This week I started working in the hospital. Last week I was following one of the doctors around, trying to get a feel for how things run. This week I started the real work. And what a week it was!!
There is one nurse ("senior staff) on evening shift and the rest of the staff are nursing assistants (junior staff). Since there are multiple "senior staff" on days but only one on evenings, I figured I'd ask to be put there so I could help out. Mohommhad is nurse that I work with and he's great!
As soon as we got there, a mother brought in her very sick child. We went through the motions to get the tests done, medications ordered and given etc. The kiddo was really sick and her parents were really worried. We started off the night with a bang and continued that way. The pediatric ward was overflowing with patients and they were all really sick. Around 7pm I had three kids start seizing one after another. I was still figuring out where everything was and how to get medication after hours etc so it was an exercise in frustration trying to find everything I needed to help our patients. By the time I left I was exhausted.
I didn't really sleep much that night though because I kept thinking about the evening and going over everything again in my mind. Should I have started IV fluids on that kid? Did I prescribe the right medicines? I hope that kids fever goes down. I also had several kids who I didn't expect to make it through the night so everytime I woke up I would listen to see if I heard any wailing. You can always tell when there's a death at the hospital because they grieve very loudly here. I wasn't planning on going on morning rounds the next day but I had to check on my kiddos.
I walked into the ward with a slight feeling of dread to see how many weren't there anymore. To my suprise and relief, they were all still there! When we rounded it even seemed like a couple of them were doing a little better. I left around 10:30am feeling hopeful.
When I returned to the ward at 2;30pm for my shift, I was shocked to find that 4 kids had died within about 3 hours. As I scanned the room I saw with relief that P7 (can't share names..you know, HIPPA and all) was still there. That was the kiddo that I admitted at the beginning of my shift and was pretty sure she was going to die that night. I was suprised that she was one of the ones who was still alive. I went over to her bed to check on her. She still looked really sick. I went to look at the rest of the ward and as I did this P7's father came and got me to come see the child again. When I did I could see that the child's breathing had become more labored and she was now having periods of apnea (long pauses in her breathing.) I knew the end was coming. Her parents were looking to me to do something but I knew there was nothing else we could do. Her little body had just been too sick to fight the malaria...even with the treatment she was getting. So I just sat there with her parents as we watched her take her last breaths. It sucked.
I left that night feeling unbelievable frustrated. These kids are so sick. Unfortunately for various reasons, parents often wait to bring their children into the hospital until they are too sick to be cured. Are we even helping? I had busted my butt so much the night before to try and help these kids and it seemed pointless. I was mad. We had had 18 kids in the ward and 5 of them had died within 4 hours. Almost a third.
I had a mild internal crisis at that point. It was the closest I've come to wanting to pack up and go home and wondered how I was going to stay at this hospital for the six months that I've agreed to. It was too hard and I didn't feel like I was doing any good anyway.
This all happened on Tuesday and Wednesday. Today is Friday and I just returned from rounding on the Peds ward. I am happy and excited to say that we sent four patients home and all the rest are looking better. One patient that I've been worried about for the last three days actually cried when we examined him today which was music to my ears! :) All this to say that God is so faithful. He knew that I was at my breaking point and allowed me to see a glimpse of the good side today. And I'm so grateful. I know in my head that we are doing some good....but I was really excited to get to see that with my eyes today.
I feel like I've been writing about the negative aspects of living here a lot and don't want to focus on that! But the truth is, life is hard. Really hard sometimes. But God is still God, and He's good!
Special shout out to my mom who listened to me vent/have a small breakdown over Skype last night. :) Mom's are the best!