice. Some of them got out of the water on the other side of the river, and then they started to come towards us. It was really cool. We left before they got close enough to bite us.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bed 10

The medical ward of the hospital here is in a cement building with a metal roof, and a few windows. It is basically two big rooms. There are signs identifying the room designated for men and the other for women, but when all of the beds are full and the numbers don't match up, it gets somewhat mixed. There are 14 beds in the ward, as well as some IV poles. That's about it. Families bring with them everything that they will need. Medical supplies are kept in the office. The floor is cement, and it amazes me how fast it gets dirty again after being swept.

One day not too long ago I was at work, and bed 10 was occupied by a particular patient who was pretty sick. He had a tentative diagnosis of cerebral malaria. He was on all of the proper medications, most notably quinine. But sometimes the proper medications aren't enough.

The family seemed to all be there; they must have known how sick the patient was. A blood transfusion was running, and everything seemed to be in order. But everything wasn't in order. And this patient in bed 10 died. It went a little differently than in the US. No one was crying, and one of the family members came and found a nurse, who went and used a stethoscope to determine whether there was any cardiac activity. There wasn't.

The patient's face was covered with his blanket, and the family began to collect all of their things. Then one by one, the women walked by the open door, carrying the things they had brought, and wailing.

It seemed really harsh. There was no chaplain or social worker standing by to see if any of the family members needed to talk through anything; not even an explanation by the nurse of what had happened. No one paused to ask if they had any questions or if they needed anything. It was just the cold, hard reality of death. There's a lot of death here.

Some of the deaths can be explained easily. They waited too long to come to the hospital, we don't have the medication that they need, we don't have the resources for the surgery that they need. The list goes on. But not every death can be explained.

With or without an explanation, I don't like it when patients die. I'm sure glad it's not always going to be this way.

"Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant life! Who got the last word, oh death? Oh death, who is afraid of you now?" 1 Corinthians 15:54, 55

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sick kids, amputations, and cancer

Happy 2016! I'm finding it very hard to believe that 2015 is over. I hope the new year is off to a good start for y'all.

The last couple of weeks have been very busy around here. We had some super great times for Christmas, with things like popcorn, big franks, cookies, and bonfires. Parties are always fun... Especially in Chad! :)

This past week was even busier, though. Currently, we have 2 doctors at the hospital here. And this week, one of them was gone. So I tried to fill in a couple of small parts of what he typically does. I did rounds on pediatrics, which was really fun. A little scary, but it was good. The main nurse there is quite on top of things, and he would give me a very nice report of each patient, and then basically we either moved on, discharged the patient, or ordered them more medications. We didn't have many kids this week that were super sick; most of them stay only a couple of days. Almost all of them have malaria (actually, maybe all of them...), quite a few have typhoid, and others have other parasites and things. There was also one patient with a snake bite.

The other thing that made my week exceptionally interesting was assisting in surgery! I nursing school I got to observe a few surgeries, but I never scrubbed in. So this week was a totally new experience. It was also a totally exhausting experience. I basically handed the surgeon things, operated suction sometimes, held clamps and things out of the way, etc. (really, I wasn't a very helpful assistant). There were some pretty interesting cases. Lots and lots of hernias, a few hydroceles, a few cancer cases, a couple of small abscesses, a cesarean section, and an amputation. The only one that I found to be really disturbing was the amputation. Yikes. I hope I never ever have to have an amputation. So surgery was interesting, but the days were long. Typically, I work Monday-Friday, 7-3ish. It's basically a perfect schedule; I get off work, have some time to study French, do laundry, send emails, journal, drink tea (a very important part of my life), take a walk.... and other such wonderful things. And then I go home and spend the evening with my Chadian family. But this past week we often didn't get done with surgery until about 7. So I didn't study French at all last week. Not good. Also I was so tired. I don't know why standing in one place all afternoon is so tiring, but it was.

Another exciting detail of my week is my phone. I love my phone. It's my connection with the world, basically. And I like to be connected. At the beginning of the week, my charger was having some real problems. If I plugged my phone into one particular outlet, dangled it at just the right angle, crossed my fingers, and then tiptoed away to avoid bumping it, it would charge. And then on Monday night, my charger broke. Literally broke into two pieces. I didn't cry, but I thought about it. Fortunately, there are some really great missionaries here, so now I'm borrowing a charger. Crisis averted. Then at the end of this week I used up all of my internet, but I didn't realize it. So all day sabbath my phone didn't work, and I couldn't figure out why. Fortunately, I bought more credit this morning and it's working again. Hopefully in the future I'll remember to buy credit before I run out. That would be good.

This next week, the other doctor will be back. I'm very happy that I get to go back to being a nurse on the medical ward. :)