Saturday, July 16, 2011

My first birthday!

That is, my first birthday in Congo. Tuesday, (July 12th, go mark your calendars) I celebrated my 31st birthday. It's not the first time I've been away from my family for my birthday, nor the farthest I've been away, but definitely the first time won't see them within a few weeks of my birthday.

My flowers-the hibiscus were
open at the time I received
It started off in the morning with Sarah (a missionary who lives in the apartment adjoining mine) brought me in a card and some fresh picked flowers-some local wildflowers and some hibiscus. They were beautiful. Then I joined Anna at the market for some much needed shopping. I hadn't been to the market in several weeks, which means I was low on canned goods and fresh produce. (Fortunately sometimes the store comes to me-people come selling fruit on my doorstep.)  We also took a little detour through the fabric area...I may have bought several more pagnes (6 ft bolts of material), and a pre-made outfit for myself that I saw on the way out of the market. Anna had told a few of the shopkeepers it was my birthday, and so I received felicitations from them as we went through the market. One even gave me a pineapple as a gift!

Me, my new 'birthday suit', and cake from Claire 
The afternoon kicked off with lunch with the Harvey's, and a beautifully decorated cake that Claire made for me. It was DELICIOUS! I opened a few gifts there, and showed off my cards I received from my family (they were sent with some visitors who came from the US). Then, it was off to the hospital for some planned Skype time. I spoke with my parents, sisters, and my brother's family.
Demonstrating my new Kindle from my
A painting I received from the Harvey's
Candid's what happens when
you give your camera to someone else...
   Then I headed over to the Wegners for dinner, visiting with the Wegner family and a family of newly arrived missionaries, and more cake. It was a wonderful day I was able to spend with friends and family.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Random pictures

These are some photos I've collected over the few months I've been here. They give a bit more of an idea of what things are like here...

Cardboard and a pagne make a great sugar tong splint!
The pangolin someone brought to church (to sell).
It eats ants.
You can buy all sorts of 'Obama' paraphernalia here.
Including Barak Obama underwear for children.  

This is our own version of a 'tractor pull'. It's how we would get
the old tractor working so that we could start the generators.

I think my favorite thing about this is that it's "recyclable".
The worrisome thing is that these get put in the trash, which is burned.

Bikes of hospital workers outside the hospital. The jerry cans
are for filling up with water before they go home.

If you have to bring your child, you can put a
chair on the back for him to sit in on the way.

Not sure what I like better...the old, dirty looking commode,
or the black bag of dried fish sitting right next to it.
Lunch, anybody?

Each morning when I leave, I see something like this. The people
are waiting to fill their jerry cans with water from the tank on the left.

Another one of the market...this is the area with the produce.
Don't step in the 'mud'. 

This is Samy, a little boy who had a leg amputation due to gangrene.
He was at our hospital for a long time, and had rides on the donkey
to help with balance. This is his drawing of Donkey.

Mama Marie just before she goes home. She was badly
burned on the boat fire that happened in April. She was cooking
on a kerosene cooker, which blew up on her. She had burns on 45%
of her body. Now she has healed, and almost all her skin is now black.

We see some interesting shirts here. Most people
don't know what they say. Some are inappropriate.
This one just made me laugh.
She lost weight rapidly, but not on a diet. ;-)

The cat who lives at my house, Tuxedo.
(I do like that he has a little 'bow-tie' on his mouth)
Not all of our beds sit evenly on the floor. Patients are very
creative in adapting. This is not the only bed that wears a sandal.

"Natural candle" It's sap from a tree. It lets out litte
puffs of white smoke every now and then.

The meat market. Mostly fish, and beef, sometimes crocodile, chicken, or monkey.

Me after a full day of shopping at the market. Usually I don't buy this many groceries.

A little boy who was burned by falling in a fire
on his way to get his dressings changed. He wasn't
wearing anything besides his dressings.

Me with my "new" 1956 Schwinn Tornado, with all original parts.
Also sports a nifty saddle bag basket I purchased with it.

We get scrubs of all colors and sizes. Stephen
is sporting "baby pink", showing off his slim figure,
with a pediatric stethoscope to emphasize his petite frame.

A lizard that came into the Administration building
right before we have our weekly team meeting. He caused
alot of excitement. After running around the room while all
the women stood on chairs and took pictures, he was captured.
I think he was dinner for one of the nurses.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"It'll be good for your blog."

     From time to time, when crazy things happen here, we'll say "well, at least it will be good for your blog." Sometimes I'm inundated with things I could post here on my blog, I'm just that "blessed" here.  God has given me ample opportunity to express perseverance, sometimes so much that I'd like to say "that's enough for now!"
     Today was one of those "it'll be good for your blog" days. First off, it's sunday, and I'm on call. This means I need to round on the patients. I have several options:
a) ride my bike down early and try to see the patients before church (and I rarely finish before church is over)
b) Come to church and round afterwards, but this entails either 1)going home and returning in the truck so I have a way home, 2)riding my bike there and back, or 3)rounding on as many patients as possible before everyone leaves to come home, and returning after lunch to finish seeing everyone else.
     I had decided last night to take route b3 of the above choices. I enjoyed being able to sit in the church service and worship, and attempted to translate the French version of the sermon into English for a visiting nursing student. After the sermon, I left to go start rounding. As I arrived, the charge nurse informed me that there was a "coup de courant" that just happened 10 minutes before. This posed a problem because there was a patient who just arrived with an oxygen saturation of 75% (normal 94-100%), and needed oxygen. The good news was
a) he has significant clubbing which means he has been hypoxic (likely in the 80% range) for quite a while (as in months/years)
b) we had had two other patients on oxygen who now did not need it.
c) we discovered that not all the hospital was without power, just the "ER" and all the wards except Maternity, the chapel, and the Blue House.
The bad news was we only have 4 people who know how to run the generator: Molimo (who was in Dongou-far to the north); Jean-Claude (who was in Epena, far to the south), Stephen (who is in Brazzaville, 900km away), and Joe (who is camping with his family and out of range of the network.)
     So, since church was over, we brought the patient and the oxygen concentrator over to the chapel to put him on oxygen while we problem solved. One of the 'mechanical engineers' who works at the hospital had led part of the service today. I asked if we had any extension cords that we could use to bring the power from the chapel to the "ER", because we couldn't leave the patient in the chapel all day and night, and in seeing a few other patients I had discovered another woman who needed oxygen. He said we did have an extension cord, but he would need to get into the workshop to be able to get it out.        
     Simple, right? Wrong. The keys to the workshop are in the administration office. Normally, I have a set of keys to this office, but it happened to be one set of keys I accidentally left at home. The hospital administrator also has a set of keys, so I walked over to her home to get them from her (which is on the other side of the hospital grounds) only to discover she wasn't at home, but was in fact still at church (near from where I had just come). I asked her for the keys, which she had to return home to get. Finally we had the keys to the workshop, and the 'mechanical engineer' brought back some wire and set to work. I'm pretty sure we have a plain extension cord, but I don't know the word in French, and what he had would get the job done, so I didn't complain. Soon enough he had wires coming from an outlet in the chapel, passing overhead to the 'ER' to provide current. We moved the patient back to the 'ER' and closed the chapel. I believe all of this took about an hour and a half, but it seemed like an eternity. It made it difficult to round as I had to find keys to things, problem shoot, and try to see patients all at the same time.
     I should add that in walking around trying to determine the status of the current in each ward, there was a patient who was upset that he was here all weekend and the nurse wouldn't let him leave because he hadn't cleared his bill. He states he had paid everything on friday, but unfortunately he had no receipt to prove it, and for some reason did not go to discuss it yesterday morning when the cashier was open. He wanted me to do something about it because he wanted to leave. What am I to do about it? I have no keys to the cashier's office, and it is his responsibility to get a receipt. I'm sorry sir, but you'll have to stay until tomorrow when the cashier's office opens up and discuss your case with them. There's nothing I can do. And besides, I'm in the middle of working on a bigger problem that I need to focus on.
     We suspect that there was a lightening strike last night during the thunderstorm that affected one of the sets of solar panels. The wards and buildings without power are on a separate panel system than the buildings with power. So the power issue will have to wait until it can be addressed by Joe, but in the meantime, we have power where we need it: in the "ER" for the oxygen concentrator, and in maternity for the incubator for the preemie. Thank you Lord, for providing for our needs!!!