I had a patient that is in her early twenties, Ayalech, who grew up in a village. She had never left the village or ridden in a car. When she got to the hospital she saw a sink and was curious as to if water came out of it. She was amazed. She had never seen running water or electricity. She is a widow and is the mother of two beautiful kids. Her mother and her brought all the money they had, which consisted of about $3. She has ovarian cancer. There is no word for cancer in her language. I almost wonder if that is better.
Before surgery we count all of the instruments and sponges we may use. It is not common, but also not a rarity for there to be flies in the room. Should we start a fly count to make sure it isn’t in the abdomen?
I got spit on the other day. My patient kissed my hand twice, then turned it over, spit in my palm and then kissed it. I never thought I would feel thankful for being spit on. Don’t think that spitting is not reserved for those that you know. The mother of one of my patients, spit on the stomach, hands and feet of a neonate of another patient when he joined them in the room. It is considered the giving of a blessing.
I previously mentioned that we didn’t have trash cans in all the rooms. I asked for trash cans and was told it caused problems with sanitation. I just didn’t get it so I asked, “Why?”. Turns out that when they put trash cans in the room the patients and/or family use them as toilets. They tried putting lids on them, but that just helped to contain the stink. They tried signs. It didn’t work. They even tried putting them in the halls, but people would still urinate and defecate into them. I still want trash cans, not poopy cans, but trash cans.
I didn’t get to do a case the other day because we had no running water. And since we didn’t have water there were no clean gowns. I am just thankful that there were no emergencies during that time.
The literal translation of urethra is urine faucet.
We have to keep sheep at the hospital in order for the lab to run.
Staring. Everywhere you go people stare. I don’t really care, but I do worry about the safety of the people on the road when the driver is staring and not looking at the road. With cell phones joining the world people also take your picture all the time. The other day I was having a drink with a friend and some of the adults across the restaurant took out their phones to take our pictures. I posed… smiled and picked my nose.
One of my favorites is that everywhere you go people yell, “ferenge”, which means foreigner and they point. I usually yell back, “habasha”, which means Ethiopian. I have also taken to telling them my freckles are my habasha skin, so I am a bit ferenge and a bit habasha.
I was talking to the son of a patient in the hospital. He had come by bus with his 60
year old mother to get her admitted to the hospital. They didn’t have enough money for her husband to come by bus so he walked the seven hours to make sure his wife was ok. I was impressed!!!! I also had a man tell me he wouldn’t give blood to his wife and he would let her die before he would consider giving any of his. He told me he could just find another wife.
One of the questions I get to ask the women her everyday is, “How many wives does your husband have?”
In the middle of the night, I did a c-section. As we were getting ready a big rat ran through the operating room. Everyone just glanced at it and said things like, “oh, look a rat.” I asked where it went. I really didn’t want a rat startling me or nibbling on my toes while I had a knife in my hand. The conversation turned to how all the rats go to the obstetric ward because they heard we are doing rat prenatal care. Some humor crosses all cultures.
Distances are not best measured in the actual distance, but the time it takes to travel it. I had two patients in one day live 30 km away, but one was “far” and one was “close”. The “close” on was on the main road and only took about 30 minutes to get to by bus. The “far” one had to walk the 30 kilometers because there is no road and it was in the mountains. She said it took one or more days to walk here.
The other day a baboon was on a leash and being brought to the jail. He had killed a kid that day. Not sure why he was brought to jail. How many years do you think it will take for the baboon to learn that killing is wrong?