The first weekend that the wards opened I worked as a charge nurse, a slightly different role here on the ship than being a charge nurse at home. But I love being back on the wards with patients; things happen routinely here that would never in a million years happen in a hospital at home.
Just one example of "only in Africa."
Photo taken last year in Benin.
Any of the nurses here could write a book on the myriad ways that nursing on board is different than nursing at home. I have just one small example for you... nothing spectacular, but it's just one of the reasons I love being here.
The first weekend that the wards were open I worked as a charge nurse in our orthopedic ward. As usual, the orthopedic surgeons came for their morning rounds to see each patient and discuss the plan for the day. We ended by seeing two little boys that were scheduled for surgery the next day. One boy was severely bow-legged, rather like this: < > . The other boy had the opposite problem, and his knees met each other in the middle, rather like this: )( . Interestingly enough, both problems are corrected by the same surgery where an angular wedge of bone is removed allowing the bones to be straightened out.
The surgeons proceeded to talk to the boys' mothers, trying to make sure that everyone understood the surgery. After some confusion over drawings and pictures, finally one of the surgeons sat down next to the patient in the bed and hitched his scrubs up to bare his knees. The other surgeon whipped out a pen and began to draw on the first surgeon's leg and knees, much to the amusement of the boys and their mothers. This is where we'll cut the bone; this is how the bones will be reset to straighten the legs; this is where we'll place the pins: all a flurry of penstrokes on the knee and shin of a surgeon. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing the entire time, for despite the best efforts of the surgeons the mothers looked increasingly confused. And when all was said and done, one surgeon walked out of the wards with his leg covered in geometrical blue designs showing bones, incisions, and wedges.
It almost didn't matter that the mothers didn't understand the surgery, because what matters most around here is relationship and simply being present in the lives of others. There is a language deeper than words, and in that language, the mamas heard we are here, and we are with you. We will take care of your boys. And when we bring them back to you after surgery and they have time to heal, your boys will be able to walk normally, without turning sideways to go through doors and without kneecaps rubbing together. We are here, and we are with you.
I need your suggestions at the moment to help me know what to blog about! Anything you're just unbearably curious about? Let me know in the comments or via email and I may use your question(s) as a jumping-off point for future blog posts.
(In other news, please continue to pray for the Togolese people. As I understand it, the election results preliminarily pointed to the re-election of the current president. The people of Lome have held some rallies and marches over the last weeks, and as a precaution we are avoiding certain parts of town where the opposition support is prevalent. But in the hospital, surgeries continue and ship life continues relatively unchanged.)