Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Might be a little gross.....caution while reading and eating..

I get to see a lot of really cool stuff here (both medical and non). However, in terms of the medical stuff, it's a little awkward to take a picture of someone who has mething worth taking a picture of. However, I took one of this kiddo because I knew (or was really hopeful) that he would look a lot better after treatment and wanted to show him the difference).

He came in with a dental abscess. History is always hard to get here because time is not really a high priority. When I asked him how long this had been a problem, he told me it had been three days. Um...I don't think so. This definitely started more than 3 days ago. But anyway, he came in and his face was H.U.G.E. The tooth that was bothering him was on the bottom on the left side. The whole left side of his face was swollen and it was moving to the right side.

Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to turn it around. You can see that his left eye is completely swollen shut.
I love playing in pus so a part of me really wanted to poke at his face, but I was a little nervous because of all the blood vessels and nerves around there, so we decided to start him on antibiotics and see him in the morning.

The next morning when I went to see him on rounds, his face had started draining on the outside! The infection had literally eaten through his skin and was now draining outside his mouth. Ok. Time to cut. Yes!! Since I really love draining things but haven't done it a ton I had someone come with me who does it all the time.

I got everything ready and went to make the incision. I made a little incision but the release of pressure was so great that the pus erupted like Old Faithful...all over my scrubs. Awesome! But the smell was NOT awesome. Foul! Then came the part that I don't like about I+D's which is the fact that getting as much drainage out as I could was really painful for him. I hate that part.

We left a drain in and when I came back the next day his dressing was saturated with more drainage. Good sign! We continued with the antibiotics and dressing changes and day by day he got better.

You can see both his eyes!!

At this point he was asking to go. This is always a dilemma for us because we know that a lot of times when they go, they will not keep taking their medication. They have a lot of reasons, some of them kind of valid, but whatever the reason, when we have really sick patients, we will occasionally keep them in the hospital just so we're sure that they'll finish their medicine. While this kiddo looks a lot better, he still needs more treatment. However, each day he's here, his bill goes up and since it's planting season, it means that he and his father (who was with him) are not planting their crops. So the dilemma is to send them home before they're ready, or have them abscond in the middle of the night and not take any of their medications with them at all. We decided to let him go with strict instructions to finish his medicine and get that tooth fixed/pulled! Hopefully he will! Anyway, just wanted to share a great success story...... cause I love those!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Expanding Family!!!!

I got the call at about 2pm. I'd bought extra phone cards for just such an occasion! My sister was calling to say that the blessed event has begun....her water has broken! Woo hoo!
When we found out that Lis was pregnant and I wasn't going to be around, we discussed whether I should fly home for the labor or wait until Christmas and meet my new little niece at about 5 months. We decided that since little newborns are really cute but pretty much just like to eat and sleep, I'd wait until Christmas to meet her. Sounds good in theory but when I got that call I definitely had a few fleeting thoughts of whether or not I could find a way to hop on a plane and jet home. It would have been awesome to be able to use my emergency medical insurance! They would fly me to any hospital so I'd just pick my hometown one....where my sister was conveniently in labor! Perfect plan. But my friend refused to help me break my leg and I couldn't saw my own arm off like this guy in a movie I just watched so...I stayed here.
I called for an update every couple of hours. I felt kind of bad because I was eating dinner with some people I'd just met and I kept texting which is horrible cell phone etiquette and drives me crazy but....I didn't really care. This is Mini Me being born!! (I've dubbed her this because before she was born I already had SO much in common with her!)
It was time for me to go to sleep and still no baby so I set my alarm clock to get up every hour to call and check. I was too excited though, so I didn't really sleep much inbetween alarms. At about 4:15am my time I got a call that little Anna was here and Elisabeth was doing fine. Yeah!!! Thanks so much Jesus!
When my sister described the pain it made me think these Sierra Leonean women are rock stars for giving birth with nothing! I've been checking Facebook incessently looking for pictures and today went down to the OB ward to live vicariously through the little newborns were there. None were as chubby as my new niece!! :) Love that! :)
It was harder than I thought it was going to be, not being there for the birth but my family worked really hard to make me feel included so that was really sweet! So thank you Lord for a safe delivery of my new niece. Anna, can't wait to see you in December!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wudup Freetown?

This week I've had a little mini vacation. I came down to Freetown on Thursday for one last meeting with my buddy WMT member Chad before he left to join his family in the States. Since I have to be in Freetown for a meeting this Friday and since the road back to where I'm staying upline is ridiculously long and rough, I decided to just hang out down here for a few days. It's been delightful. :)
I went to the beach yesterday. Up north I am a land that the right word? (No ocean nearby). So I went to the beach yesterday for some alone time with my book, my Bible and my journal. I may or may not have ended up having a chat with a guy who told me at the end of our conversation that he wanted to write to my family to tell them that he liked me (which is the first step in the marriage process).
I haven't come up with the perfect responses to these kind of awkward situations so I told him to "trust me, he wouldn't want to marry me....I'm different, I'm weird." (You can talk to my family or most of my friends about the veracity of this statement). Anyway, when he asked what I meant I told him that I've noticed that here a lot of people tend to get married but then have girlfriends and boyfriends on the side. This wouldn't be OK with me. (Note: This is a generalization! I know that this is not how every relationship here is....but it is common.) He said "Ah, you're strict!" Yup. That's me. Very strict. He then proceeded to tell me that I should text him my list of rules and he'll see if he can abide by them. I'm flattered. :)
Today, I bought a car. This was a painful process. Some days I really wish I'd gone to mechanic school instead of nursing school. It was particularly painful because I have a Jeep sitting at home that I bought to ship over here. Fixed it up pretty and everything! Then I got here and realized there are very few Jeep Cherokees so parts are going to be hard to come by. Toyotas are the king of this jungle. So I bought a Toyota 4Runner. It has low miles and has only been in Sierra Leone for 2 years, driven in the city by an NGO worker. All good things. It looks SUPER rough on the outside but my mechanic said the engine looks great so Boris (the name given to the car by its previous owner which obviously I will keep to keep the car from becoming confused) and I will be spending a lot of time together. Welcome to the family Boris. Please be nice to me.
Tomorrow I'm headed back into Freetown to tackle the list of things I need to buy before heading back up country and will hopefully get to see a couple friends.
I'll admit, it's nice to get a little break. It's nice to wear clothes other than scrubs, to fully charge my electronics because I have electricity for more than 2 hours a day but mostly to get a break from the death that seems to be a new constant in my life at the hospital.
That being said, I am excited to go back! Even though sometimes I feel like I'm in the middle of nowhere and I really miss my friends in Freetown, I think God is really giving me a love for this community! Which is awesome......cause that's just how He rolls. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Come, now is the time to worship

I have a love/hate relationship with going to church here. I have since the first time I went 5 years ago. I love going to church because I love worshiping Jesus. I also love worshiping Jesus with other people who love Jesus and who love worshiping Him. Also, I love that they worship Jesus differently here, so that's fun to get to be apart of.
There are a few reasons that I get a little sick to my stomach before I go to church each week.
#1. I am tall. I have come to realize that the Salonean people are slightly shorter in stature and therefore when I am standing in a big group (like at church), I stick out a bit. Not a ton, but enough to give me a good view no matter where I'm standing. I've always been a little insecure about my "tallness" so....strike one.
#2. I am white. I am the only white person who goes to my church. That, by definition makes me stand out anywhere I go here. Mothers hide your children, Tall, White Girl is here! (And actually, no need to hide them because any child under the age of about 4 starts screaming when I make eye contact). They hide themselves.
#3. When God made me and was deciding what to give me, he left the bottle of "rhythm and ability to dance" on the counter. I just don't have it. (My Aunt Randi has the video to prove this and likes to torture me by showing it over, and over! Yes. Called you out Aunt Randi!). Well, these Saloneans LOVE to dance at church!! My strategy is usually to find a kid to pick up so I can just kind of sway....but no kids at this church will come to me!! Awkward.
#4. I speak English, not Krio. Now don't get me wrong, I really think my Krio is improving. However, this church loves their loudspeaker so the words are BLARING. Also, it's being translated from Krio to Limba (another language in the area) and a lot of the time the Limba guy starts translating before the Krio guy finishes his sentence. And this is done at very high decibels through the microphone. It's a little harder to follow that way. So I end up nodding and smiling and pretending like I have a clue what's going on around me.

So those are the primary reasons why, while I really do love going to church here, I get a little bit nauseated right before I go in. Well this past week at church was a special occasion. The whole service was led by the kiddos! It was so fun! They led all the singing, performed as skit (I understood about 1/5 of it) and one of the guys gave the message. They were also trying to raise money so they had a little fundraiser thing where 4 different kids did a little speech about why a certain thing was important. Ex. one kid talked about the importance of water, one health, one education, etc. At the end of each speech, there would be a little bucket and people would dance their money up to the bucket.
At the end of the speeches, the pastor got up and was talking. All of the sudden I heard blah blah blah Emily will dress the winner blah blah blah. Wait what??? My head flew around to find someone to tell me if I really did just hear my name up there and what the heck am I supposed to do???
Yup, that was my name alright. Apparently, after they counted the money, the one who raised the most would be declared the winner and I was supposed to go up and "dress them." They told me they'd help me do it. Oh crap. Can I say that here?? This was not helping me to blend in!
So I sat there waiting for them to tell me to go up. When they told me to, I went up to the front. I just stood there. Not a clue. Some music started playing and the winner started dancing. Dang it. Dancing. Other people came up and started dancing around her. Great. Dancing....and I'm in front of the whole church! I've had nightmares that were very similar to this scenario.
Anyway, I did my best to sway a little to the music, put the little ribbon around the winner's neck, smiled awkwardly for a few photos and fled back to my seat. I'm pretty sure they regretted calling me up there.
The next day I met someone new and he said, "Yes, I saw you at church. You were not sure what to do. You were looking around a lot." I have GOT to learn how to dance!!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Touched by an Emily

The other day I had to chuckle. I was saying hi to Moses, the guy coming to replace the peds ward nursing assistant. When I greeted him, I gave him a "hi-five." I'd taught him this the day before and told him that's how we greet people. (Working with high-school boys for years teaches you to be super careful about the physical contact so hugs are out, hi-fives are in). Anyway, the woman who was leaving asked what that was about and he said "well, that's how we do it here in the Peds ward." She was mildly offended I hadn't taught her the hi-five greeting. :)

I have learned so much since I came here but this little exchange caused me to pause and see what little touches of "Emily" I see around me. The high-five greeting was one. The other little chuckle I had was when I saw a little kiddo being brought from the OR with an IV in his arm. Here, they are big fans of the scalp IV's. I hate them. It means that you leave the needle in the head of the kid and most kiddos do not enjoy this and tend to move their head a lot. This means that the needle usually slips out or digs into the side of the vein which makes the IV useless. This often happens before they get from the OR (where the IV's are put in) to their bed. Plus I don't know how to put them in. So I always go for the arm. It's a back and forth with the Sierra Leoneans and I and we give each other a hard time about which one is better. I'll admit I did a small dance of joy when I saw a kiddo coming out of the OR with an IV in the arm that I hadn't put in. Victory! :)

The one other area I've seen a "touch of Emily" is the tradition of going away parties. We had a batch of nursing students here and they left last week. In their honor, I made a couple batches of brownies and wrote "Goodbye Nursing Students" on them. They thought it was hilarious. We have a group of Community Health Officer Students here who are leaving next week. Yesterday one of the students came up and told me that when they leave, instead of brownies he would like me to cook them some Jollof Rice instead. I was excited that my little send off tradition had caught just have to find someone to teach me how to make Jollof Rice.

I have learned so many things since coming here. Everything from the way I think and practice nursing, to the way I think about and view God has been affected by coming here. It's kind of fun to see the tiny ways I'm having an impact here. Hopefully I will have more of an impact than high-fives and going away parties........but I'll start with the little things. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lost in Translation

There are so many languages here. Like 4,000. Ok, that's a slight exageration but there are quite a few even in this area so I had to kind of pick one to try to learn first. The one I chose is Krio. It's the one spoken in the city and I'll have the best chance of finding at least one person in a crowd who can speak that's the one I chose.
The other night I was down at the hospital seeing some patients. This is how it usually goes. The patient comes in and I start asking them questions in Krio. Then they stare at me blankly. Then my Sierra Leonean friend chuckles a little and asks the same questions in REAL Krio. Then I feel like an idiot.
Even though I feel pretty stupid, I really want to learn Krio so I keep trying and am learning a little at a time. The other night I decided to try out a few words I'd heard said around me. I was asking about this man's poo and asked if "ee go kaka?" There was dead silence for a second and then everyone around me started laughing. What the heck? I KNOW I've heard that phrase a bunch of times! After they stopped laughing and we finished the interview, I asked what that was all about. Apparently "kaka" is a word that you only use for children's poo. The fact that I'd used it with an old man was apparently hillarious.
This led to a conversation in which they told me that I should try to learn all of the "offensive words" first so I'll know when people are saying bad things about me. How many people are saying bad things about me??
Oh Sierra Leone......I'm glad I can make you laugh.

Monday, June 6, 2011

This is the life......

Wow, I can't believe it's been a whole week since I've written anything. You know what they say about time flying...... I decided to give all my faithful readers (hi mom) a glimpse into what I do with my day. (I know, I know, you've been dying to know......)

6am BEEP BEEP BEEP. Time to rise and shine! I wake up and spend the first part of my day hanging out with Jesus. I love this part of my day! Also, I HAVE to have it. There's so much going on during the day and I get pulled in so many directions that I have to consciously remember the real reason I'm here.....every morning. I forget easily. :)

Now I'm ready to greet my day. And the little friends that didn't make it through the night.

Thanks to our excellent bug killer, we have 5 or 6 of these things belly up most mornings. Granted, I don't come from Cockroach County but still....I had NEVER seen ones this big before. Sorry's you or me.

After the "sweeping of the cockroaches" (like the running of the bulls...but different) it's breakfast time. My former roommates will testify to the fact that I love cereal. At home I think the count was at 14 boxes in my cupboard at one time. But what can I say? It's quick, almost no clean up and when Safeway has their sales I can get them for 2 bucks a box! I love cereal deals! Well, at $8-$10 a box here, cereal isn't really an option most mornings (plus the powdered milk leaves a little to be desired) so I've gotten creative with oatmeal, eggs and toast. Look mom, I'm cooking!!

Next it's down to the hospital at 8am to start rounding on the patients. This isn't actually part of my job description but when I round with the doctor I learn SO much that I think it's really important for me to do right now.

This is Dr. Pierson, some CHO students (Community Health Officer....kind of like Sierra Leone's version of Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant) and my roommate doing rounds in the Peds ward. (No, I am not going to start wearing white and a cap.) Dr. Pierson and his wife lived here for about 20 years and I loved hearing their stories and learning whatever I could from them. Sierra Leone is not an easy country and I've met quite a few burned out missionaries since I've arrived so it was so awesome to see a couple who still love it here after so long!

Anyway, I digress. Doing rounds usually takes several hours and we finish by 12 or 12:30. After rounds I head back up to my house for a couple of hours. During this time I usually attack some of mounds of dishes that seem to appear out of nowhere or do some other housework. Sometimes I'll blog. :)

At about 2:30 I head back down to the hospital to start my shift. My friend and I oversee the hospital while the doctors are at home. We see the new patients that come and help with any problems that the current patients might be having. It's fun because you never know what is going to walk through the door (machete fight, snake get the picture). Fun!

(These are a couple of my friends putting an IV in a kiddo with a hemoglobin of 3. I hate malaria. Just barely alive....but doing good today after 2 blood transfusions!!)

We have a group of nursing students here right now and I've really loved having them here! They are so eager to learn and I've found that I really like teaching.

This is us goofing around one evening. I swear.....Sierra Leoneans do not like to smile for pictures!! I think this was take 3 or 4 with me yelling "SMILE!!!!" right before each take. They're getting ready to leave this week although I've tried to convince them to stay! But these are big city girls and this area is just too rural for them. Bummer.

My shift is supposed to be over at 10 but depending on what's going on at the time, I'll usually get home between 10:30 and 11:00pm. By that time I'm so wiped that it's quick shower time and then off to bed.
My days are long and there are a lot of them (no 2 day weekend here! These Saloneans work 6 days a week!) but I really love it! I can't imagine a better job. :)

So there's a little glimpse into what I'm doing with my time over here. I'll work on taking some pictures of the hospital and my house so then you'll practically be here yourself!! (And you'll feel right at home when you come visit me! :)