"Henceforth, simply the nappy."
One of the most delightful things about being in Kenya is participating in the odd mix of African bush culture and English propriety. It's what remains of the colonization of this land by the British, I guess. And it is quite nice.
For example, we all have dusty feet peering out of rubbery ‘flip-flop' like sandals in the operating area, yet we refer to the OR's as ‘theatres', and we adjourn to ‘take tea' at the proper intervals throughout the day. The Kenyans put every coffee house in the developed world to shame with their ‘chai': a creamy, sweet cup of goodness scooped from a boiling pot of tea leaves and milk, fresh from the cow, brought to the hospital that morning in a plastic bucket. It is just so very civilized and so very African. And it is mandatory, I am beginning to understand. In this picture, you can see me having tea with some of the nursery and maternity nurses. I had just given them a lecture about neonatal warning signs in the delivery room, and I was prepared to whisk away to the days doctoring tasks. They insisted that I sit and have tea. It's the proper, Kenyan way.
The influences of the Queen's English and Kiswahili also manage to trip me up on a daily basis. Example 1: intern says to Dr. Amy, "this preterm is receiving 8ml feeds, two hourly, and is retaining." Dr. Amy blinks thinking, "retaining? Is retaining good or bad?" Example 2: same intern pouts over a squeaking, stridorous baby. "Oh, he is lamenting," she says. And I think, "man, I wish I used the word lamenting." Example 3: A few days ago I noticed that there was an odd pile of gauze taped around baby Hawa's ostomy which was causing the liquid stool output to severely irritate his skin. So I asked one of the nurses, "could we stop using the dry gauze and only use a diaper from now on?" The nurse replied, "So, henceforth, simply the nappy?" "Uh, yeah, simply the nappy. Thanks."
Perhaps my favorite experience yet should have a photo but I must try words instead. I was chatting with Dr. Gary in the hospital corrider, and as we were talking, a Masai grandmom walked past with her infant grandson in a sling on her back. The little guy was healing from a chemical burn of his head, and he had even lost most of his left ear. After multiple skin grafts he still had bright pink under-flesh covering most of his head. It was a patchwork that looked like freshly groomed farm land: little squares of different soils in pinks and browns. His grandmom was covered in beads, ear lobes hanging low from a piercing type process, dark black feet flat against the hospital floor and the little guy, peering up to catch our eyes... then he giggled and hid from us in the folds of his grandmother's clothes. His happiness took over the air around us. I could not understand how such a little boy (two years old) could have so much pain-- so much to cry about -- and yet so much joy! Later I found out that this patient, Ralian, is Jim's patient. Jim is his surgeon, and he is Jim's favorite. Ralian's grandmother has said that she wants to return to visit us before we leave so she can give Jim a reward for taking care of her grandson.
So far, I have been blessed to enjoy my time here in ways I could not have foreseen. It is simply "well with my soul," as the old hymn says. And still, I am a creature of luxury, and I miss all the lavishness of my home in Colorado. Gary Finke, the pediatrician of the past 2 years, leaves roughly the same time we do. So as the days march forward and we get closer to hugging our families, our friend Stephany gets closer to being the sole pediatrician at this busy children's hospital. Her fear of taking on this mighty task is always behind the scenes. She is weary, and it is hard to leave her behind. I am asking now, reader: please pray for reinforcements for Stephany. Pray for courage and joy and wisdom and sleep for her. If you are a pediatrician - consider coming to help her. Even just a few weeks would lessen the load and give little lily pads of rest during her 2 year commitment. You will be a blessing and you will be blessed!
I have a tendency to count down days until the end of different periods of life. A physician in Nashville once advised a group of us not to wish away our lives during residency, and I hate to admit that I sometimes have that tendency, although not just in residency. Recently I have been simultaneously struggling to not count down the days until I return to my own indulgences (warm bath, constant electricity, reliable phone line to call mom and dad) and dreaming of returning to live out my days here.
I said in a previous post-my first post from Kijabe in fact-that life here is simple, hard and lovely. It is simple, and it is hard in many ways. That is true. But in the end and above all, life here is lovely.