28 November 2011

His Brain Is Speaking English

This morning I was asked to see a patient who came in for an operation and had a stroke while he was recovering.  The doctor told me that he had left hemiplegia, so I knew it was right side (of the brain) involvement.  But since we live in a world of Where-There-Is-No-MRI, I had no idea what to expect.

It's been a while since I've had a patient with an acute stroke . . . but it's like riding a bike.  One with a cool basket in the front and streamers in the handle bars!

24 November 2011

When the Cultural Tables Turn

Yesterday one of my burn patients asked if she could leave for a day or two and then come back.  I thought it an odd request, but today her baby turns seven days old.

According to the local customs, turning seven days old entitles one to a name and a big party, the biki.  I've been to a few, and yes, they are quite a big deal.  Excessive quantities of pounded millet and sauce are prepared for the early morning meal . . . everyone you know, and maybe some you don't, comes to celebrate the birth and the giving of the name . . . everyone gives a gift to the mother and she in turn offers a little goodie bag . . . and then a sheep is slaughtered, bled, and skinned.  

Yeah, it's a pretty big deal.

23 November 2011

Black Wednesday

Tomorrow is my most favorite American holiday, Thanksgiving.  I love it because we eat stuffing and apple pie . . . oh, and because we get to be thankful . . . maybe I should have put that part first.

And the day after tomorrow, when everyone is eating leftover stuffing and apple pie, is Black Friday.  They call it 'Black Friday' because so many people start shopping for Christmas and the stores have BIG sales and . . . well, I don't really care, because I never shop on BlackFriday.  My STA friend Cool-J, however, is a BIG BlackFriday shopper. 

But we live in Galmi, Where-There-Is-No-BlackFriday and Where-There-Is-No-WalMart.  So, we improvise . . . today is BlackWednesday.

22 November 2011

Why I am Not an Expert

Most of the moments I share here in this space are the unique misadventures that color my new life in Niger.  The thing is, like everywhere else in the world, there are even more 'everyday' type events that have become mundane and even, dare I say it, normal.

I had a great normal-moment today . . . I made two men laugh while doing crutch training with a patient.

18 November 2011

The View from Here

Nurses from the hospital giving babies vaccinations.
We spent the morning with the vaccination team in a local village.  My Momma handed out Vitamin A to moms and babies.  I wandered and took photos.  We both made many children cry . . . simply by saying hello.  Guess they don't get too many ghost-like faces in their neighborhood.

I went mainly to get a better idea of what daily life is like for my patients, since, for most of them, Galmi is considered a pretty big town.  Thought you might enjoy the little village of Gidan Miko 1 & 2 from the other side of my camera.  Enjoy.

17 November 2011

Ride, Camel, Ride

There are two things I really hate: heights and riding on animals.

The way see it, if God had wanted us to be up high, on Day 8 He would have created skyscrapers.  And if He intended for humans to ride on animals, He would have created them with saddles on their backs.

But He didn't.

16 November 2011

The Local Culture: A Guest Post

My mom is here visiting for a month.  She let me read an email she wrote my dad detailing her first Saturday morning in Galmi.  I thought you'd enjoy reading a fresh-off-the-boat perspective.  So, here's Momma:

On Friday, we received two pieces of bubble gum from a male co-worker of Deborah's.  His wife had their first child, a little girl.  The gum was our invitation to the baby 'bikki' -- naming of the baby ceremony.  So on Saturday at 7am, we and a group of other people from the compound walked to the home in town.  We were all dressed in our finest African outfits, married women complete with head covering veils (did not have to cover my face, but wanted to because of the dust!!!).  We made our way down the various alleys among the filth, donkey carts, motor bikes, bicycles, people walking, to an alley that had men gathered sitting on plastic chairs or standing around........that was the men's section of the 'bikki.'  

10 November 2011

A Mile in Her Shoes

I've had a handful of patients that have left an imprint on me from the moment they walk into my office.  Okay, so maybe 'walk' is the wrong word to use.

I will never forget the look on M.'s face as she crawled around the corner into my office.

09 November 2011

Okay, I Live

I've been away for a few weeks.  I took some of my vacation time and got away from here to rest.  It was good to be somewhere else for awhile . . . it gave me time to process and grieve and wrestle with some of the realities of my new life in Niger and rest.

But I'm back now.  Back in Galmi.  Back to work.  Back in the deep-end.

And the nature of my jobs brings me face to face with the full spectrum of the pendulum . . . death and life at the same time . . . sometimes with the very same patient.

05 November 2011

Ticket to Ride . . . Twice

The first time I flew with CaptainE he gave my very first flying lesson.  
Lesson Number One: Take off is optional, landing is mandatory.
Today’s lesson: Stay calm, even when the pilot tells you we can’t land.