Also The Dangerous Mop (same day the propshaft fell out)
01.10.2008 -17 °C
Just to tell you that there are now photos in the photo gallery.
It's only at Ruthin clinic I've ever seen patients turn up in wellies; one clinic we did last week had a fair turnout of wellies. The African people do endear themselves to you; in one clinic a man in wellies pleaded with me for something to be done for his wife. She had a cataract, so I put her through to the person compiling the operating lists; she had a good chance of an operation because, at that point we still had operating spaces. They're full now, apart from spaces we've left for emergencies, returns to theatre etc.
This time last year I was at the airport waiting for my flight home; I was ready to go home, mainly because of the sheer difference of working in a totally different culture, in an unfamiliar way.
Today I was waving off people on the dockside glad that I have another 3 weeks to go.
Tomorrow our fastest eye surgeon arrives; on Tuesday I will watch him operate, then from Wednesday it'll be full-pelt from then on with 1st dressings. There'll be about 30 per day, as another surgeon will operate too. I've left the field team now (sadly) and will be based on the dockside, but that'll be fun too.
We've an excellent team; a nurse from Australia is part of the team that does the k's and A scan - she's here with her husband who is updating broken databases on our computers (there are about 200). An American nurse without eye training helps her; between them they do the pre-ops. Tomorrow I'm helping them; it's a ship holiday but inadvertantly some patients were booked in. Two new eye nurses and an eye surgeon are here too, but I've not seen them yet, will look them out tonight.
Despite the age expectancy of Africans being about 46 we listed a man of 110 recently!
Now, to the dangerous mop incident.
Yesterday 18 of us set out in 2 land rovers (they gave us the old ones) for Bong mines, which ceased operations in the war. It's a long day out; we covered 200km in all. At this place iron ore was mined and smelted, then shipped straight to Europe.
We went for an hour when the other land rover dropped it's propshaft out. Having owned a car that did this I was rather surprised when eventually, after being mended, we were allowed to proceed. That caused a halt of about 2 hours, which I considered the best part of the day. Within minutes we had gathered a crowd of about 10 small children; the first girl I spoke to said she wanted to come with me, pleadingly. She was about 10. After I explained that wasn't possible she then turned to Carmen, and asked the same. We talked to her about the necessity of staying with her family, and continuing school so that she could obtain a good job and then go where she liked. It was very sad. Her small brother was there, then eventually Grandma wandered up, minus shoes. The girl (Comfort) explained that Moma and Popa were away, and that Grandma looked after them. We prayed with the family.They eventually all started the long walk home along the road.
After this one of our ladies got an impromptu singing session going with the other children; we were near their homes - someone brought out spoons and Marianne showed how to play them. A child beat out a rhythm on a bowl. There was alot of laughter. At one point I sat down on the dirt, and a child brought a stool out for me. This tiny settlement had a pump, as did a few we saw on the way, even in quite remote areas, which I was pleased to see. At this first place we stopped healthy-looking vegetables were growing too, none of which I recognised (no sprouts, tho' we've had sprouts here on the ship!)
The dangerous mop episode came from a man showing us an innocuous-looking home made mop - he explained that if thieves broke in they would ignore this. He then lifted up the 'moppy bits' to reveal a knife. He was laughing fit to burst! He said 'that'll get them good!'
Well, we got underway again. The plan normally is that we drive so far then both landrovers drive onto a trolley and are taken the rest of the way behind the train - we sit on top of the land rover. As we were late we had to drive the whole way. Boy, what a drive!
This year I'll try to include photos in this diary; last year it failed. I can't describe how deep the ruts were, most of them were like deep ditches, and the land rovers were constantly lurching about. It was possible to get a head injury INSIDE the jeep! We arrived mid-afternoon, spent about half an hour looking around, then had to set off for home!
On the way back the same landrover decided it could only drive in reverse; making loud crunching noises on trying to engage 1st gear. Our driver, Emmanuel (who, incidentally must have been to our department because he had one lovely shiny false eye), got underneath, and in about half an hour had fixed it. Meanwhile we gathered another (larger) amount of children. The singing this time wasn't quite so voluble; we'd had a long day and it was getting dark. One of the children had obviously been to the river to wash, she had a piece of soap and a cloth in a small bucket. Quite small children miraculously balanced full buckets of water on their heads. They all had lovely smiles and looked healthy and well-fed. After cleaning the headlights we again set off, in the dark. It's very hazardous,as pedestrians walk down the roads in the dark, but our drivers did a sterling job of maintaining concentration, still having to cross the road to avoid potholes.
Everywhere we went adults and children alike waved to us, and shouted things like 'you are welcome'. The deeper we drove into the countryside the more primitive the housing became, until they were more or less rectangular mud huts. We left behind the 'cloth and corrugated tin' huts of the towns. Some were made of hand-fashioned clay bricks. People were sitting around leisurely outside; despite their poverty they seemed to me to have an enviable lifestyle. One of the girls remarked that we in the West have a spiritiually-poor life, with which I tend to agree.
The envy evaporates when we see babies with malaria, a horrendously high number of which die from malaria every day, I think it's about 3000 in sub-Saharan Africa. I've seen 2 in clinics, both with neurological deficits, one was obviously near death. That is the hardest thing to cope with. We refer them to JFK hospital, but we know they probably won't go. It's possible to give them money, of course, but I'd rather give it when someone has a chance of life. We pray with them, and try give them hope.
One of our ladies had an a/c washout (for blood in the eye) at our local eye hospital, which had no patients and was dirty, no sheets on the beds. She presented 2 months after cataract removal and lens implant, with a bruise on her cheekbone and the blood in her eye. She denied having been struck when I asked her, but eventually agreed that she had. On inspecting under her upper lid there was a scleral perforation, with choroid poking through. She went to the hospital, but on visiting her 2 days later she had had nothing done as she didn't have the £17 fee. That was produced and the op was done next day. A few days later she appeared at the ship, saying she'd been given no post-op drops, so we complied. To my surprise she could see a few letters on the chart with pinhole. The wound hadn't been sutured, but conjunctiva had grown back and her pressure was ok. Just think for how many people we're not in the right place at the right time though.
Two of our translators/eye health educators are starting nurse training, and a 3rd has applied. They're very reliable people, though it's so funny going along in the landrover to clinics in the morning. The ones who've made it to our collection point have their phones constantly rung by the ones who've missed us! They eventually do reach the clinic! At lunch time they jabber away to each other fast - the eye nurse last year used to stand it so long then shout at them humourously to 'shut up!', at which point they would break into peals of laughter! They're interesting to talk to; Joyce told me that the bribes you have to pay to get into the nurse training school make it as expensive as paying for private training, so that's what she's doing.
It's tea time again, so as my stomach's rumbling I'd better go!