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.