Day 7: To Life! (A double entry)
Sara, Miranda, and I got to the Maternity Ward today and it was very quiet for Rwandan standards. The 3 labor beds weren’t full every moment of the day. So we took a tour of the post-partum room, it has 8 beds in it. The women stay usually 6-12 hours after a vaginal birth, depending on how busy they are. Their families are there with food and water and take complete care of the women and their babies. The C-section women stay 2-3 days and seem to get some attention from the nurses to check their incision. The babies either learn to nurse or die. There is no formula that we could see or when we asked, they seemed confused. We went over to the Neonatal nursery where there are 3 incubators (2 babies per bed) and one resuscitation bed/warmer. Dr. Monique told us today they have saved 30 week preemies before, but it sounds rare. Having said all that, they are doing an amazing job with the resources they have here and seem to be very grateful for our help. We gave out another fetoscope and surgery caps today and they were all like kids in a candy store. It was so refreshing to see people be happy with so little and truly are goodhearted in their work. Rose, the head nurse and I sat together today and made gauze bandages (just like the l950’s in the U.S.). It was a woman to woman moment that felt so spiritual and universal, just doing our work, one patient at a time. So the nitty gritty…. I delivered my second baby today!!! Sara was right beside me the whole time. Then Sara and Pam went to do a C-section together and suddenly I was left in labor and delivery all by myself. I could have delivered my 3rd baby by myself, but was “too chicken”!! I know the medical saying is “See one, do one, teach one”, but I just couldn’t do it. Rose delivered the baby all by herself, took the baby to the cart, delivered the placenta and did a suture repair all by herself, without a word to anyone and came and sat back down to make gauze squares with me. Next we had a woman in labor with blood pressure of 240/120!!! I thought she would have a seizure and die any moment, but after 2 hours of delay trying to get some medicine to lower her blood pressure (the family had to get money to go to the pharmacy to buy the medicine) and waiting for the surgical scrubs to be ironed to help sterilize them, we went to do the C-section. The general anesthetic didn’t completely work and the woman was trying to scream, finally they got more medicine and proceeded with the C-section. By this time the baby had received the anesthetic and wasn’t breathing or heart beating. I couldn’t stand there and do nothing; I took the baby and started CPR while walking to the nursery to get oxygen. They didn’t have the right setup, so we walked to Neonatal and I continued chest compressions while the nurse finally got a suction going to clear the baby’s airway. I got the oxygen started; the baby’s heart started to beat and finally took its first breath. It felt like 10 years, but hopefully that all happened in less than 4-5 minutes. I am certain the baby would have died if I hadn’t been there. It doesn’t appear that anyone knows CPR. We are hopefully teaching a CPR class on Thursday! Please say a prayer this week for our team. This is the most demanding and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Oh by the way, did I mention very few people speak English?? My very limited French is going a long way, as well as, hand gestures, body language, and lots of smiles. In the midst of all that, I have diarrhea today and the hospital bathrooms have no running water, you just pour from a bucket into the toilette, and then use our own hand gel to clean our hands because the sink doesn’t work either!! This is the staff bathroom; the toilette for the patients is in a building outside with a squat hole and no water either. Please be grateful for our sewers, running water, toilets that flush, soap, and towels to dry your hands. One the plus side, the food here is incredible!! We have eaten at a different placed everyday with excellent food. There is every kind of food you can imagine. The other night I had the best Ethiopian food, spicy hot! We had pizza that is to die for; the place has 99 different kinds of pizza on the menu. The brochettes of fish, meat, and goat are superb. We have all the familiar tropical fruit everyday for breakfast and the milk products (cheese, ice-cream, and yogurt) are phenomenal. So now I must end and fall exhausted into bed under my mosquito net!! Remember how much I love you, how blessed our lives are, and looking forward to sharing our photos with you!
Well, today was interesting. We have finally truly gelled into two distinct teams: the White Coats (those who go to the hospitals, and in Rwanda, all hospital workers wear white, this is Le’s and Miranda’s team) and the Village People (all those who are working on a multi-goal project with the Batwa, also known as Pygmies, my group).
My function is more administrative, though I suspect I will eventually dig some trenches or teach some Batwa how to clean themselves.
I spent my morning in meetings – again! Then went to lunch with a couple of Village People. We met with the president of the Batwa. I stuck around at lunch with Dr. Aflodis, also known as Kagaba, since he showed up so late and had no one else to eat with. The others all left and went to the village to visit the Batwa.
I spent two wonderful hours with Kagaba. We shared many stories of our lives with each other. He is such a patient man. He is the oldest of seven. He is a doctor, but he works for virtually nothing with his Health Development Initiative because he really believes in making a real difference. He asked me to join him to a conference for HIV+ people. He expects 300 people to show up.
I took a city bus, with very limited Kinyarwanda skills down to the US Embassy to speak with the consulate there. The Village People team leader, Karl, had asked me to remind the consulate what HDI was doing and how UJAMA fit into that. The consulate’s office was very helpful. I was absolutely amazed. In fact, I was there at the same time as a lady, Susan, who is from – get this mom – Vienna, Virginia. [I lived in Vienna, Virginia when I was 12.] Susan was in town for a World Bank conference. All her most sensitive information was stolen during a conference event. Long story short, she was at the Embassy to apply for an emergency passport. She received it in three hours. Quite reassuring.
I spent about an hour at the embassy asking lots of questions. They answered every question to the best of their ability and for questions they could not answer, they gave me referrals. Very helpful.
See the Rwandan news website about us at http://www.newtimes.co.rw/. My face is the puny one fifth from the right in the back row. Miranda and Le are both in the front row. The goofball in the back with the hat on is our USA liaison, Karl Weyrauch. Dr. Aflodis is the founder of Health Development Initiative, the Rwandan NGO about which the article talks, and he is the dark-skinned man on the right. He is a really great person.
I love you all!!
PS – Please remember to comment back.