Cross-posted from Joel in Zambia
All nurses know what this acronym means. Transient
Ischemic Attack. It's that time Grandpa Joe started having trouble
forming words and suddenly couldn't see out of his right eye. Off he
went to the hospital but, before you knew it, his symptoms subsided and
he was as good as new. A TIA is a narrowing or blockage of a blood
vessel in the brain that comes to pass without causing sustained damage.
On this side of the world, however, TIA means something entirely different.
TIA. This is Africa.
we had even left Canada, we were already hearing the phrase "TIA". When
a prof couldn't satisfyingly answer a question about Zambia, the answer
would often be "TIA". When we wondered why TD debit cards wouldn't work
in Zambia, we would hear "TIA".
But when I actually arrived in
Africa, I stopped hearing the phrase. Zambia was this wonderful, new,
exciting, green, humid, sunny wonderland and the differences exhilarated
me. I wondered, why do people get so caught up with TIA? Things are
just funny and quirky here!
Fast forward a few weeks. Things are
less funny and quirky. "I need to charge my camera but the power is
out!"... TIA. "Since when is mayo a pizza sauce?"... TIA. "Why are we so
caught up in protocols when we need to act fast in the hospital?"...
TIA. "How can a clinic that serves over 15,000 people only have three
RNs on staff?"...TIA.
TIA was seeming less like a catchy phrase
and more like a catch-all excuse. I became upset. Instead of those silly
letters, I wanted answers. Seriously now, why does the hospital run
this way? Why are there so few staff? Why is nobody responding to the
emergencies? Why isn't this more like home?
And that's when it
hit me. This isn't home. It's not Canada, it's not British Columbia, and
it's not Kelowna. This is Africa. And to imply that it is not as good
as home is to be about as ethnocentric as a tourist can be.
is not Canada and the problems that arise cannot be addressed from an
international standpoint. In the hospital, for example, there are some
donated pieces of cutting-edge technology that are gathering dust. Why?
Because there isn't the staffing required to take advantage of it. And
the staff that are there do not necessarily have the training needed.
The issues that have surfaced cannot be solved with quick and dirty
fixes. Everything here is multifaceted. A fancy infant warmer is a
fabulous donation but if the staff aren't trained in its use then it
will fall by the wayside.
As I have gained more insight into
this country and, more specifically, this hospital, I have gotten a
better idea of what TIA actually means. It isn't a catch-all excuse.
It's a change of perception. Drop your preconceptions and look around
you. This isn't Canada. This is Africa.
Attack. This is Africa. They aren't terribly dissimilar, in fact. A
temporary blockage in the brain that affects how you act and how you
perceive. In time, it passes and you regain your function. My actions
and perceptions have been clouded with how things are done in Canada
but, for now, this blockage is coming to pass.