30 June 2011

Vor You, Veeeddy Gud Price!

Every few weeks we have a Tuareg trader that passes through selling artisan made jewelry and handicrafts.  The stuff he sells is alright, considering he brings it 'to our door' . . . but his prices are HIGH!

But it's also very cultural to barter and haggle for a better price.  Something about a long tradition of giving the vendor the opportunity to demonstrate his generosity.  Some days it's fun.  Other's it just tiresome.

29 June 2011

A Meeting Place in the Worst of It

I watched a little boy take his final breath this morning.  He had just celebrated his first birthday this month.

He died from dehydration caused either by malaria or meningitis, his doctors were waiting for the lab results, his family was preparing to donate blood for a much needed transfusion.

28 June 2011

Hands-On (Family) Education

I used to treat a lot of stroke patients during my former life in Philadelphia.  Here, I’ve had one or two.  I see fewer stroke patients here mainly because most of the time the patient doesn’t come to the hospital for a few days or weeks since the onset of symptoms.  And at that point they are considered ‘medically stable’ and are not admitted, but rather sent home with bloodpressure meds.
On the off chance that I am asked to see a patient who’s had a stroke, it’s mainly for family education.  You know, some exercises the family can do with the patient . . . encouraging the patient to use what functional capacity they have . . . safe transfers . . . etc.  It’s often 15 minutes with the family in the doctors’ office.

25 June 2011

Lessons from Soho

Normally the back entrance to the hospital has people coming and going . . . but it's not 'busy.'  But this morning, at 10:59, it was a buzz of near hysteria.  
There had been an accident between two bush-taxis (or at least that's what I was told), both packed with passengers.  As I ushered my three outpatients to my office, nearly a dozen gurneys whizzed passed us taking bloodied victims to the OR.

23 June 2011

Galmi's Red Light District

I went to the market today.  It's Wednesday . . . our only market day in Galmi.  I went with Alheri and two of our short-term guys in for a few months.  It was a normal trip to the market . . . at least it was once we got there.

About a stone's throw from the entrance of the marché, Alheri and I were approached by a woman asking for money.  Now, it's common for us to be bombarded with beaucoups of 'akwai cadeau?'s (a hybrid of Hausa and French to ask 'Is there a gift??') by every child we pass, but it is rare that an adult will ask on the street in Galmi (in the hospital, and in Niamey, that's another story).

21 June 2011


SoHo is a neighborhood in Manhattan ('SOuth of HOuston . . . street).  It's also an area of London (minus the capital 'H').  But in Hausa, soho means 'Old Man.'

Soho and I work together everyday in the OR.  I think he's my favorite Nigerien.  Apparently he retired a few years back, but keeps coming to work because we're short-staffed.  I don't exactly know why he's still plugging along . . . regardless, I'm glad he is.

19 June 2011

Things That Go 'Bump' on My Head

I've come up with a new get-rich-quick scheme.  I'm going to charge the grasshoppers, spiders, and ants rent!  It's brilliant . . . I'd make a fortune!!  We're talking, Oprah-rich!

One would think that after four months I'd start to be a little okay with all the creepy-crawlies.  But, I'm still walking from room to room armed with a can of insecticide.

Lessons from Oral Rehydration Solution

I don't know if you've ever experienced dehydration.  I mean, real dehydration . . . like plugged to an IV dehydration.  I haven't . . . but since moving to Niger, I've been close a few times.  Usually on Sundays.

I'm not sure why, but on Sundays I don't drink nearly as much as I should and come 5 o'clock in the evening, I'm feeling it . . . massive headache . . . whole body aches . . . sometimes chills . . . usually really gross GI yuckiness that I don't want to describe on a blog for all the world to see . . . weakness . . . oh yeah, did I mention the headache??

18 June 2011

Lessons from Life in the Dust Bowl

My househelper, R., came on Thursday, and worked her regular magic and left my kitchen, bathroom, and floors sparkling clean . . . and rather dust-free.  Mondays and Thursdays have become my favorite days of the week, because while I love the satisfaction that comes when there's a pile of dirt in the corner of a clean floor, I hate, no really, HATE that within an hour, there is no evidence that a broom had ever been swept over the painted-gray cement.

So R. came on Thursday morning.  And that evening my toes relished in the joys of walking through the house barefoot.  As I fell asleep there was a soft wind blowing through the windows.  Clean floor, nice breeze . . . ah, yes, life was good, and I was quickly asleep.

16 June 2011

Wheelchair Wars

One of the most important lessons for every patient in rehab to learn is how to get back up off the floor.  Sure Rule Number Two of OT with Deb. is NO FALLING . . . sometimes, however, it's inevitable.  And while I prefer the fall is on their own time, I do consider it in my scope of practice to teach my patients how to get back up off the floor.

And considering the cultural context here, home life happens on the floor.  Nigeriens don't tend to have dining room tables, they eat on a mat on the floor.  They generally don't have couches, so they sit on mats on the floor.  Most social events take place sitting on mats.  So naturally, moving from her wheelchair to the floor and back is a much needed skill for H.

15 June 2011

Tonight, Jesus is Speaking Hausa

Our morning was interrupted with the awful news that one of the hospital employees died suddenly and unexpectedly during the night.  He was not only a leader in the hospital, but one in the church and community as well.  He was highly respected . . . always ready with a kind smile, gentle word or a good joke.

Yesterday there was work being done on the hospital waterlines, so for a few hours, there was no running water in the hospital.  I needed to wash my hands, and word on the street was they had water in his department.  So I quick went that way and just before I pulled water from the bucket, he came running over and told me it would cost me 600cfa PER DROP!  So, I began counting.

13 June 2011

Who Needs Words

My patients speak to me in Hausa.  I answer in French.

And every now and again we manage to make do.  But periodically we hit the jackpot and communicate.  Typically it's through the language of charades . . . but lately it's been through the tongue of laughter.

Farmer Deb. . . . Most Certainly NOT!

Being as it's hot (and dry) season, any variety we had in terms of fruits and vegetables is now limited to: onions, mangoes, and tomatoes . . . with a pineapple, a head of cabbage and a few puny carrots here or there.  But the rains are coming (soon) and that means it's Garden Season!

Nearly a month ago I fired my gardener.  We sort of had a conflict of interest . . . I wanted a fruitful garden, he had trouble taking orders from a single woman.  So, when his trial period ended, I decided not to renew the contract (let's just say that is a story for another day).

10 June 2011

Topless Transfers

While the saddest news of the week is that Little B. was discharged to the ACU (Ambulatory Care Unit: a series of cement rooms behind the hospital used for patients that no longer need nursing care but still need dressing changes).  I have yet to have time to go say hi, but our goodbye was really sweet.  I gave him his very own little bottle of bubbles and he spent the following hour making the rounds with me as I treated my other patients, lifting everyones spirits with a complimentary blow of the bubble wand (either that or he was rubbing it that he got bubbles and all they have the hope of receiving comme gift is a pair of wooden crutches).

But I have a new patient occupying much of my afternoon.  A woman about my age with a very sweet smile.  H. came to our hospital with multiple bed sores.  She recently suffered a T11 level spinal cord injury, and the hospital she originally went to sent her home after two days.  No wheelchair.  No patient education.  NOTHING.

08 June 2011

Lessons From the Sink Scrubber

M. is a kid that works in the OR Bloc.  He has a high school degree, and started off working in the hospital's housekeeping department.  Word on the street is that our chief of surgery watched him cleaning the hospital hallways for several months and went to the head of personnel and told him that he wanted M. moved to the OR.

This guy cleans as if the Queen of England is due for a visit.

07 June 2011

Today's Best Moment

I want to tell you about the best moment of my day.

I was walking down the hallway of the hospital, hand-in-hand with Little B., from his room to my office.  For the past few days he's been sporting a pair of briefs, SpongeBobSquarePants style.  I had a CRAZY day today and decided to save him for last.

06 June 2011

What is a Google?

My friend R. was recently repositioned from WestWing Secretary to OR Bloc Secretary.  With the 'promotion' came the demand for learning a new skill: how to use a computer.

No.  That's not: how to type.  Or: how to switch from a PC to Mac.  Or: how to create new documents in MS Office.  Nope.  We're talking ground ZERO: where is the power button . . . what is a password for . . . how to use a mouse!

Adventures in WheelChair Building: Part 3

The final chapter.

I was in the OR Bloc today when a guy who works in came into tell me that Granny was here with R.

The chair was finished and had been in my office for several weeks, taking up space while waiting for them to come back for another check-up (and for me to sew a cover for the cushion . . . which, I still hadn't done).

05 June 2011

The Lost Art of Appreciation

Our Pediatrician, Dr. D., and family are leaving this coming week to return to the US.  At this point, they don't know if they will be coming back or not.  Tonight, we had a compound BarBQ as a last hoorah before many people split for the summer.  And since the S-Haus family isn't sure if they will be returning, we took some time to say thank-you and share special memories of the things we appreciate about each member of the family that has been working with us for the past two years.

Listening to my teammates say thank-you to this family that has given so much during their time in Galmi, I began to think 'Why don't we do this more often?'

03 June 2011

I Think I've Been Stood Up

Making friends in Galmi is hard.

First off there's the language barrier.  Sure my French is good enough . . . but my Hausa is not.  Then there's the cultural barrier.  There's a set of rules for the intra-Nigerien relationships and a whole different set of rules for the Nigerien-Batura relationships . . . and I still don't know any of them.  

But being a single woman here throws an additional curveball into the mix.  The young, single girls consider me to be competition and therefore keep me at a distance.  The married women with children who are my age don't understand me as I'm not married, and therefore keep me at a distance.  And then there's the men . . . and if you've been reading this blog since I've arrived, you know all about my interactions with Nigerien men.

The Split Heard Around the World

As you know, it's been a bit of an adjustment for me adapting to my new dresscode.  Not gonna' lie, the calibi and the zuni bring out my rebellious side.

But regardless, I've been learning to successfully tie my calibi so that it stays on my head . . . most of the time . . . and I've been surprised the number of things I've been able to do in my wrap-around zuni without it ending up around my ankles.

02 June 2011


'Na jira! Na jira!' (I waited!) he whispered as we walked hand in hand down the hallway of WestWing.

I froze.

I turned and smiled, 'What did you say?'

'Na jira!' he whispered with a grin as big as his belly.

Plague of Locust

Okay . . . so their not locust . . . their grasshoppers (at least I think they're not).  And it's not one of the 10 plagues against Pharaoh in ancient Egypt, but it certainly feels like it.

I've never seen such big grasshoppers and I'm pretty sure that the ones here can fly . . . or else they leap compound buildings in a single bound.  And despite screens on the doors and windows, those suckers have managed to sneak into my house . . . very uninvited.

At least they're not as ugly as the midigin kanuma's!