26 September 2016

Give Us Another Hand, This Time, By Accident

A few weeks ago Malaria Season was taking off full speed ahead.  We're understaffed at the hospital right now and several of our "long-term" doctors are away.  The rains have been really heavy in our area this year . . . which, while it means abundant crops, it also means lots and lots of malaria.

While my scope of practice extends to its outermost limits here in Galmi, there are things an OT just isn't trained to do . . . like prescribe medications, draw blood, or place NG tubes.

Wondering how to help keep our doctors doctoring and nurses nursing while there is still an entire hospital to be run, I brainstormed with one of my colleagues who is a part-time doctor, part-time administrator, part-time problem solver, and part-time pick-up-all-the-loose-ends-er, and he asked me if I'd come to the medical ward each day and do family education with the moms of kiddos who are admitted for malaria or malnutrition.

We developed a simple curriculum composed mostly of Hausa words that I know, and I was sent off to teach.  What I found in the end, was a new upper-extremity prosthetics patient!


I was passing through our malnutrition ward, on my way to start teaching, when I spotted a woman sitting on a crowded bed.  Her baby was laying on the bed, fitted with an NG tube and IV catheter.  They shared the bed with another mommy-baby pair, a typical site this time of year.

"What happened to your arm?" I asked her.

Three years prior Mama A. had an accident with the industrial grain mill in her village which resulted in a mid-forearm amputation of her right upper extremity.  Since then, she's been doing everything with her left hand, which in this culture is considered unclean.

"Would you like to have a new hand?"

She looked at me confused and explained again what happened three years ago.

"Yes, I understand about your accident, but would you like to have a new hand?" I tried again.

She was still confused.

This time, I pulled out my phone and showed her a video of H.A. positioning a spoon in the fingers of his LN-4 hand, tightening the grip, scooping up some rice, and eating with it.  She was in awe at what she was seeing.

"Would you like to have a new hand?  I have another one.  I will give it to you, if you want it."

The problem with handing off your phone so a patient can watch a video of another patient doing something really amazing is that you no longer have your phone to snap a picture of her unbelievable smile.

Mama A. came to our hospital because her infant was severely malnourished and most likely would have died without vital intervention.  Not only is baby doing well, but Mama A. left with a new hand!


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