'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.
In return for saying that I'm not a doctor, I receive a look that tells me the person I'm speaking to finds me to be a selfish liar who just doesn't want to help. But if I give an alternative, I usually get the Nigerien equivalent to a pat on the back and 'job well done, keep it up.'
So, that is my new superhero identity. Goodbye Short-Story-Long Girl, hello Owner-of-the-Giving-of-Walking.
And some days, getting a patient mobile does feel like it requires superhuman powers.
Like the other day . . . we have a visiting Ortho for a couple of months. He came and asked if I could give a platform crutch to kid that had been in a motorcycle accident. He had a cast from his toes to his thigh, and another one from his fingers to his elbow. He could bear no weight on either one. Oh, and 'his head got knocked around pretty good too, so he's a bit out of it.'
When 'Sorry, we don't have platform crutches here!' and 'Is he really sufficiently cognitively intact and safe enough to be strapped to a long piece of wood?' didn't work, I went to see a carpenter about making me something that might possibly resemble a platform crutch.
I drew a sketch and explained in French how this should work. I grabbed a few scraps of wood and tried to act it out. He's a bright guy and seemed to get what I needed.
We went back to the hospital together and took some measurements, as I knew in order for this to work in the end, it would not be adjustable and we'd have to get it right the first time.
A work week later and we were in business.
I went to pick up the crutches. They were almost right . . . a wee bit short, and the platform a bit high, but it was better than nothing.
I went and found my guy, strapped his arm onto the plank of wood, prayed for divine intervention, and explained how this was going to happen.
The process was definitely hindered by his inability to stay alert and awake for semi-extended periods of time . . . and his ability to follow verbal commands. But eventually he got the hang of it . . . thanks to my other role as The Owner of the Yelling of Uh-uh Ba Haka! (NO! NOT like that!)