"It is a new year!" - January 1, 2010
I stayed up until midnight to go and sit with the students for the New Year countdown. No big ball falling from
After a breakfast of
We arrive in Torkor and it is much less crowded from yesterday. There are very few market vendors and it appears that half the town is sleeping. I think that is the case because we don’t have many patients the first few hours except for the small children.
They are fascinated with the student nurses and are very anxious to have the nurse, "touch them.” We have been able to do some pediatric assessments. It is difficult because many of the young mothers do not speak English. It seems to me that in the poorer communities the young men seem to have some command of the English language but the young women not as much. We do not have as many interpreters today so some of the young men help us out with instructions to the patients.
The children appear healthy but we again are seeing the increased frequency of umbilical hernias. I do not know the reason for that. We have such limited tools. I do prescribe some penicillin for a young child who has some type of skin infection. I am able to demonstrate to the UML students how to do a scoliosis screening. At one point in the day the UML students engage the children in a clapping and singing game. It is a moment we catch on video. The children are always at first hesitant to come to the nurses but after a few moments they relax and are fascinated with the young girls and their cameras.
We see another “Ya-vou” which means white person. We mimic what the residents have been doing to us when they see us walking down the street. A UML student yells “Ya-vou” and this young white man immediately turns and comes to greet us. I cannot recall his name but I am going to call him “cute guy from
We have now been working for about 3 hours and it has been a steady but not crazy flow of patients. It appears that more people are coming now and I suspect that these are the people who are probably just awakening from their celebrations of the night before. We try to examine more patients for about an hour but we are starting to get tired and hungry. We close the clinic at 3 pm and we have to promise to return for another clinic.
This village is so poor and these residents are happy to have some access to free care. They need so much and we are only equipped to deal with a few health problems. Yesterday Alison, a UML student, took one of my big picture books that I use in my clinical practice at home and went out to the waiting crowd to show them pictures of the human body and where the organs are and specifically the organs affected by hypertension.
This is a totally unscripted educational program and I admire her for her ingenuity and ability to recognize that she had a teachable moment. She is knowledgeable and this is not the first time I have seen her jump right in and begin teaching the patients. She recognizes the value of educating the people here and wants to leave them with knowledge about their health. I find all the UML students very inquisitive and willing to learn something new. We have had some impromptu teaching sessions about various topics. Often these topics arise because of something we have witnessed. I am enjoying the process of helping them to consolidate some of their book learning into real life community-based nursing. I am very honest with them about my in inadequate skills in an acute care setting but I feel that I can help them so much with their community-based care.
We pack up our “clinic” which is contained in a cardboard box and my Barnes and Noble book bag and off we go to get our Taxi back to Kpando. We become victim to a little price gouging when we try to arrange our taxi home. We were told it was 3 cedis each way per taxi but now they know that we are trapped in Torkor and they can up the price because we have no other options. We are now told it will cost 5.9 cedis to get home. I agree to the increase and I leave in my cab with ½ of the group. The other half balked at the price and were ejected from their cab to go and negotiate a rate with another taxi. We are a bit upset that these people would take advantage of us after we have just given them 4 hours of free medical care. Everyone in this country is struggling to survive and the “ya-vous” represent a revenue stream for them. This is the part of the trip I do not like.
After returning home we rest for a few hours. Maura is arriving today. Maura is the other “Mama” who traveled with us last year and she decided at the last minute to join us in
Maura and I decide to walk to Shine and Bernard’s house (our hosts from last year). This is about a mile long walk which entails going thru the busy part of Kpando where the walking is treacherous due to auto and people traffic. We then turn onto a very dark and rutted road to continue our journey (about another ½ mile) down into a residential section. The road and path conditions seem a bit worse this year and we rely heavily on our flashlight to guide our steps.
We meet with Bernard, Shine, 3 of their visiting friends, Mildred who is Bernard’s 4 year daughter and Maria, the medical student from
It is getting late and we are tired so we begin our journey home. Shine and Bernard accompany us ½ way. The busy street has turned into a mob scene very similar to a Mardi gras atmosphere. There are hundreds of people in the street, loud music playing in local bars that spill onto the street and many, many people walking. We follow a walking street band for a while and get a photo of the group. We are a bit nervous in this crowd and Maura and I walk arm in arm down the street protecting our pockets. We are happy to return to the safety of Cedes Guest house.
The students are having their own little party over at the Friendly Spot with our new friends from the
It is getting late and I am totally exhausted. Maura and I chat for a while in our room and we quickly go to sleep. We are giggling a bit because our families have such a hard time comprehending the fact that we sleep together in one bed. The living conditions are so different here. We are not at the Hilton. I am thrilled to have a comfortable bed, a flush toilet, electricity and the best of all air conditioning. I go to sleep in my sheet snug sack I brought with me and the blanket I “borrowed” from British Airways. Tomorrow is a full day and we need to get some rest.