So, I had dreams of writing this great blog post to summarize my two weeks here at Galmi, then I got a viral upper respiratory infection (aka a cold)...then it became a viral GI infection (I think you know the kind I mean). So, instead, a list in no particular order:
1. We flew from Niamey to Galmi two weeks ago in a little six-seater plane. It was wonderful. This is by far the best way to be introduced to a new land.
2. I arrived in Galmi, and immediately was taken to my apartment. It is bigger than my apartment in Greenville, NC. This fact does not upset me.
3. I began work in the hospital a few days later. This consists of rounding at 7:30 am on the 25 or so patients that the surgeon I am working with, Dr. Starke, has on his list. Around 8:30 we go to "La Bloc," which is the OR. There are two surgeons here: Dr. Starke and Dr. Sannoussi. One operates the whole day, and one operates till lunch. I usually assist Dr. Starke the whole day or until he leaves, then if there are more cases, I will stay and do those with Dr. Sannousi. We generally do between 4 and 8 cases including every area of surgery except neurosurgery. A list from my first day goes as follows:
Perforated Typhoid Repair
Perforated Peptic Ulcer Repair
Ex-Lap revealing Tuberculosis Peritonitis
Removal of a Axillary Cystic Hygroma (Wikipedia it)
This is a pretty standard day. We usually finish around 2 or 3 pm, at which time we break for lunch, and return to the outpatient department to do outpatient clinic until everyone is seen (usually around 6 or 7 pm). This is the schedule 5 days per week. So far I have had the weekends off. Last weekend we rode camels through town and took a hike to a village about an hour away. Soon I will start taking every third night call and working weekends. This will limit my dream of becoming a professional camel rider, I think.
4. It is really hot here, though there have been days where it rained, which cools things down. It is generally somewhere between 85 and 95 degrees F. The OR has AC. This is another fact that does not upset me.
5. People die here. Sometimes you will come into the hospital in the morning, and there will be an empty bed where your patient was yesterday. No one calls in the middle of the night to tell you your patient is crashing. There is no M&M conference to figure out what went wrong. You just move on. Usually it is because people here wait waaaay too long to come to the hospital, and by the time they arrive, they are too far gone. Sometimes we don't really know what happened. Some are severely malnourished. You need food to heal wounds and fight off infection, and without it, the chances of survival dwindle. Many of them have chronic illnesses like TB, HIV, or cancer. Almost all of them have malaria. I am only beginning to react to the death around me. For the first few weeks, I could tell my mind was treating it as if it wasn't really real. Now, I am beginning to face it. This is a huge prayer need.
6. I have the tendency to be a critical person, especially of myself. I am also a people-pleaser. These two character traits combined to make my first few sleep-deprived, jet-lagged days in the OR very difficult. My hands shook. My mind was not very clear. I made countless mistakes I would not usually make. I got frustrated with myself. I made more mistakes. So on and so forth. It was not fun. That being said, it taught me and important truth: I need to give myself grace. God created me. Christ died for me. Neither of those were mistakes. If God created me to be a surgeon for His Glory, so be it. If not, then I want to be what He made me to be. This realization has allowed me to relax. Relaxation in surgery is key. Things have gone much better since, praise God. Turns out I might be able to do this after all.
7. I love orange Fanta straight from the bottle. They make it with real sugar here. I have already had about a case-worth. I have missed orange Fanta.
8. Fun fact: Dr. Sannoussi was born and raised here in Niger. I spent today with him rounding and in the OR. He is a product of PAACS, which is the organization I came here to investigate. He is also an awesome dude. I am excited to get his perspective on life here, missions, PAACS, etc.
9. If you ever travel in Africa, and iPad is a great thing to have. Just trust me on that one. Mine currently carries approximately 200 pounds of medical and surgical textbooks and another 50 pounds of fun reading, not to mention the few thousand songs. Thank you, technology.
Well, my stomach is growling, so I am going to attempt to put food in it...we'll see how that turns out. Thank you all sooooo much for your prayers. I have needed them desperately over the past few weeks. The spiritual opposition here is real. Your prayers are part of combating that. So, thank you.
Until next time....