July 12, 2012
Another day of no power, and no water. The hospital’s generator has also run out of fuel for the time being, so no operations happening today.
Instead, Julia and I spent the morning in our favourite place- you guessed it, the maternity ward. One of our supporters back home, Corunna United Church, had graciously donated a ton of baby hats and baby blankets knitted by members of their community. Add to that some donations of baby cloths and diapers, and voila- Julia and I had some pretty adorable little baby packages to distribute. Walking into the ward with these packages was wonderful. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is no nursery, so women just snuggle their newborn next to them on their own bed. So, after distributing packages to the ladies we knew and had seen deliver, women began pointing to other beds all around the ward. The women would pull back her blankets to reveal a little swaddled newborn. When all these babies had been delivered, I had no idea but there were enough to keep as happily occupied, placing warm knitted caps on little baby heads over and over. I did some quick baby check ups too, listening to breath and heart sounds, but luckily everyone seemed to be in good shape. Wonderful morning. 🙂
In the afternoon, Dilan, Julia and I embarked on another unique experience- following the palliative care team (composed of a palliative nurse and a driver) on home visits in the surrounding villages. Once again, I found myself in the back of a pick up truck, rocking over two-track roads, tall banana trees forming a canopy over our heads. All of a sudden, the truck would come to a rolling stop in front of a small clearing in the banana trees, and we’d follow a dirt path to find a small, low dwelling, open made of mud and concrete. It is difficult to find the words to explain the poverty of some of the living conditions. Some of the poorest dwellings would be dark, barely containing a single window, 2 small rooms, and the walls stained black from years of cooking inside. Others, however, were modest but beautifully situated, banana and mango trees filling the yards. Chickens pecked around most of them, some had gaunt cows and dogs wandering as well. Yet, without fail, the inhabitants would greet us warmly, with smiles and signs of welcome. On one visit, an elderly bibi (grandmother) appeared, tiny and stooped, dragging out lawn chairs and insisting for us to sit. On another, four of the oldest looking bibis I’ve seen here all sat around on small wooden stools, outside a small hut. Barely a full set of teeth between them, tiny and wrinkled, they nonetheless smiled and exclaimed at our visit, pointing at our eyes, touching our hair. Upon our leaving, one emphatically grasped my hand, speaking to me quickly in Swahili. How much I regret not being able to understand more of the language.
It is important to understand the patients seen on palliative visits do not necessarily mean they are terminal. Many are simply too poor or too frail to seek treatment at the hospital, and palliative care visits are free, funded by another charity. We saw a number of people who were relatively healthy, but had experienced amputations or paralysis and simply required follow up for the physiotherapy they were receiving elsewhere. But we did also see cases that were more severe and for them, the palliative nurse could only offer frequent check ups, simple treatments and pain management. After a long afternoon, it was finally time to go.
Our group spent the evening visiting at the orphanage again. This time, we brought stickers, stuffed animals and other goodies (many again, graciously donated by Corunna United Church). The kids went absolutely wild. It was a riotous circus of kids exchanging stickers, plastering our faces with them, trading, trying to see what else we had to give. Even though we were only here for a short time, its hard not to completely fell in love with one of the babies. Asked to listen to the breathing of one of the little boys, he curiously grasped by stethoscope, was totally mesmerized by the glow of my watch, and generally stared at me with curious intelligent little eyes. Watching him, I felt so grateful that Nkoaranga Orphanage was such a solidly run home, and was receiving a lot of help from an outside organization, the Small Things. Find them here http://www.thesmallthings.org/.
When we got home and were preparing for bed, Dilan literally burst into our room exclaiming, “Power is back! Charge everything!” For a moment, we all stared at him dumbfounded then realized the importance of these words. Immediately, everyone was jumping up, turning the heater on to warm water for showers, plugging in phones, computers, cameras, everything that had either died or was on its last bars of battery life. We are all desperate to get the power as we had had now learned it may be in short supply. (After-note: the power went out again by the next morning.) Five warm showers later (desperately needed, I might add) we settled into bed.
Last day at Nkoaranga tomorrow! Can’t believe how fast it has gone.