Monday, October 31, 2011

21 weeks down, 4 to go!

A few little stories from the ward this past week:

"Nurse" Shaka is a man who had a giant lipoma removed from the back of his neck. He told us he's a nurse at a local hospital, and perhaps he is. The other day he was found adjusting the IV drip rate for another patient. Later on he and another patient from the ward were found in the ICU with a patient on isolation, all three of them having some heated discussion about who knows what. Concepts like "patient confidentiality" and "isolation precautions" can be difficult to communicate sometimes.

"Fanta Man" was a confused elderly patient who kept things interesting for D ward the past couple of weeks, doing things like holding intense conversations with the soap dispenser and attempting to escape the hospital. Ali has some pretty hilarious stories:

It's been encouraging to see little Kadiatu's spirits improve. She's a 5-year-old girl who had facial reconstructive surgery to correct damage caused by noma. She was NOT a happy camper over the weekend. Her wounds need some time to heal before we can let her put food in her mouth, which means tube feedings for a week. On Saturday, anytime I touched that NG tube (or her IV, or her bandages, or pretty much any part of her) she would scream bloody murder. That night she ripped out everything that was attached to her, so Sunday she took another trip to the OR to have it all replaced. When I saw her again Sunday evening I saw her new NG tube was sutured to her face and safety pinned to one of the braids on top of her head. Poor pikin. She didn't seem to be screaming quite as much Sunday, but still whimpered throughout all of her tube feedings. Rhoda and I took turns holding her while the feedings were going, and she managed to get through the shift without ripping anything out. Tuesday and Wednesday Kadi ventured outside when we took the patients to Deck 7, but she spent the hour just sitting in her caregiver's lap, looking at the water. Today on Deck 7 she actually played a little bit, went for a ride on one of the tricycles, and walked back downstairs by herself instead of being carried.

We're coming to the end of the Sierra Leone outreach, and the hospital will be closing in 3 weeks. It's strange to think that we only have 3 weeks left of NG feeds, sterile dressing changes, chlorhexidine mouthwashes, cleft lip babies with their adorable little steri strip cat-whisker faces spitting medicine back out at us, singing with our patients, praying with them as we send them off to the operating room and celebrating with them when they come back transformed. As things wind down we're starting to tidy up the wards, scan all the charts into the computer system, and get ready to pack up the ship before the sail in December. It's bitter-sweet, but I'm glad I'll be here until the end. I think that packing up and scrubbing down the hospital my last week here will help me say goodbye to this place, bring a sense of closure to my time here. It was definitely a big transition to get settled in here on the ship when I came, and now I begin another transition as I prepare to come home.

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