Monday, February 7, 2011

Some things are universal.. others not so much!

Yesterday we got back to the place where we are staying in Lusaka, it's called The Cheshire house. The night before we slept over at the zam bikes farm. Basically Jess and Mary (two instructors we are here with) know these guys from the states who run a company that builds bikes in Zambia and employs many of the people in the surrounding village. They have a large house on a wide open property and so all 14 of us climbed in the back of a flat bed truck once again, and drove 45 min to their farm. Once there, we soaked up the sun, played vollleyball, climbed the tree fort and learned about their bike factory. We also admired their many fruit trees. They grow papaya, limes, lemons oranges... the list goes on!

IN the evening we had a braiil (which is an African BBQ) the food was amazing. The evening ended with african dancing, of course modeled for us by the zambians at the party ( as well as their adorable tiny children) It was lots of fun and by the end of the night my face hurt from laughing and smiling!

Later we started to figure out where all 17 of us would be sleeping so we went to explore the bed rooms. Leah pulled the pillow off one of the beds and we discovered a large lizard asleep underneath! We all laughed and I tried unsuccsessfully to catch it. This was all hilarious untill a few hours later when it was decided that I would be the one sleeping there!

Then on the way home we went shopping! All of us had our first hand encournter with bartering, Zambian style :) Many beautiful things were bought at the sunday market... along with a few things we probably didn't need! The prices atarted high and as soon as one thing was bought, it seemed we had a massive sign on our foreheads reading "I will buy anything you offer if you try hard enough"! However we all began to get the hang of their interactions, learned to say no, and thank you! The underlying feel of the interactions for me was always a firm urge to sell, but once you were also firm, even comfortable with what you wanted, things went much smother. I laughed with people and learned about their home towns, and I think spent a fair price on the things I bought. So I was happy, and had fun :)

After our shopping we returned from the zam bikes farm and began to prepare for a day at LTH (Lusaka teaching hospital). Some of us were sunburned ( me, just a little) and I think many were nervous about what we would encounter the next day. Fay, Jess and Mary did a great job of calming our nerves and assured us that we would be with one of them the whole time. I still woke up with sight butterflies in the pit of my stomach.

So this morning at 0715 Elvis and his crew of taxi drivers picked us up and drove us to the hospital. Our group was split into four and we all wandered off to find either the surgical, medical, pediatrics, or oncology ward.

I was on the surgical ward with Mary, Heather, Gabby, and Maranda. I must admit on our first tour I was taken back by the state of the hosipital, however I strongly beleived that I could handle it and everything would be fine... Turns out, my body disagreed with my mind intensly.

For the first hour and a half I was fine. One of the nursing students took us under her wing and taught us how to clean the treatment room, and then all of the stretchers. An hour and a half into our shift and I still hadnt been required to speak to a patient! Very different from what we are expected to do at home. After we were finished cleaning the bed frames then we joined the doctors for rounds and went bed to bed learning about the patient conditions and treatments. The routine in the morning was different for each of us. It is not to say that the patient's were not assessed or cared for while we were cleaning, simply that another group of people were responsible for that.

Many of the patients on the ward we were on had gaping open fractures, external traction, burns to more than 20% of the body, osteomyalitis and infected wounds.
Might I add, it was probably 25 degrees on the ward and the assault of smells we encoutered were totally foreign to me. I've always considered myself to have a horrible sense of smell, but it seamed that the heat had no mercy, and every sent was hightened and intensified.

My mind felt fine, I could handle the images, scents, sounds in front of me, or so I thought. For the next two hours I spent 2min on the ward and then 20 - 30 minutes recovering in the staff room as I fought my bodies urge to knock me off my feet. I felt like the hugest baby as I struggled to keep from fainting. Not to mention the wonderful nurses who came to check on me... which made me feel guilty.

Things got better around 11 3o, and we were only there till 13:00. So I guess the day went ok, I never actually passed out cold, although I was close many times.
It was a difficult day physically. It was also very interesting mentally. The sights we encountered were unlike anything I had seen at home. Wounds deeper than I had encountered before, burns covering surfaces that I hadn't imagined could peel away. I am not the most squeemish person however the open fractures were a sight I could have done without.

The people were so brave, crowded on the ward. Sometimes on mattressess on the floor. I watched as people grit through the pain of dressing changes without medication, watched the nurses fearlessly face conditions in which I would not have the slightest idea where to start.

All the while smiling and joking amongst each other; patients, families and staff alike... of course with a few exceptions. The doctors and nurses taught us as if they were investing in the future of their own staff. The kindness was incredible and of course very touching. Some things in nursing are universal <3

There was a moment I felt like crying, couldn't control my body and began to doubt whether it wasnt linked to the unconscious occurings in my mind. Questioned whether I was really ment to be there... Then a nurse came in to chat with me and teach me some of her language. And soon the moment was passed.

I love it here in a wierd way. It's awkward and hot at times, cold and crammed at others. But underneath it all I can't help but feel as though I am in the thick of things. That day to day life here is so much more eventful in a quite kind of way... in a sense a more colourful way.

I have barely begun to understand what life is like here, but I am starting to navigate my own. Tomorrow we have another day on the ward and I can only hope to learn even more in the morning, and perhaps hope that this time, my body will cope!
hope things at home in Canada are going well for everyone :) Thanks for reading, and for supporting us.

~Jess (L)

1 comment:

  1. You poor dear. Admire you for sharing, I am sure it has not been easy. You will be given the strength and support to carry on. We are such whimps here at home. You are the strong ones. Take care my dears and God bless. Love to all of you from "Nannie" XXX OOO