I always save the Trauma Ward for my last inpatients of the day. Mainly because my won't-be husband always puts up a fight when it comes to therapeutic exercise and functional mobility training . . . and it's just too hot to argue before 5pm.
Today was no exception. As I made my way from patient to patient doing therapy, I came to the oldest man in the room. He's been in the hospital for nearly a month with an external fixator in his lower leg. He's been a great patient, always willing to work hard, never complaining of pain. So when he does refuse because of pain, I'm pretty confident that it's legit. And today was one of those days.
He also mentioned that because of the weight of the fixator and the pain in his foot he's having difficulty bending his knee. A common practice here is 'if it hurts, don't move it . . . for months!' and we see a lot of random fusions and contractures that don't make much sense. Hoping to avoid this, I went back down to see Black Market Urwugida M. Sure enough, she found me a metal canister, just the right diameter, to position my patient in bed with a nice prolonged stretch in knee flexion.
I wrapped it in a bed sheet and presented to my patient. He was very satisfied. I quick ran over to the West Wing to find out how to say 'For 1 hour.' The nurse misunderstood my question and gave me the phrase for 'Good Afternoon'. I tried again . . . a few times. 'Har awa daya' he said. 'Hawa aya' I repeated. 'Har awa daya' he said again. 'Harrr a waya.' I said. 'Harrrrr aaaawwaaa daaayyaa' he said a little slower and a little louder. 'Hadaway raya' I attempted. 'HAR AWA DAYA' he said again, in a way that I knew it was time to write it down phonetically. 'Haaarrr aaaawwwwaaa ddddaaaayyyaaa.' I repeated as I scratched it down. He nodded. I hurried away, afraid if I took too long I'd forget it all.
Which I did.
Getting to my patient's bed, I pulled out my cheat sheet and read 'Haaaaa . . . haaaa . . . haaarr . . . rrr . . . haarrr awwwwwa . . . . haaarr aaaaawwwwa dddddd . . . ddddd . . . daya.'
My patient stared at me.
Instead of walking away defeated, as I probably should have, I tried again. 'Haaaarrrrr aaaawwwaa ddddaya' I spit out.
He stared at me again.
I gave a little nervous chuckle (okay, truth be told . . . when it comes to chuckling, there's nothing 'little' about it).
I tried again a third time. And a fourth. 'RETREAT! RETREAT!!' the voice in my head was shouting.
The patients and their family members in the room began to talk amongst themselves. This is a common practice and I usually just tune it all out and pray that someone arrives who speaks French. I must have been mid-prayer when a collective conclusion was drawn and my patient looked at me and said:
'I stay like this for one hour?'
For a moment, the world stopped spinning. I peered at him. 'What did you say?' I asked.
'I stay like this for one hour.'
'You speak English?'
'YOU SPEAK ENGLISH??? SINCE WHEN??? FOR THE WHOLE MONTH I'VE BEEN WORKING WITH YOU?!?!? ALL THIS TIME I'VE BEEN STRUGGLING WITH MY FIVE HAUSA WORDS AND YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?!?!?!
His grin grew.
I am happy to report that I laughed. The other option was to cry . . . but everyone else in the room was laughing . . . guess I just didn't want to be the odd man out.