Sunday, February 27, 2011

Africa Blog #3

The OR room was particularly hot. Earlier I had had my first dizzy spell while assisting Danae in a procedure. Now I was back in the Block observing. Unfamiliar French words fly around me like the flies in the pre-op. I wasn't catching either. I consciously ignore the heat and try my best to be useful.

After a brief water break I walk back into the Block and glanced to my right to see what patient is up next. Against the backlight of the opaque block windows I see a girl. At least I think I do. On second look I realize the patient is indeed a young girl, but her thin, crumpled body blends into the bed too well. She lies with her eyes closed, swathed in an Arab scarf. Presently she opens her eyes, sensing my stare.
I recognize this girl. I had helped change her dressing in pediatrics a few days before. Apparently a mud house, compromised by rain and age, had collapsed on her. She is now a paraplegic shadow of her former self. From the neck down her body resembled a bony ribcage with four sticks attached. Pressure ulcers cover her legs. Each hip has a ulcer bigger than my entire hand. She is here in surgery to get these wounds sutured closed as much as possible in order to speed healing.
Now with her silently regarding me with those lovely eyes, I am stirred to action. Walking closer I quietly greet her and inquire how she is. She nods her head slightly, her eyes never leaving my face. Unsure of what to do or how to make her more comfortable, I walk away awkwardly.
When I attempt to manipulate her clogged IV she winces and grimaces, but when I unwrap her gruesome ulcers she doesn't seem to care. With a jolt I remind myself that her accident mercifully spares her the pain of her wasted lower limbs.

At this point Samedi takes over and I have nothing to do but stand back. Throughout the procedure she piteously asks, first me, then Samedi, for a baby doll, using the little French she knows.

" Papa Samedi, Papa Samedi...petite bebe'...bebe'".

Then turning to me " Nasara, Nasara, Nasara...bebe...petite bebe".

At first I try to explain I don't have one, forgetting she probably only speaks Nangere. After awhile I just attempt to block out her pleas. Her begger behavior irks me. But at the same time thoughts press on my mind.

I know she can't live long - not being a skeleton in all this filth. What does she have to do hour after hour in her crude wheelchair? Such suffering. And here I am, unable to even tell her that she's brave and that I'm sorry. A sudden death would seem less tragic than her daily suffering.

Maybe it is the heat or the blood or maybe her persistent pleading, but behind my mask and glasses my eyes brim with tears. I think I need to go for another water break.

Oh God, Please come soon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Missionary Nurse-in-Training

Written February 21 2011
Although I showed up at the hospital my first day in Bere, I don't feel like my hospital orientation began until after the weekend. Since there was no formal orientation being offered, I took things into my own hands.

I went to the Pediatric Unit after morning worship and waited for the nurses to arrive. Feeling out of place I walked around greeting patients and looking at the beautiful wall murals on the wall. There are rainbows, stars, sunshine and sayings like "God is good," written in Nangere, painted on the walls. There were many fly covered babies hooked up to IV's. Some had skin diseases. Most had malaria symptoms. Thankfully the nurses were nice. They seemed happy to have me help and learn. Unofficially I was assigned to a sweet girl nurse. I glued myself to Kuma-dung's side. Even when she got up just to move the trash can, I was right there with her. The patients sitting outside had a good chuckle over that. I laughed with them, but wasn't about to be deterred. I didn't want to miss one learning opportunity.

Over the course of the morning I observed a couple of baby-IV-attempts, an admission, and a dressing change. There was a lot of sitting, but during that time I would study all the charts and patient booklets I could get my hands on. It was discouraging. I couldn't make heads or tails out of them. Orders in America were challenging for me to read. Having orders written in cursive French is challenging with a capital "C!" A lot of the medications have different names here. Thankfully some important ones are fairly recognizable, such as quinine. When I took a look inside one of the patient’s medicine "box" (literally a cardboard box) I got even more concerned. The handwritten labeling looked like a few scribbles. Oh dear. Giving medicine and following orders are not that difficult . . . if you understand them. Guess I'll need to work on that.

That afternoon I went to the market. I was looking for a phone card. It was fun since Dr. & Mrs. Gardner, Grace (a nurse from California), and some of the Parker family all went together in a group. Cory is the Parkers’ 15-year- old son. I am so thankful for that boy. He is an amazing translator. He made the experience so much easier. The others in the group were looking for food goods, so we ventured into the network of thatched booths. I attracted quite the following of children. I'd hear them talking behind my back - "hehehe...Nasara", which essentially translates "look at the funny white person". So I would peek over my shoulder and make a funny face at them. They would howl with laughter. I'd offer them a high-five and a few brave souls would venture to give me one. The more shy ones would then creep up to touch my arm when my back was turned. Sometimes I would whip around and playfully try to touch them. The whole bunch would trip over themselves to get away as they shrieked and laughed.

Today, Grace kindly agreed to allow me to follow her. She is leaving after this week and I want to learn all I can from her. Today she taught me to be a circulating nurse. This includes how to prepare the surgical package for the surgeon, sterile technique, how to do a sponge and needle count, replace the fluids etc. We also took a break to help feed a baby who was too weak to nurse. We had the mother expel milk into a cup and then fed the baby one mouthful at a time with a syringe. The baby is perfectly healthy, but his life is in danger simply because the mother failed to feed him. Getting mothers to feed their babies is a constant battle here.

Back at "the Block" (surgical suite) I was preparing for yet another hernia repair when Simeon (the talented "nurse anesthetist") asked me if I would like to assist Samedi with the surgery. Me?! Assist?! really? I was amazed. I almost forgot to tell him "yes". Grace showed me how to scrub in and then Samedi showed me the rest. It was exciting. Although I had already observed at least 5 or 6 surgeries since arriving at Bere, the fear of fainting always existed in the back of my mind. As I stood there all gowned up and sterile I prayed, "Dear God, PLEASE don't let me faint!" Thankfully I didn't faint on either one of the two surgeries I assisted on. God is good. During the first surgery a very startling thing occurred. Samedi was dissecting out a large cyst when all at once it burst! We all jumped and the poor anesthesia guy got soaked. Thankfully I was to the side and was only surprised. We all laughed. I was really happy to get hands-on experience so soon.

Ever since I arrived, the Chadians have struggled with my name. I tried without success to get my African "father" to give me an African name. When I was introduced on Sabbath before telling a nature story, they gave me the name "Francine." I wasn't too keen on it, but it worked for the moment. Today I finally decided to just go by my middle name. So now I am "Rochelle" to everyone except the missionaries.

It promises to be a busy and productive week. Every time I hit a challenge, discouragement or feelings of futility, I remind myself why I am here. I am here to show Christ's love, share smiles and be an encouragement.

Now I must go learn more French.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Tomorrow morning I fly to a different kind of place. I dive into the deep end of new sounds, smells and heat. I become a island and begin the task of building a bridge from my island to the land around me.

But for right now I still look out glass windows at bare trees backed by ice blue skies. For right now I listen to a ticking clock and bury my feet under flannel sheets. Its quiet...very quiet. So quiet I can hear the medal roof creak in the sunshine. For the moment Africa is only a map on my bedroom wall. I look at it instead of being in it. I think about it instead of experience it.

What is it I'm feeling? I can't put my finger on it. Anxiety. Eagerness. Reluctance.

A hymn I'm thinking of:

Hark, the voice of Jesus calling,
“Who will go and work today?
Fields are ripe and harvests waiting,
Who will bear the sheaves away?”
Long and loud the Master calls us,
Rich reward He offers free;
Who will answer, gladly saying,
“Here am I, O Lord, send me”?

While the lost of earth are dieing,
And the Master calls for you,
Let none hear you idle saying
"There is nothing I can do"
Take the task He gives you gladly;
Let His work your pleasure be;
Answer quickly when He calls you,
“Here am I, O Lord, send me.”

I am at peace.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Give me this mountain...

Caleb makes a request.

"...Give me this mountain...for you have heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It maybe that the Lord will be with me and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said."

In other words: "Remember those giants that made us feel like grasshoppers? I still believe they are bread for us! I believe the Lord is able to drive them out and I want to be the means He uses.

Caleb isn't being prideful. He isn't self-confident. He is zealous for the cause of the Everlasting God. He is asking in faith, anxious to see God's glory fill the earth.

He succeeded. How? The account tell us "Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb...,because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel."

How many times have I made the request
" Oh God, send me where no one else wants to go. Send me where living conditions are hardest and spiritual darkness is deepest."

I have been making a "Caleb request", but have I been asking with a "Caleb faith"? I'm afraid not. I have been boldly proclaiming "Yes, Lord! Give me this mountain!" but my confidence has too often been resting on the frail foundation of personal strength. I have been counting on my health, youth and career training. I've been asking for the giants because I thought I had what it took.

Now that the giants are within view I, like Isaiah, am totally undone. My hands literally shake at times. That's nothing compared to the shaking of my soul as I realize my insufficiency.

One simple fact changes everything: The battle is not mine, but Gods.
I am not the most important ingredient in this battle. My willingness alone is needed. God could just as easily win this one with an old, sickly, uneducated me. Inadequacies just give Him a chance to shine all the more.

So Lord,...Give me this mountain! and let your glory fill the earth!