The view from my office window looks out over the back of the hospital property. The Guidan Baki is our Ambulatory Care Unit. It is a space where patients with ongoing wound care needs can stay without having to pay for a hospital bed. It is also where we have our Rehab Center for Malnourished Kiddos.
For most of us, the work day ended 15 minutes ago . . . the sun is setting to the west, frosting the mud buildings with golden light. The heat of the day is easing, and for a moment, this feels like the most peaceful place in the world.
I love that my office faces the ACU . . . because, when they think I'm not looking, I get to steal a glance at life . . . I get to watch women preparing meals and men washing the few pieces of clothing they have with them at the hospital . . . I get to watch the children of patients play in the dirt and babies who were near death yesterday eat their fill of plumpy-nut.
But I love the ACU most because it is a place of healing.
I was sitting here at my desk typing away at a protocol on wheelchair distribution and patient/family education . . . every few minutes I'd gaze out the window at the quiet activity of the ACU.
From a long way off, I could see two women slowly make their way towards the hospital. I watched as an aging Mama helped her adult daughter take step after step. They were in no rush . . . all that mattered was that she kept going.
With a zunni wrapped around her waist and another draped over her shoulders, the pristine white bandage taped to her abdomen told me that she had come to us as a result of a typhoid perforation. The bacteria had weakened her bowel wall, which eventually gave way. From her right hand hung the bag collecting her urine via a foley catheter. Her sunken cheeks, boney arms and slow pace revealed her weakness.
But she continued, without complaint of the distance she still had to go or her pain that was etched on her face.
I watched from my window as she and her mother made their way through the rocky dirt. She turned.
I was caught!
As our eyes locked, I smiled and nodded, silently encouraging her in her feat.
Her frailty was evident on her face, but her wide smile would not be hindered.
As the grin spread across her lips, she slowly transferred the catheter bag to her left hand . . . an action that required greater force than she had to expend. As if in slow motion, she pumped her right fist above her head, acknowledging her triumph.
She has no strength, but she did it. It took everything she had, but she made it! She would not give up, she would endure.
Because the women of Niger are survivors . . . they face all odds and still they stand . . . they are oppressed and beaten down, but they are not broken.
And it is this that reminds me why I love what I do and that I get to do it in Niger . . . that in the midst of the dust and dirt, the suffering and despair, the smiles are wide and bright . . . that life and joy can thrive in the desert . . . and that healing does happen at Galmi Hospital.