28 September 2014

Lessons on Unloveliness

'Is she the only child in the world like this?'

Sitting next to me on the bench outside of the therapy gym, the young mother slowly began to trust us with what was really in her heart.  B. looked up at me, waiting to hear the answer.

'No, there are other cases,' I assured her.

'Really?' she asked in disbelief.  'Cause I've never seen anyone else's child look like this!  Show me!  Bring me to the village where there is another child like this!'  Her tone was one of deep fear and deeper sorrow.  'My husband says she's cursed.'

I took a deep breath and silently prayed . . . how does one begin to explain the genetics of a rare skin condition to a mom who never attended primary school?  How could we convince her that this was hereditary, not a deliberate act of aggressive evil against her child?  How would we support her from afar as she feels isolated and alone, refusing to give up on her little girl?

I didn't know how, so I told her a story instead.

18 September 2014

Lessons from a Tetanus Survivor

'Thank you,' S. whispered to me in English before transitioning back to Hausa.  'I thought I was dead, but you gave me my life back.'

We were sitting on a mat, under a tree in the Ambulatory Care Unit behind the hospital.  Already today she had done her own laundry in a modified position and climbed a small set of stairs.  A world away from relearning how to swallow her own saliva.

I looked up from the patch of sand where I was etching designs with a stick.

Our eyes met, and I smiled.

'Thank you, my friend,' she repeated and she leaned her forehead against mine.

17 September 2014

No Free Shows in Therapy

When I worked at Temple University Hospital, as I helped my patients don a hospital gown over their bare backsides, I'd tell them that the first rule of therapy was: No Free Shows.

Things are little different here in Galmi.  Bare breasts are no big thing, and the fewer clothes children wear, the less the burden of the laundry load.  Kids come to therapy naked all the time.  And I've even had many older children wear nothing but an open hospital 'gown' as if it were a untied robe.  So it's always a bit surprising when I have a kiddo who is super specific about when he's all covered up.

16 September 2014

Three Therapists in One: A New Meaning to the Holistic Approach

One of the hardest-but-at-the-same-time-best parts of my job, professionally speaking, is the necessity to be a full-service therapist.  That would be an OT, PT and Speech Therapist all rolled into one . . . although, I'm pretty sure that's not what they mean when they say OT comes from the 'holistic approach'.

My work with S. is the perfect example of this.

S. survived tetanus, a horrific disease that caused all of her muscles to become rigid, including those required for swallowing and breathing . . . two functions necessary for survival.  Which is why I was consulted: chest PT for her aspiration pneumonia and speech therapy for swallowing.

When I went to see her last Monday for our session, she told me that she didn't like me and I should just leave her to die.

11 September 2014

A Local Legend

Since leaving the US in 2009, I've racked up my share of good stories.  Some funny . . . some unbelievable . . . some interesting . . . and some moving.

Every once in a while one of those stories becomes a bit of a legend.  And this is one of them.

I hadn't really thought it was that good of a story . . . it sort of was just one of those new-normal kind of stories.

That is, until I shared it with a group of summer interns on the eve of their departure.

09 September 2014

WhiteGirl and the Owner of Spiciness

As you know by now, I have a big soft spot in my heart for kiddos who have been extremely burned. They are the bravest and sweetest little people I get to work with.  Often they come to our hospital for a couple of months and we follow up with them each month for a year.  Needless to say, they quickly wriggle their way into our therapy department family.

Little H. is no exception.  

A four year-old who was badly burned in January when, wrapped in a thick blanket and unsupervised, she went to warm herself by a cooking fire.  The base of the blanket ignited and she couldn't get it off fast enough.  When her family found her, they thought she was already dead.

But Little H. is a fighter.

And I confess, I think it's her abundance of tanka (a mix of hot chilies and spices used in local cuisine) that I love most.

08 September 2014

It's a Girl

Well, it's official.  B. is a daddy!

For those of you who have come to Galmi and worked alongside us, you will know that B. has a soft spot for the kiddos that pass through our doors.  And last week he and his sweet wife finally got to take one home.

My camera broke in April, so I don't have any photos of her by herself yet . . . but B.'s sister told me that her kids have been saying that baby has my eyes.  Maybe it's time we have a genetics lesson!

29 August 2014
Barka da zuwa, baby Stephanie!
We're so excited that you're finally here!