July 10, 2012 and the wee hours of July 11, 2012

July 10, 2012

We woke up to no power and no running water at our hostel.  (I’ve added this in after the fact: At the time, we totally brushed this off as not a big problem, what’s one morning without power and water? It’ll be back soon, right? Little did we know this would be the start of 4 days with no power/water…) We got to the hospital and realized that they too, had no power.  Take a minute to think about what would happen at a Canadian hospital with no power. Probably something close to chaos with computer systems, monitors, xrays, no LIGHT. Here, well, it wasn’t quite business as usual but pretty much. Operations were postponed and the lab was backlogged (can’t look under the microscope at specimens with no light)  but other than that, you just make do.

We continued with rounds as per usual. Some very interesting cases… so many fracture cases from piki piki accidents made me re-think my new found love of the motorbike mode of transportation… We spent the day essentially joining onto any service that had something going on. Once the generator was up and running, we visited the lab to view malaria and TB samples under the microscope, we helped the nurses with wound dressing, we observed ultrasound examinations (some people had walked from very early in the morning to get an ultrasound!).  And, of course, we found our way to the maternity ward and were able to scrub on a c-section that afternoon.

Later in the evening, we all set off to visit Nkoaranga Orphanage. The orphanage is right behind the house we’re staying in and from the early hours of the morning, we can already hear the children screaming and laughing and playing. The kids are adorable- all under 6 years of age or so, they are wild and fun and happy and completely excited by visitors. They laugh and beg to be picked up and have runny noses and sticky hands and smile and play and are just so loveable. The mamas who run the orphanage are amazing. There are around 30 children there, and they look after them all- which literally includes hand washing diapers when the power goes out. The laundry alone is staggering. We tried to help by feeding the kids, giving bottles, and helping to put the babies to sleep- diaper changing, covering beds with mosquito nets, giving kisses. 🙂 We were exhausted after a couple of hours- how they do it all day is beyond me! 

July 11, 2012- 12:30 am

In our time spent in the maternity ward, Julia and I had gotten to know a lot the midwife-nurses, and also the pregnant ladies milling about, waiting to give birth. It’s actually pretty funny- the women here come from so far away when they’re due to deliver, but many do not go into labour right away. So day after day, you see them  lounging on the hospital lawns, walking up and down the hill to keep things moving, chatting with groups of other women in the similar situation. A gaggle of women. No men. The husbands don’t come til later. But you will frequently see soon to be grandmothers, aunts, sisters, etc. joining in as well. We’ve gotten to know a fair few and they frequently call to us, have us feel their bellies and laugh as we run out of Swahili words to say to them.

Anyways, after waiting around for 2 days for deliveries with no success, only to hear that 6 babies were born during the night, Julia and I took matters into our own hands and gave the night nurse-midwife, Cecilia, my cell phone number. Essentially, we placed ourselves on call. And, at 12:30, while the others were sleeping, my cell phone excitedly rang and Julia and I whipped out of bed and ran down the hill to the hospital. There, we found a soon to be new mother, somewhat anxious and in a fair bit of pain from her contractions. Julia and I set to work trying to calm her, fetching things for the nurse and then helping with the delivery any way we could. There is only one to two nurse-midwifes on the ward at any given time, and giving birth is a very womanly affair. No husbands are present. The doctor isn’t even called. It does make you wonder what would happen in case of an emergency, but luckily, we never had to find out.

Our delivery was long, but went relatively smoothly, and finally a beautiful little girl entered the world. I got to clean her up, suction her nose and throat and swaddle her in kangas, the traditional Tanzanian cloth, before I passed her off to Julia to be weighed. Absolutely nothing beats the feeling of helping a woman deliver and then presenting her newborn child to her. It’s a complete rush. The woman here absolutely astonish me. They deliver with no anesthesia and very little complaint. They bring their own cloths for their blankets and for the baby to be wrapped in. Then, they literally get up and walk back to the ward from the delivery room, and lie down with their baby cuddled next to them. This time, we got to follow the new mama back to the ward, carrying her baby. Again, what an amazing feeling. Smiling grandmothers, happy relatives, the other patients on the ward all joining in on the joy, thanking you… while truly, we were just so grateful to be part of something like child birth that is uniquely wondrous every single time it happens, even if it’s the most natural thing in the world.

With much joy,

Alina

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