29 February 2012

Hallway Apraxia

Brace yourself, it's about to get a little nerdy up in here!

In Galmi, we play chicken a little differently than in the US and other parts of the world. Instead of two cars charging head-on until one swerves (or they collide), we play with humans . . . in the hospital hallways. 

Often it's with a family member of one of the patients, but it's always the same thing: I move right, she moves right; I go left she goes left.  This continues until we meet in the middle for a either a slow-dance step or a more sporty fake-turn-and-run-with-the-ball type move. 

27 February 2012

Lessons on Taming the Dragon

When I was at university, homestarrunner.com was super popular. My favorite character was StrongBad, a Mexican wrestler, complete with face mask, no shirt, and boxing gloves.

Once a week he would send an email . . . often they were completely pointless. But sometimes they spurred our creative juices (oh how I miss the Colleger Girl Squad). And then, there was my favorite: Trogdor, the Burninator.

Trogdor was a dragon.

And being a dragon, he breathed fire, hence the burninating. There was no thatch-roofed village safe from the fierce fiery flames of Trogdor.

24 February 2012


Earlier this week I was in Niamey . . . and while waiting for a colleague to join me there, I ended up with a 'free' afternoon.  And thanks to the old-friend-just-passing-through of a friend-of-mine, I found myself tagging along with a filmmaker from the UN's fundraising division as she went with the director of the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) Niger out to a village east of Niamey to find some hope in the midst of Niger's food crisis.

They were going to visit Oumou.*

At the age of 12, Oumou contracted polio and never walked again.  Now, as a woman in her 40's, Oumou sits with her legs curled up beneath her.  But as our Djarma-to-French translator says, she has no interest in keeping her arms crossed!

22 February 2012

And the Award Goes To

Last week . . . or maybe it was the week before . . . could have even been last month, now that I think about it . . . my old friend from high school, RV., passed on the Versatile Blogger Award to me!

Here's how the award works: 
1) Thank the award-giver and link them back in your post.
2) Tell your readers seven (7) things about yourself.
3) Give this award to up to fifteen (15) recently discovered bloggers.
4) Contact those bloggers and let them in on the exciting news.


16 February 2012

Small Miracles

Monday morning I began my day with the news that the three month baby we had been treating for partial-thickness burns on his feet and buttocks hadn't survived the weekend.  When I had left on Friday he seemed to be doing well.

Wednesday morning, the nine year old with full thickness burns on his back and buttocks died while he was the next in line to be brought in for his dressing change.

In light of last weeks losses and struggles, the deaths of these two children came as quite a blow . . . and of course, a well of emotions.  Anger, frustration, confusion, doubt.

15 February 2012


You matter because you are you, 
you matter until the last moment of your life
and we will do all that we can
to help you live until you die.
                                          ~Cicely Saunders

13 February 2012

The Art of Carrying

This morning as I was checking in with the rounding doctors to see if they had any new patients for me, a young mother offered me her baby.

Believe it or not, this is a typical occurrence, which usually ends with roars of laughter when I explain that I have no physiological means to feed their baby . . . which, as a woman of 30, just blows them out of the water . . . and then once they've all explained it to one another how on earth, for the moment, my wells could be dry, they laugh at my expense.

And today, there was laughter, as usual, but this time it was because I don't know how to properly carry a baby!

09 February 2012

Confessions of a Spiritual Mason

You know, not every story at Galmi has a funny moment or blog-post-worthy victory.

It is nearly impossible to walk from one end of our hospital to the other without being stopped by a suffering patient who is desperate for pain medication or barely clinging to life.

We work tirelessly to keep patients alive, and in the end, they still die.  Despite all efforts.

It's exhausting.  And discouraging.

But lately I find myself ducking behind a wall . . . it's not too high, but just enough that I can drop to my knees and hide behind it for a little while.

05 February 2012

It Takes [Going To] A Village

It's time for another episode of The (Long) Story Behind The Photo.

Every Thursday, the Therapy Department holds a club-foot clinic . . . we counsel mom's that club-foot is a malformation and not the result of a sin they've committed or a curse someone has put on the family . . . we remove the cast or splint from the week before, reposition baby's foot with a little more stretch, and recast him so he's stuck until he comes back to see us . . . oh yeah, and we make babies scream.  And boy, are they loud!

So far we've had two kids.  So that's two kids that should have been crippled, that will now be ambulators!  How's that for 'making the lame to walk'!

Things were going really well, until little A-H got some sand in his cast that resulted in a small wound on his shin.  (Brace yourself . . . Short-Story-Long Girl strikes again!)

04 February 2012

Fair Game, False Advertising

I'm sitting here watching the 2010 film Fair Game . . . within the first 15 minutes, one of the main characters travels to Niger.  Except, it's NOT Niger!  It can't be.  The cows are too fat, and the goats are too furry.  The taxis are black and the license plates on the cars are not long and skinny.  The gendarmes don't have the right camo uniforms.  The architecture of the city is wrong.  There are too many airplanes at the airport.  There are caf├ęs on the street.  The city is loaded with tall apartment buildings and palm trees.  The dirt is a light golden color, not rust.  And there is not a single red Kasea motorcycle to be found.

Niger's only on the screen a few minutes . . . but it's longer than the scenes shot in Kuala Lumpur.  And those are accurate city shots. The director also filmed in Cairo, Baghdad, New York, and DC.  All of which are recognizable cities.

The Owner of the Giving of Walking

'Ban likita ba.  Babu magani.  Ni, mai ba da tafiya.'

'I am not a doctor.  I don't have any medicine.  Me, I'm the owner of the giving of walking.'

Three sentences I use even more than 'Kafa, ittatchi; kafa, ittatchi.' ('Foot, crutches; foot, crutches.)  For our patients, being Western means being a doctor.  Being a doctor means giving out medicine.  A good portion of my day is spent being stopped in the hospital hallway, told of an illness or compliant of pain, and asked for medicine which will help.