Not being able to speak Hausa or French really limited my ability to communicate with the patients at Galmi. But it didn't prohibit it. One of the characteristics I really appreciated about the Hausa was their ability to laugh, even through great adversity. And their desire to help. And to teach.
Because there is not a regular orthopedic surgeon at Galmi, the doctors there have no other choice but to use traction. I hung out with the patients in traction quite a bit -- they had no way of getting away from me! :) There was a little girl, "Z" (about 6 or 7) who had experienced some trauma and so as a result spent six weeks in the same bed, staring at the same ceiling, laying in the same position.
If I was in Z's position, I would have gone mad, so I went in to try to encourage a little play with her. Using the Look & Listen technique I learned at language acquisition training, Z began to teach me the words in Hausa for "eyes," "nose," "mouth," "lips," "ear," "earring," "neck," "arms," "hand," "legs," "feet." Soon, her family members jumped in to help teach. For a week I would stop in everyday and "practice" with Z and her family. They laughed with me as I stumbled over syllables and cheered for me when I accidently got one right.
Soon, her x-ray revealed that her femur had healed and she was to be discharged as soon as she could walk with a pair of crutches. They put a cast on her from the tips of her toes to the top of her hip; she was to be non-weight bearing until she saw the ortho (who arrived on the plane I flew out on). Finding her crutches that fit proved to be impossible, so with a saw and drill, I refitted the crutches as best as I could. But teaching her to use them was the greatest challenge of all.
Without my words, we worked on her standing balance (one leg is hard enough, but having to hold up a heavy cast is quite the challenge for a little one who is still developing gross motor coordination), hopping, and eventually crutches. How did we accomplish this? Easy. Through a language lesson. In class they called it "Total Physical Response" . . . when the native speaker gives the command to stand up, you stand up. So, finally, through a lousy game of charades, Z's mom understood what I wanted her to do. Tashi! She commanded Z. And she stood up. Once she was sitting again, I looked at mom and said, "In English, this is stand" and I stood up. "Hausa??" I shrugged. Tashi. She repeated. I stood. Zumna. I sat down. Tashi!! Z shouted. I stood. She giggled. ZUMNA!! I sat. TASHI!! Up. ZUMNA!! Down. Z laughed and laughed. Soon there was a small crowd gathering watching the power this little one had on me.
Z has a beautiful laugh.
There was also an old man, "A," who lost one of his legs. Any time I would come into the room for crutch training with him, he would say, Sai an jima! ("See you later.") He continually refused to learn to walk again. One day the doctor told him that he couldn't go home until I said he was up and walking. Turns out, the crutches he had been given were as tall as he was! So, back to the shop for the saw and the drill!
Once his crutches were the right height for him, we tried some bedside standing. No good. He needed something to hold on to. Hmm. Where could I find parallel bars?? Nope. Next best thing. The hand rail along the ledge between the outpatient department and the inpatient wards. Seeing the potential hazzard of a bad fall, I acted out the danger of not paying attention to where his foot was positioned. He had a laugh at my charades.
When I work with English speaking patients on standing tolerance and balance I often engage them in a task or conversation in order to distract them from standing. Hmmm. Yet again, I had no Hausa. But I did have Look & Listen!! I was wearing blue and green. He had on a deep red. I pointed to my shirt: "In English, this is green." He caught on quickly and I learned the words for "blue," "red," "green," "yellow," "orange," "brown," "black," and "white." "White" was the most fun: A's son was standing behind him, holding the wheelchair in place, he was wearing a white cap. I pointed. He stated the word for "white." I pointed to something else white, and he said the word (I've forgotten it already). This went on with a few more "white" things . . . and then I pointed to the gray on A's head. "WHITE!" He and his son roared with laughter! Then I pointed to my arm. "WHITE!" They roared again. The Hausa really have a great sense of humor!