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.

1 comment:

Doug said...

When I was there she spent her whole time in bed. That she gets some wheelchair time is wonderful. I love your expression of compassion through letters.
Doug Wilson