29 December 2011

How Not To Build Rapport

This morning a little girl from the Under 5 Clinic came to see me.  She's nearing three and cannot walk.  She was a little bit like a rag doll . . . really floppy . . . and absolutely adorable.

She came into my office hidden under her mom's flowing head covering.  We all three sat on the floor, ready to play . . . well, at least I was ready to play.  She was ready to scream.

And that's all she did for the next half an hour!

Despite all efforts to distract her with toys and bubbles, she sat and screamed at the top of her lungs.

Eventually, I gave up trying to play and started to show her mom some simply 'play'-like exercises she could do to work on trunk control and balance.  They only live about 25 minutes from Galmi, so I had been hopeful that they would be able to come back for therapy on a more regular basis.

However, since Little L. didn't seem to be able to get calm, I gave up that dream pretty quickly.

Trying to teach mom a few things proved a bit difficult without a Hausa vocabulary large enough to include terms like 'sitting balance' and 'standing endurance' and 'gently pull her this way and push her that way' I decided to call in a translator.

My nurse-by-day-matchmaker-by-night friend came to my aid.  She said what I couldn't say and explained what I wanted Little L.'s mom to do.

We were mid exercise-explaination, when all of a sudden my tiny patient stopped shrieking sounds and began yelling words.  My friend turned to me:

'She said she will play if you leave the room.'

Unfortunately, they all seemed to miss my whole purpose in being there.

Curious to see what she would do, and hopeful for a better chance to evaluate her functional capacity, I went into the hallway.

'Woviaj iaj flkvja owij alkfv oaiwjrg vlkz vmlk ageoijv lk!' my patient shrieked.  Her mom and my friend began to laugh.

'She said she doesn't want you to play peek-a-boo with her, so you need to leave and go where she cannot see you.'

Eventually I was allowed back in the room . . . but with my entrance came another round of shrieks.  She admitted to being afraid of my skin . . . and there was no convincing her that I was there to help and play, not hurt.

Needing to fill out some paperwork, I decided to try one last resort.

From a pile of freshly cleaned linens, I pulled out a pink bed sheet and draped it over my head.

But . . . my sorry excuse for a Halloween costume worked!

For the first time in over 45 minutes, the child had stopped screaming!

I guess I've found the new Therapy Department uniform!


Joyful said...

LOL. This was a cute ending to what I'm sure must have been a bit frustrating for you. I guess it is rather terrifying for the little girl if she's never seen a fari person before.

Bobnrobn said...

A ghost!  She saw a ghost!  Imagine if she saw more than just one!!!  A pink burka!  Who would have thought...  xoxoxo

Bethany Reamer said...

i love this story!  i can totally picture you, pink bedsheet and all.  miss you lots.  missed you especially at Christmas.  thought you of you often.  prayed for you too.  even if your Skype is unreliable, i'd really enjoy a few minutes of chatting with you! =)

Jerry Koleski said...

I love this story.  I was a Peace corps volunteer in Niger in 1985.  I have been a missionary doctor in Ecuador and Malawi.  I wish I had money for every kid who screamed at my white skin, I wouldn't have to raise support.  I was laughing at your expense and my memory.
btw Very clever disguise.