Sometimes I forget that I'm not working the US any more. One would think that my surroundings would remind me on a minute-by-minute basis . . . but no.
And normally I don't remember until I do something my patients find ridiculous!
Like, today, for example.
I rounded the corner to my office to find a man sitting on the floor, against the wall, facing my door. His crutches were sprawled out next to him. His companion was standing to his right.
He held his outpatient treatment card up to me . . . and I was relieved to find that he wasn't coming for crutches . . . since he obviously had his own pair.
He was, however, coming to learn a few basic exercises to keep his knee mobile.
Which, on the surface, sounds like a pretty easy task . . . but throw in a language barrier and a man who's clearly never won a round of charades and the stage is set for a really funny treatment session.
I had him start up on my treatment table . . . legs out straight . . . telling him to push his knee straight down into the table. Thankfully he was wearing shorts, which around these parts is rare on a grown man, especially in January, which is still considered 'cold season' (it's quarter to one in the morning, and my thermometer is reading 77F/25C). So I could see his quad contracting . . . or in his case, not contracting.
I tried explaining again.
He didn't get it.
I tried acting it out.
His friend with him understood and tried talking him through it in Hausa. But he just couldn't motor-plan enough to figure it out.
I stuck my hand under his knee and told him to squish my hand.
Still didn't work.
I finally gave up that tactic and told him to scoot over.
Unaware of what I was going to do next, he moved. I hopped up on the table. His jaw dropped.
I grabbed his hand. His eyes bulged.
I shoved his hand under my knee and pushed down. He nearly had a heart attack.
'Ka gani?' ('Do you get it?') I asked.
He was speechless, but his friend roared with laughter.
It was at that moment, as my patient began to breathe again and his friend tried not to wet his pants, that I remembered I was in Niger.