Saturday, May 4, 2013


There are a lot of really awesome things about living here!!  There are some challenges to living here as well. One of the things that I struggle with the most, is people asking me for money.  It happens all the time. It happens at the house, at the hospital, in my car, on the street…basically everywhere.  One morning I was awakened by a strange man knocking on my door.  When I asked him what he needed he told me that he’d run out of gas for his motorbike and wanted me to give him money to fill his tank.  Seriously? You don’t even live here and someone directed you to the white person’s house for gas money?  Sometimes it feels like I have “Sucker” painted on my forehead. 

In the last couple of years I’ve developed slightly thicker skin.  I’ve learned to say no.  I have to say it a lot.  One of my friends lived in Africa for several years and when I moved over here, her advice was to start off saying “no” but then to pray about it and see which people God leads you to help.  I want to help! But I also don’t want people to look at the “white man” as the solution to their problems.  So I’ve gotten pretty good at saying no.  I’m mean.

A couple weeks ago a kid (we’ll call him Musa)  came to my door asking for Emily.  Since it was me who answered the door and I didn’t recognize him, I figured that I didn’t know him.  My guard started going up.  He wants something.  I’ve been here before.  I took him outside and we sat down and he started talking.  He told me that he was from an area far in the east but that he and his family had come here about a year ago to try country medicine for a problem in his abdomen.  His abdomen would “swell up” (become distended) and he would have alternating vomiting and diarrhea.  He couldn’t eat much.  He’d had to quit school because of the problem and had been trying country medicine (various herbs, leaves, God only knows what else) for the last year but wasn’t getting any better.  This problem had been going on for five years, and he didn’t know what else to do.

I don’t know what it was about this kid that turned my stone cold heart to mush. Maybe it was the fact that he came by himself.  He was a young kid, 14 years old but he was determined to find a solution for this problem.  Long story short, I told him to meet me down at the hospital the next day to talk with a friend of mine who sees the outpatients. 

The next morning he and his mother were at my door by 7am.  Yikes. I told them I’d meet them down at the hospital by 8:30 and we’d meet with my friend.  My friend and I talked to him and did an exam. He definitely had something going on in his belly, and the distension was worse on the right side.  He did an ultrasound and decided that the kid needed an exploratory laparotomy to find out just what was going on.  We explained this to his family.  Unfortunately our primary surgeon had lost his son the week before so no one was really sure when he was going to come back to work.  I explained this as well and told them we’d alert them when we were ready to do the surgery.  They came to my friend and I’s house just about every day. One day Musa came to my house and when I told him to go down to the hospital a little later and talk to my friend, he said, “Oh yes. I already went to his house, but he was taking his bath.”  Boundaries are just a little different here…. J 

Finally the day of the surgery arrived. I made sure I was in on that one, as I was really curious to see what was going on. As I was talking to the surgeon beforehand, he said that he suspected it was a cyst.  Sure enough, when he opened the kid up there was a giant, fluid filled cyst there.  He pulled over 3 liters of fluid out of that abdomen. Impressive!!  No wonder he was having so much pain and vomiting!  He removed the cavity of the cyst and was confident that it wouldn’t grow back.  As he was closing up I turned to my friend (American) and said, “I really hope he does ok!”)  She remarked later that she'd been surprised I’d said that because the surgery had been a success!  They’d removed what they’d hoped to remove, etc.  But I've lived here a while now.  Here…you just never know.
We ran out of OR caps for the surgery, but I didn't let that keep me out of the OR. The anesthesiologist tied this for me. When I got out of surgery though and was explaining what we'd found Musa's mother asked to see the picture of the fluid we'd drained. W hen I told her I hadn't taken a picture of it she said, "But I saw your friend go in with a camera!"  Oh no. That wasn't to take a picture of the surgery. That was to take a picture.....of myself.  Awkward. :) 

The next couple of days were painful for him as you would expect them to be (especially when your only post op medicine is Tylenol).  But gradually he started doing better and after about a week they said they were ready to discharge him.  I was so happy! Musa is seriously one of the sweetest kids ever. SO thankful for anything you do for him and very determined.  There are a lot of things that we can’t do here.  I’m often frustrated by our lack of resources and just want the things we have in America.  But that day I was happy! For a mere $125 this kid’s life was changed forever. 
The day he was discharged he asked me if I’d go to his house with him.  As we walked down there, he was obviously tired and weak. We had to stop a couple times to let him rest. But it’s Africa. It’s ridiculously hot. And he’d just had surgery. So I wasn’t overly concerned. 
Musa and I documenting his discharge.  He was glad to be going home!!
On the way to his house I got the usual silly comments…”Musa! So this is your wife!  Musa! So you’ve married now!”  When we arrived, the Imam for the nearby mosque came to extend his greetings and say thank you.  There were a few more speeches and then they told me that they wanted him to come stay with me. Say what?!  I said, well….thank you very much, but I think he should keep staying with his parents.  They bid me adieu with the Imam’s umbrella “because the sun is hot!” 

The next night I was at home when one of the nursing assistants called me. He told me that Musa had been throwing up all night and was in a lot of pain.  He said his family wanted to take him to a “doctor” in town but the nursing assistant told them they shouldn’t do that without talking to me first.  He said he didn’t feel like he needed to be admitted so I told him I would go see him at the house the next morning.  At 7 am his mom was at my door. He wasn’t doing well.  We agreed to meet at the hospital. 

As soon as I saw him, I knew something wasn’t right. He was really tender on the right side of his abdomen, where the cyst had been. He also had a fever and not many bowel tones.  I was scared for him. I was afraid they would have to open him up again, and he wasn’t strong enough for that.  Since I’M NOT A DOCTOR I went to my handy dandy books and looked up what kinds of antibiotics I could give him.  It’s always a little discouraging doing that because we have so few of the ones that they suggest. But I found a few that we actually had, two of them even in IV form.  I threw everything I could at him.  For 2 days.  Usually they’ll just do a couple doses of IV antibiotics because they’re so expensive, but I was too scared for this kid.  I had to laugh at my own shock when I saw that the bill was close to $100.  How could it be that expensive!?!!?!?  Oh how my perspectives have changed since coming here. J

I checked on him frequently over the next couple of days.  By day 3 I was so excited! He was doing SO much better. He was stronger, he was smiling more, and I actually saw him JUMP up from sitting down on the ground. Like he hadn’t just recently had his belly cut open.  Awesome!

Today I went to check on him again.  He was complaining that his belly was hurting again. NO!!!!!!!!  But when I pushed on his belly he wasn’t tender and guarding like he had been before.  A friend that was with me asked him about his diet and he told us that yesterday he’d eaten some mangos. A LOT of mangos.  He said he was having diarrhea and that his stool just looked like mangos.  Gross.  I told him to lay off the mangos and will hopefully see some improvement tomorrow.  Things are rarely simple here, but I’m praying and hopeful that this kid will be alright!


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  2. Bless you for helping Musa. You've done a wonderful deed for not only him but for his community. I don't think the people are asking you for money strictly because your race. I thinks it is because your a foreigner and many times they equate that with wealth. During my short stay in Sierra Leone my sister and I were pressured to pass out cash. I guess it's expected from the JC's or Just Came! Please keep writing your blog! Ill be back in Freetown in December your blog will uplift my spirits until then.