Olen poked his head around the curtain in Medicine.
"Hey Heather Rochelle." (This is his preferred name for me.) "Any chance you could cover Surgical/Maternity Wednesday night. There's a nurse who doesn't show up. "
"Sure thing" was my reply, but really I was filled with silent dread. Working an 18-hour nightshift had been a fear of mine. Other Student Missionaries had told me stories that would chill any nurse’s heart. I had never worked anything beyond a 12-hour shift and most certainly had never worked over-night in my life. Might as well do both in one night—with a language barrier. Why not?
I arrived at the hospital at 2:30 pm to look over the charts and try to ask some questions before the previous shift melted away. An hour later I had feelings much like a ship mid-ocean leaking like a sieve. It was only 30 minutes into my shift and I was in way over my head. A lady was flailing wildly due to a fever, an IV was leaking, another IV had come out, a huge wound dressing hadn't been changed, and a baby in critical condition was in need of IV medication but the family had no money. This necessitated a frantic search for a government slip for urgency for Danae to sign. I was being told to write orders I'd never done and my limited French vocabulary had long since run dry. Standing in line at pharmacy I had a chance to mentally refocus.
"Talk faith Heather...faith, not doubt."
When I returned to my department, help had arrived. Hamadou took care of my IV's while I filled out orders and charts. Danae got the fever patient settled down and gave instructions on her overnight care. Cory translated and tracked down people for me, while Ndilbe changed the wound dressing. Before I knew it 6 o clock meds had been given. Everything became quiet so I headed to Danae and Olen's where I was fed royally with potatoes, chili and a big frank. Cory stayed around to help with 9 o clock meds. I finally sent him home at 10 pm.
I settled down in the Maternity office. For the next few hours the two other nurses working would come to check on me. There was a baby who required an IV push every 6 hrs and fed every 3 - 4 hrs. He was premature and feverish. At first he didn't want to suck, I was encouraged by his angry cry. He had some fight still in him. By the end of the night he was doing A-OK. After a 2 am med I curled up on an exam table and slept ‘til 4 am when another med was due. When I went to give the IV medication I discovered that in a feverish delirium the lady had pulled out her IV. Unsure how to order a new one I ran for Salomon. He came right away and didn't stop helping me until all the 5 am meds were given. Grateful for all his help I went to help him with his morning vital signs. In turn he helped me with mine.
It was with particular gratefulness I noticed the sky growing brighter. Wearily I trudged home in the blinding morning light. My family was already busy bagging nuts and brewing tea for market. I had collapsed in my mosquito tent when there was a clap at the door. Time to eat. Neither I nor my stomach was in any mood to eat, but I put myself together again and opened the door. They had brought me a platter with 4 huge donut things and a mug of tea. I was grateful for their kindness. I was able to consume all of it (except the syrup tea) and was just excusing myself to go sleep when I was instructed to "wait". They weren't finished feeding me. The next course was sugared beans. By the time I finally lay down it was nearly 9 am. By 10:30 I woke up slippery with sweat. It was time to vacate my hut--a.k.a. "the oven". I went in search of cooler parts of the earth such as the shade of our family palm tree. There I enjoyed the pleasant wind and was able to rest a bit more despite being surrounded by a lively family discussion consisting of whooping, laughing, clapping and "Mood-dung yell-talking" **. It made me smile, but not sleep.
God is faithful.
**The language my family speaks is very loud and angry sounding. They are not upset...just very loud. It can still make me jump. : )