Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mount Cameroon

                In the days leading up to my ascent of Mt. Cameroon, every time I mentioned my hike to a local, they would laugh, and tell me there was no way I was going to make it.

Day one: 6 hours, 6,036 ft. elevation gain, 4.6 miles.

For the hikers, Thursday morning came early. At 5:30 I rolled out of bed to get one last shower, and finish some last minute packing. The little water filter, which is usually ample for Bill, Trixy, Cherilyn, and me, was no match for six people filling up water bottles for Mt. Cameroon.  Cherilyn and I both needed our Nalgenes filled before we left, but since the water filter was empty, we decided just to try the tap water. Although it didn’t have any immediate adverse affects, we’re pretty sure that is why we were out of breath, weak, and tired the rest of the day. Everyone else suggested that it might be that we were out of shape; but it couldn’t possibly that, it had to be the water!

We all met at the old Bicec, and visited for a few minutes while the guides and porters packed the bags.  Before we had even walked through Upper Farms, I was asking myself what I had been thinking; I was already tired, and we weren’t even to the mountain yet. By the time we had reached hut one, I had a good rhythm down; walk, pant, drink, pretend to take a picture, and start walking again. Once we were out of the forest and onto the burned face of the mountain, the going got much more difficult. For a while, we were hiking up a section that was like walking up a never ending, and extremely steep staircase.

 I was told that once we crested the ridge we would be able to see hut 2, where we would be spending the night. After each tiny rise, I hoped to see the tiny tin structure, just waiting for me. But sadly, after each crest, I was disappointed. Finally, when I thought I couldn’t drag my tired body another inch, we came over a rise, and around the corner to one of the most beautiful sights I’d seen: hut 2, just waiting for me to dump my back pack on the floor, and sit in its shade. Most of us spent the next few hours sleeping, reading, and relaxing in the sun. Our nap was interrupted by the fire that threatened to burn our resting place. By that time our porters were there, so they beat the fire out for us.

Dinner was served shortly before dark—white rice with a delicious vegetable sauce. We all sat, warming our hands around the fire, and telling stories after dinner. Since we had a very long day ahead of us, we all turned in early. 

Day 2: 9 ½ hours, 3,939 ft elevation gain, 5,726 ft elevation loss, 10.4 miles.

After we packed up, and ate our breakfast of tea, bread, and hard boiled eggs, we resumed hiking. The second day was even harder than the first; my muscles were tired and sore, and the air seemed to be getting thinner with every step I took. After each ridge we crested I only saw a bigger higher one to be climbed. Each one seemed insurmountable, but one step at a time, I conquered them. By hut 3 I was exhausted, and still forty-five minutes from the summit. I kept plodding along, one step at a time. Even when the trail flattened out, I had to make frequent stops to catch my breath, and let my legs rest. For the last half an hour or so, we could see the summit; it seemed so close and yet so far away. Finally, we made it to the summit. I felt like I was on top of the world! We took our pictures, ate some snacks, and then headed down the backside of the mountain.

We made good time sliding down the back side, trekking across the lava field, and across the wide open grassy land. When we started our descent across the craters I slowed down exponentially. After about six stops to empty the gravel out of my shoes, I decided it would be faster going without them and opted for going barefoot.  The last few miles of downhill were torture! My legs felt like jell-o, and my feet felt like they’d been put through a meat grinder. It was prayer and mind over matter that got me down to Mann Springs, where we spent the night.

Spaghetti and vegetable sauce were served around a roaring campfire. Since my whole body ached, and we needed to get up at 5:30 the next morning, I went to bed early once again.

Day 3: 5 hours, 4,370 ft elevation loss, 8.7 miles

We ate an early breakfast, packed up, and were headed down the mountain by seven o’clock. I had taped up my blisters and thought I was ready to conquer anything! The hike went good at first, not too much downhill and the trail was fairly easy. When I thought we had to be nearly there our guide informed us, we were almost halfway. From there, the going got tougher. My legs ached, my feet burned, and I had blisters all over, even on my hands. I’d stubbed my toes into almost every immovable object within five feet of the trail, and now they were killing me. Around every corner I swore I could hear voices and I thought for sure I’d see the town as soon as I rounded the bend. Each time I was disappointed. Finally after about five hours of hiking we started to see signs of civilization. A woman took one look at our bedraggled group and said, “ashia!”(Which means sorry) We didn’t really think we looked as awful as we felt, but I guess we must have. I was so glad to see the shade at the clinic in Bokwango. I knew that as soon as I reached there, I would be done! I felt that the clinic was a very appropriate place to end our hike. Really, anywhere would have been fine with me, but the clinic just seemed a perfect fit.

Mt. Cameroon was a great adventure, and I’m happy I did it. I’m even happier that it’s over, and I will never have to go through all that pain and misery again!  

Friday, December 31, 2010

Taxis, Packages, and Yummy Christmas Food

Friday, December 24

Since I am a procrastinator by nature, I put off buying Christmas presents until Christmas Eve. I had a fairly short list for market, so I was hoping for a painless few minutes of shopping. Wrong! It was, hands down, my worst market experience yet! I was walking up the road, lost in my own world, when I walked past a car; the driver was sitting inside, but I didn’t really pay any attention until he started talking to me. “I want to talk to you.” He told me as he pulled me aside. “I see you walking by all the time, but you always look so busy.” I shook his hand, but didn’t say anything.

“I want to see you, where do you live?” He asked.

“Uh… Around here.” I have a really hard time lying, even if they are creepy.

“Can I have your phone number?”

“Sorry, I don’t have a phone.” This lie I justified by saying that the phone wasn’t really mine, it’s Cherilyn’s. Besides, I don’t know the number.

“How will I find you then? I really want to see you.”

“I come to market, but I’m in a hurry today. My friend is cooking and I need to get food for her.”

This interested him. “Boyfriend or girlfriend?”

“My friend.” Why can’t I lie?!?

“Wait, where are you from?”

Germany was the first country that popped into my head, so that’s what I told him. I quickly left him and continued my journey to the market. Since it was the day before Christmas, everyone was selling the main entre for Christmas dinner: Chicken. There were probably ten huge baskets of live chickens on the side of the road. As a child I was attacked multiple times by angry roosters, so I am slightly afraid of chickens now. I’m already frazzled by my conversation with creepy guy, and now I have to walk past ten baskets of the most despicable bird ever to waddle the earth. Finally, I make it to my favorite vendor, where I get my dry goods. Trying to make friendly conversation, I ask if he has any plans for Christmas. From that he gets that I want to take him to Church with me, and he would love to go with me. I told him that I would probably be working all day.

 Cherilyn asked me to get coconut; I looked, and looked, and looked, for it and couldn’t find it. I finally decided to go back out to the street and look there for it. When I saw it, I was so excited about finding it, that I forgot to pay attention to the cars driving by, and when I stepped onto the street I almost collided with a taxi. That was the first time I almost got hit. After getting ripped off, for one of Cherilyn’s gifts, I decided it was time to leave the market. Crossing the street, I made it safely to the median, and was standing there waiting for a break in traffic. I look down the median and see a guy walking towards me with a chicken in his hands. The median is only about two feet wide, and I knew that wasn’t nearly enough room for me to pass a chicken. I had to get off that median! That was the second time I almost got hit. However, I made it safely across the road, just in time to walk right past the ten baskets of chickens again.

Bill and Trixy hosted a fantastic Christmas Eve party. There were about twenty of us there, and tons of super fantastic food: salads, mashed potatoes and gravy, spaghetti, garlic bread, green beans, fried yams, and a whole table of cookies and cakes. Dinner was followed by hours of enjoyable visiting, and sharing of Christmas traditions. It was a great way to start Christmas.

Saturday, December 25

Since it was Christmas, two of our Peace Corps friends joined Bill, Trixy and I at church. The service was followed by a mouthwatering, Cameroonian potluck feast. It was a great meal except that Cyril sat beside me through the whole meal grilling me about my hobbies, family, and work. After lunch Ben, Ashley and I were talking about having a Christmas movie night that evening. I mentioned to them that my family’s traditional Christmas movie was Prancer, but I didn’t have it with me. Cherilyn and I decided that we would wait until 5:30 to open our gifts, but once I woke up from my nap, we couldn’t wait any longer. It took us close to an hour to open everything, and we enjoyed every minute. A huge thank you to everyone that helped make our Christmas packages so fantastic!

In the package from my parents and sister was a movie, Prancer. We had our Christmas movie night, and I got to watch Prancer. The little girl reminded me so much of my sisters, it was unreal! No wonder Sarah loved the movie so much! While watching the movie, Cherilyn and I put together a 3D puzzle that my family sent me for Christmas. Trixy looked up the puzzle online, and found rankings for it: if it takes you less than 16 minutes you are a genius, if it takes less than 60 minutes you are above average, and if it takes more than 60 minutes you are below average. It took Cherilyn and me more than 60 minutes together, so our minds combined are still below average. 

Wednesday, December 29

Trixy came to my apartment to tell me that the woman at the post office was going a little crazy. Apparently, between Cherilyn and I, there were nine packages just waiting to be picked up. I was so excited, you have no idea! When I went to ask Bill if he could take me to the Campost, I tried to be nonchalant about it, but it was hard to keep the big, excited grin off my face. It took the woman quite a while to get all the packages located, and recorded in her book. After about forty-five minutes of waiting, signing papers, and packing the car full of boxes, we were off again.

I was worried that Cherilyn wouldn’t be back from her trip to Manjo, and I would have to sit in our apartment waiting, while all those boxes just begged me to open them. Thankfully, she had been back for a while, and I only had to wait a few minutes. I don’t think I would have lasted much longer. It was one of the best second Christmases I’ve had. It took us over an hour to open all of the packages, and read all the notes. We got puzzles, a homemade Christmas DVD, an album of Celtic Thunder (our new, favorite band), lotions, soaps, books, Sudoku, music, crosswords, band-aids, movies, tons of amazing food, t-shirts, pens, journals, and so much more! We appreciate everything so much! A huge thank you to all of you who made our Christmases so special!     

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bus Rides, Christmas Trees, and Pizza

Since it’s been nearly forever since I last blogged, I’ll try not to bore you with all the details, but I’ll try to mention all the high points. Ready? Here we go!
About a week before Thanksgiving a few of us decided to get together for a delicious pizza dinner.  Before everyone started arriving, Cherilyn and I were sitting up at the hospital enjoying the first signs of the season: Christmas carols blaring from the DJ across the street. Originally, we were planning for a group of about seven people for our dinner, but by the time everyone arrived we had close to twenty people packed in the living room. Ben made up some delicious crust, while Cherilyn and Heather helped cover them with all sorts of yummy toppings. It had been quite a while since we were all together like that, so we really enjoyed our visit.
The weekend before Thanksgiving a bunch of Peace Corps Volunteers were getting together for an early Thanksgiving celebration. There was a big group going from Buea, so I decided to tag along. We arrived at Mile 17 (Buea’s transportation hub) around 7:30 A.M., and purchased our tickets for the next bus headed to Bamenda. Then, we sat. And waited. We boarded the bus about nine, and left about a half an hour later. Ben and I had seats in the very back of the bus, along with three other people. It wasn’t actually as crowded as I had pictured, but with 5 people and all of our backpacks and purses there really wasn’t much wiggle room. It took us about eight hours to reach our destination, and by the time we crawled out of the bus I was sweaty, hot, and tired.
The next day we spent playing tourist in Bamenda. We visited two craft stores, the market, and a fabulous coffee shop. Heather had heard that Bamenda is famous for their grasshoppers, so we scoured the market in search of them. Once we had purchased them we found a shaded patio to sit, and enjoy our grasshoppers. If any of you are thinking about serving grasshoppers for Christmas dinner, I would rethink your menu. However, eating them was an experience I don’t think any of us are soon to forget.
Bali, where the dinner was going to be, was about a thirty-minute car ride from Bamenda. The five of us piled into a car about the size of a Toyota Camry, and we set off. We drove for about 30 seconds before picking up another passenger for the back seat. Then we added one more person in the front seat. With four people packed into the two bucket seats, you can imagine how difficult it was for the driver to shift. And how awkward it was for the two girls sitting in the middle. About half way through the trip, I asked Matt how he was doing. He replied that his left lung had collapsed, so he was having a tough time breathing. You may be wondering what happened to his lung; I was sitting to his left, apparently crushing the life out of him.   
 I was hoping to be back to Buea before dark on Sunday, so Matt and I left Bali about 7:30 to catch the first bus out. We arrived at the bus station about 8:30; just in time to buy our tickets, grab a spaghetti omelet, and catch the 9 o’clock bus. About 10:30, two of our friends who had also been in Bali, showed up, bought tickets, and got on our bus about fifteen minutes before it headed out. UGH! It never pays to be early in Africa! The ride itself was uneventful, except for one woman sitting three rows ahead of us. She did ALL of her grocery shopping on the ride without ever having to get off the bus. At one point the bus had to stop and back-up, so that she could buy more food.

Sunday, December 5
We broke out the Christmas music today. It made me homesick for snow, cold, a numb, burning nose, Christmas tree hunting, fires, hot chocolate, and family. It did help me feel more at home when Josh, Cherilyn, and I bravely attempted to put up Bill and Trixy’s fake tree. It was an uphill battle from the start. We had the tree almost put together (although it didn’t look quite right), when Bill told us that if you look really close, the branches are color coded. So we took the whole tree apart and started from scratch. Finally we got it all up, so it actually looked like a tree, and wrapped it with Christmas lights. It was a beautiful sight.
Cherilyn and I were very inspired, so that afternoon we borrowed a stack of paper from our gracious neighbors, and made our own tree.  Since neither one of us are very artistic, we decided that drawing decorations on our tree would be risky business. Instead, we decided to write on our tree. With blue highlighter we wrote things that we were thankful for; in green highlighter we wrote things we missed; with blue pen we wrote Christmas memories; and with black pen we wrote what we would get each other if we weren’t poor student missionaries. At first, the tree filled up slowly, but once we got started writing, things started coming more easily. For the next few days Cherilyn spent every spare moment cutting out snowflakes to decorate our room with. I made several attempts at it, but after 4 or 5 half snowflakes, I gave up.  A few days later Cherilyn found a string of lights that played awful Christmas music, and even occasionally lights up. They now hang happily on our bunk bed, along with 8 red and green snowflakes—a gift from my mom. But by far, my favorite Christmas decoration is Grover the USB Christmas tree. It actually plugs into the USB port on my computer, so it doesn’t take up space in our voltage converter! It’s fabulous! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honey Sweets, Old Ladies, and Failed Consultations

Sabbath, October 23

Early Sabbath morning we packed our bags, loaded the car, and headed for the Atlantic. It was a four or five hour trip but, aside from the police check points, it was very enjoyable. Between sleeping and enjoying the scenery, I was able to pass the time very easily. Once in Kribe, we drove right along the coast where we could see locals fishing, mending their nets, and some young boys playing football. It seemed like a very enjoyable way of life. Almost immediately after we had turned inland we were swallowed up by the restaurants, shops, and bustling people. It seemed so far away from the peace of the lapping ocean, which lay just meters behind us.

Since we were basically the only guests at Hotel Residence des Fleurs, the manager showed us around and let us choose our rooms. That turned out to be a bit of a challenge since he spoke almost no English, and between the seven of us, we spoke almost that much French. Once we got our rooms, it didn’t take us too long to change and head to the beach. My first few steps in the Atlantic Ocean were tentative. The water was a muddy brown, and there were all sorts of things wrapping around my ankles, and poking my feet. However, once I got into the deeper water, I was leaping into the waves, floating in the salt, and having a wonderful time.  

                After a quick snack we decided to walk down the beach to Lobe Falls. We were able to get most of the way by just wading through knee deep water. However, once we were in sight of the falls, we had to swim across a narrow channel. Between the ocean tide, and the river current it was quite a challenge. On the other side, we saw several local boys doing flips, cartwheels, and handsprings into the water. I think they were pretty excited to have “white men” watching them. The falls were gorgeous and well worth the swim and the wading to get there. We all went out to a little sand bar near the bottom of the falls. Everyone else was just standing around talking, but since I couldn’t really reach the bottom, I kept floating away. Cherilyn had to hold me down, so I didn’t get washed out to sea.

                After our dinner of Spaghetti and butter at the Ilomba Resort, we went down to the bar and ordered pistachio ice cream. Bill and Nate played a game of chess, while the rest of us fell asleep on the beach.

Monday, October 25

                After breakfast and a little puttering around our apartment, Cherilyn, Bill and I went to pick up Pastor Rich. After we switched Pastor Rich’s things to Bill’s car, we headed to Limbe. On our trip down Pastor Rich caught us up on the news from Union and about some of the other SMs. For lunch we had some fantastic pizza with chocolate pancakes for desert, from Chella’s.

                Pastor Rich took Cherilyn and me through Limbe Wildlife Center. We had a great time laughing at the gorilla’s and monkey’s human-like antics.

                When we got back to our apartment, Pastor Rich gave us all the goodies he’d brought us from all our friends back home. It was like Christmas two months early! We had a great time reading notes, unpacking food, and finding a place for everything to go. Thanks to everyone who sent us stuff.

Sunday, October 31

                Heather, one of the Peace Corps Volunteers, invited us over for a Halloween party. It wasn’t much of a party, but it was really enjoyable. We had Chili, bread, popcorn with marshmallows, gold fish, brownies, and cookies with avocado frosting. Since it was mostly Peace Corps Volunteers there, they talked a lot about that, and the rest of us mostly listened to their stories.

                On our way back from Heather’s, the sky was so clear and we could actually see the stars. When we got back, Cherilyn and I slathered on the bug repellent and sat in the yard, doing some stargazing. It was so nice to see the night sky, it hadn’t been that clear since we’ve been here.

Friday, November 5

                Since neither Cherilyn nor I had to work during the day, we spent the morning getting the house ready for Sabbath. We kitty sat three of Milo’s kittens for the weekend, and they are not quite litter box broke yet. So with the smell prodding us to work quickly, we attacked the house with a vengeance. By lunch time, we had both our apartment and the house looking and smelling much better, and had worked up quite an appetite.
                When Matt first arrived, Cherilyn and I would go over every day about meal time and make food for all of us. We would sit in our room, meal planning, and then with recipes in our head, we’d march next door. I told Cherilyn that I felt like the little old ladies next door, who felt bad for the poor bachelor. So every day they bring him some of their “famous” home cooking, or just come over and fix him a meal and clean his house. Since then, it’s become better and we’ve figured out ways we can all contribute to keeping everyone fed and the house in order. I feel much less old lady these days. Although sometimes I feel like the elderly neighbor again, and I get a good laugh.
                Our patient, Sophie, was doing really good earlier in the day, but about six p.m. she started getting worse again. Her fever was back up to 39 C, and her whole body ached. Since she was pregnant and we really had no way of finding what was going on with her, we advised her family to take her to the General Hospital. While we were waiting for her to go, her brother came over and struck up a conversation with Cherilyn and me. After the usual questions of where we’re from, how long we’ll be here, and the like, the conversation went something like this. “Do you have a husband here?” He asked us. “No.” We almost shouted in unison. “We have guys back at home.” Cherilyn quickly added. “Do they call you every day?” He held his hand up to his ear like a phone. “No.” “Every week, then?”  He asked. “Um… yes. That’s more like it.” Cherilyn answered with a little giggle. “I would think you would be homesick. Don’t you miss everyone?” He prodded. “Um… no, we’re not too homesick.” Cherilyn answered. “Maybe when you get back you will make babies, since you have not seen your honey sweet for so long.”
Sabbath, November 6

                After a great church service, and great stir fry and rice for lunch, we headed out to look around Buea. Matt wanted to visit a former patient, so we set out in search of the General Hospital. We headed up towards the Campost, taking a few detours on our way. On our way to the hospital we passed a sign that caught our attention. It read, Destiny Ambulance Service-Coffins Available. While Matt went in and saw his patient, Cherilyn and I sat outside and people watched.

                On our way back to our hospital we took a little detour down Campaign Street. I was holding Jordan, and before long several kids had gathered around whispering about her. They all wanted to pet the dog, but were so shy and nervous. Finally I convinced them that she was nice and wouldn’t bite, and then, they all took turns, timidly coming over and stroking her back. After they had, they were so excited, and a few of the braver ones came back and pet her again.

                Cherilyn, Matt, and I had a Dutch Blitz tournament after dinner. We played for several hours, but finally had to call it a night before the champion was determined. Really, I was winning but Matt wouldn’t admit it.  

Monday, November 8

                I had been working nights for the past three days and Monday night was my last one before my four days off. The first three had been very quiet and I was hoping for a fourth. We had one patient on a quinine drip, but she would be pretty easy to take care of. I was reading the Clock Tower when a woman brought her daughter in for a consultation. I hoped, more than actually thought, that she was joking. I ushered them into a room, and went to gather everything I would need for the consultation. I did my assessment, and asked all the questions that I could remember, and still had no idea what was wrong with her. I took my precious few findings, and went to discuss them with Matt and Cherilyn. In the first five minutes Cherilyn came up with a lengthy list of questions that I should have asked, but didn’t remember. Finally, after much discussion, Matt decided to come up and take a look himself. After a few short minutes of examining the patient, Matt prescribed some medications and sent them on their way. After they were gone I sat down at the desk, very frustrated. I couldn’t believe how little I had known! I felt so useless and fake!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Big Needles, Bad Food, and Blocked IV Lines

Thursday, October 14

I carried my Bible and hymnal up to the hospital to see if we would be having our Thursday night study. The only two staff present were Cherilyn and Dr. Trixy, who were busy with a consult. Since I really had nowhere else to be, I busied myself with herding curious kids out of the exam room, and looking at pictures in an EMT book. While I was absentmindedly scanning the chapter on airways, I happened to glance up and see Cyril galumph through the double doors into the hospital. My stomach felt like someone had tied it in knots. After the initial pleasantries, I slipped into the nurse’s station, telling him that Cherilyn needed my help filling a syringe. He apparently thought we took too long because he came and poked his head in the room looking for me.  Cherilyn told him we were busy and helped him close the door. I ended up giving the injection, and taking the leftover medication to the fridge in hopes that he would see I was busy and go away. He didn’t. Instead, he joined us for Bible study. Since he didn’t bring his own hymnal or Bible, he just had to sit by me and share mine. Which, sharing would have been fine except both my hymnal and Bible have print so small that you have to get your face right in the book to read it. Even though I stretched my arm as far toward him as I could possibly reach, he still felt the need to lean over my char to see. So he had his arm on my arm rest, leaning over me, but facing the other way so he could actually see the hymnal that I held way over in front of him.

 After Bible study I was waiting for Cherilyn to walk back to our room. Cyril came and asked me if I’d received his notes, and what I thought. I told him that, while he was a good writer, I was not interested. “Oh, oh,” He laughed, “I am so sad!” A few seconds of awkward silence… “But you are so beautiful. You really aren’t interested?” “No, I’m really not interested, at all!” At that I picked up my books and marched back to my apartment.

Sabbath, October 16

  I had the day shift at the hospital this Sabbath. I spent most of the morning studying my Bible, and journaling. A little five year old boy came in carrying his little bag of medicine and syringes, so I could give him some shots. I was hoping that I could give him both of his medications in one IV site, so I wouldn’t have to stick him too many times. He watched me with the biggest, saddest eyes as I tied the tourniquet around his arm. As soon as he saw the IV needle, the sad eyes went away, and he started screaming and wiggling, and trying to get away. His brother had to hold him down while I pinned his arm down and stuck him. We still weren’t able to hold him still enough, and the IV blew. The next one I decided to just do IM, since he couldn’t really sit still enough for an IV. When he saw me whip out the IM needle, he just about died. He was screaming at his brother, “no, no! See how big?!?!” We finally got him pinned down so I could stick his thigh, but he let us know that he wasn’t very happy about it.

Sunday, October 17

 The little five year old came back for his second set of injections. This time there were two people accompanying him.  “Good.” I thought to myself, “reinforcements. We’re ready for him now!” But how wrong I was. This time I hardly had  time to tie the tourniquet before he started screaming and trying to get away. I told the brother that he would have to hold him down so I could give the injection. He did his best but still the arm was moving way too much for me to even hope to stick a vein. I went to our apartment and made Cherilyn cut her shower short so she could come and help us hold the patient down. Cherilyn and the brother managed to keep his body mostly still while I tried to hold his arm down. His sister was next to useless and just kept slapping the arm that I was trying to stick, so even if he would have been still enough for me, he hand was between me and him half the time. Finally, after much sweating, and grunting, and holding, and poking on our part, and screaming, and kicking on his part, we got all the medication inside him, and sent him on his way. In retrospect it was a really funny experience, but at the time it was awful! By the time I had finished I was shaking. The few minutes listening to him scream had totally drained me. I was praying that I wouldn’t have to do another injection for a good long time.

Monday, October 18

By the time the little boy came in for his last injection we’d figured it out, and it went pretty smoothly. Fortunately I only had to give the IM. We stretched him out on the bed, then his brother laid across his chest and then put his leg over the little boy’s. He could still kick pretty good, so I caught his feet between my knees. By the time we had him so he couldn’t move, the only part of him that was showing was his thigh where I was going to stick him, and his little feet. He was very happy when I told him that was his last injection and, hopefully, he wouldn’t have to see me again.

Later that day we had two new patients come in, both needing quinine drips right away. About every two minutes, while I was gathering supplies for the IVs, someone would come in the room asking how long it would be, or if I was ready yet. I guess they never figured out that the more they interrupted me, the longer it would take for me to finish what I was doing. Cherilyn was kind enough to come up and help start one of the IVs for me.

Thursday, October 21

Wednesday night a little boy came to the hospital with pneumonia and malaria, so first thing Thursday, I needed to start his second quinine drip. I spiked and hung the new bag, opened the line, but nothing happened. The old bag had stopped running a while ago, so I thought it might have become clogged. I really didn’t want to have to start a new site on him, so I grabbed a syringe and 10 mLs of saline. I tried to flush the line through every port I could find, but still nothing was working. When I had exhausted every trick I could think of and none of them had worked, I decided the only thing left was to re-insert the IV. When I had taken all the tape off, I found the problem; the part of the catheter that stuck out of his arm had shifted and become kinked. I was so relieved that I didn’t have to stick him again! I straightened everything out, taped it back down, and started the drip.

Later that afternoon, one of my patients invited me to join them for lunch. I had politely declined the day before and they seemed a little offended, so I thought I should probably join them this time. She said it was vegetables and yams. Vegetables are always good, and even though I don’t really like yams, I figured I could handle them for one meal. At first the two giant pieces of yam weren’t too bad; they actually tasted like regular potatoes. But the more I ate, the drier they got and the more they tasted like yams. The vegetable was actually just greens, similar to kale, with chunks of fish in it. When it comes to their fish, Cameroonians closely adhere to the adage, “waste not, want not,” and so, eat the whole fish. A fact I had forgotten about, until I shoved a forkful of fins, scales, and bones into my mouth. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a born and raised vegetarian. I can barely choke down a bite of salmon that hardly even tastes like fish anymore; a whole pile of green slimy stuff that tastes like it was scraped off the bottom of the ocean, then mixed with charred fish carcasses is just more than I can take.  I couldn’t chew it up! I tried to swallow it, but I knew that if I swallowed that stuff whole, I’d probably choke to death, right there in the hospital, so I kept chewing. By the end of the meal, all I could do was pray that I didn’t throw up before I got out of the patients room, and try to gag down the last few bites. I think, aside from the sauerkraut when I was two, that was the worst meal I’ve ever had. However, I really appreciated the families generosity. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crazy Women, Boiled Peanuts, and Marriage Proposals

Thursday, September 23

            The little boy with malaria came for his last infusion of quinine. After the drip was finished, his mother brought him out to the nurse’s station and asked me if I could watch him while she ran home. I nervously nodded my head in agreement. As soon as she stepped out of the hospital, he began bawling. I picked him up in an effort to comfort him, and discovered that his whole backside was soaked! I tried to shift him around so I wouldn’t get too wet, only to discover that aside from his shoes, there really wasn’t a dry place to hang onto. I set him down to walk around, hoping that would distract him, but nothing worked. Not even eating his cookies. When I tried to pick him up again, there was a giant string of saliva trailing from his mouth to his finger. I quickly set him down and whipped out my “in case of emergency only” toilet paper.  This definitely qualified as an emergency. I wiped him down, and then drug him with me to dispose of the well used paper. When his mother finally returned, I deposited the still screaming boy in her arms. She asked me if he’d been crying long. I let her know that, yes, he had been crying the whole time she’d be gone.

                On Monday a little boy came in with a fractured wrist. He was quite a handful! He didn’t want anything to do with the clinic at all. Outside he was just as happy as can be, but as soon as his dad brought him inside, he would start screaming and fighting. I couldn’t even keep his arm still long enough to get his pulse. However, when he came back on Thursday to get the cast put on, he was a totally different little boy. He munched silently on his biscuits the whole time we were putting on the plaster. Dr. Trixy was showing me how to do a cast, so the little boy had to sit there longer than usual, I’m sure. After I was done with the plaster part, Dr. Trixy told me to trim up the cotton sticking out on the ends. The scissors were well past their prime, and years of use had dulled their abilities. That coupled with my being left handed and unable to operate right handed equipment made it impossible for me to complete the job. Fortunately Helen was there, so she took over and lovingly coaxed a few more cuts out of the old scissors.

                The clinic’s final patient of the day was a woman who had an abscess on her right breast. Since she was going to have to be put under for the procedure, Trixy sent her over to the hospital so we could keep an eye on her after the fact. Lea and Trixy had both gone to the clinic to get supplies so I was alone when she came wailing up the ramp. As soon as I saw her I headed in to get a bed ready for her. When I came out she had plopped herself in a chair, and was holding her breast, sobbing. I kept trying to ask her if she wanted to go and lay down, but she was so loud she couldn’t hear me. She was making such a commotion that two guys from the clinic came up to see what was going on. Between the three of us we still couldn’t communicate to her that she should come inside.

When Lea came back, she ushered the woman inside. After Lea gave her a dose of Ketamine, she started getting very worried about the procedure. We waited for quite a while but she didn’t go to sleep. Trixy and Lea finally figured out that the dose they gave wasn’t enough, so Lea gave her a second dose. That was when things got interesting. She was still very worried and began talking very loudly, “You kill me!” She kept saying it over and over again, occasionally punctuated by snapping her fingers and clapping. We tried to reassure her that this was a simple procedure and she would be just fine in a few hours, but it didn’t really make a difference. She was getting more animated and sat up on the edge of the bed. “YOU KILL ME,” she screamed and slapped her hands on her chest. Suddenly, she stood on shaky legs and started running at Lea. As she ran her skirt started falling off, so with one hand she was holding her skirt and the other was held over her head in a threatening fist. Lea was ready for her and caught her wrists before she could do anything. Soon the patient seemed to forget what she was doing, and turned to back to her bed. She sat down on the edge and just stared at the floor. As soon as she flopped back onto the bed, we snapped into action. Lea and Trixy started draining the wound while I took her blood pressure. It seemed like the abscess was an endless fountain of puss- it just kept draining and draining and draining. When it finally quit draining Trixy flushed it with copious amounts of water, then packed and bandaged it.

Trixy had us read up on post- Ketamine care, so we would know what to expect when our patient woke up. Basically, it said that she would be just as bad coming out of it as she was going into it. The book was absolutely right. Cherilyn and I were visiting out on the breezeway when I heard her yelling. We tiptoed up to her door and timidly cracked it open. I opened the door just wide enough to peek around it and see what she was doing. She was sitting up, yelling and clapping again. Cherilyn and I looked at each other, wondering what to do. We walked up to her bed in the hopes that we could convince her that trying to get up would be a bad idea. It was no use; she was ready to get up. When she tried her legs, they wouldn’t hold her and she collapsed between the beds. I went and asked Lea what she thought we should do. She came, but there was really nothing we could do ‘til she woke up more. She would lie on the floor ‘til she mustered enough strength to sit up, then she would sit, clap a few times, yell at us, which would take all her strength and she would just flop back onto the floor. She repeated this several times, and every time I was braced for her to just crack her head on the floor. I was thinking to myself, “If she cracks her head open, we’re going to have to put her back under to sew her head up, and then it’s just going to be this same thing over again.” Thankfully she didn’t split her head open, and we weren’t stuck in a chronic loop of putting her under and patching her up. When she was finally able to stand, she teetered over to the corner where Cherilyn, Lea, and I were huddled. She was shouting at Lea, and asking her questions. Then when she got right up to us, she was totally silent. She just stared at us, one at a time. It was so creepy! Then without warning she took a handful of Cherilyn’s shirt and started pulling. To an onlooker, we would have been quite a humorous sight: Cherilyn trying to keep what was left of her shirt, our patient trying to gather more into her hands, Lea trying to pry the patient’s fingers off the shirt, and me holding onto the patient so she wouldn’t go toppling over. She eventually got tired of us and went back to sleep.

Sabbath, September 26
                I worked the day shift on Sabbath. We didn’t have any inpatients, so I was hoping for a quiet day.  When Christiane brought me the hospital keys, she also brought me the news that I had a patient waiting for me. My heart plummeted to my toes. I really had no idea how to consult a patient for anything besides an irritated eye. I took the keys from Christiane and began dragging my led feet up the ramp to the hospital. To my relieved surprise Christiane was right behind me. She took the girl into a room to do the consultation, while Cherilyn and I tackled the other three patients who had appeared out of nowhere. Cherilyn consulted two men with finger troubles.

A portly man elbowed his way up to the nurse’s station and informed us that he needed his bandages changed. Pronto! Cherilyn asked me if I could do that. “Sure.” I answered confidently. I took his bad of supplies into the nurse’s room and told him to go into the next room and wait for me. “A basic dressing change,” I thought to myself, “How hard could it be?” I was about to find out. I gathered everything I would need and headed to his room. I removed the old dressings, and discarded them.  You’re going to get cotton, right? You’re using WAY too much iodine!” Unfortunately, I wasn’t taking care of your average Joe patient; I had drawn the one with chronic wounds, who had seen the bandage changed hundreds of times. “I’m going to a specialist. You know, I’m a sickle cell patient.” Finally he became so exasperated with teaching me how to change his dressing that he decided I was a hopeless case. “Go get the black sista, she know how to do this.” By this time, I too was getting frustrated. “No, she’s busy.” I told him. When I finally finished with his bandages, Cherilyn told him what he needed to pay for the service. He wouldn’t pay it. “Let me talk to the black sista. You charge too much!”  When Christiane finished with her patient, she came to help our little friend. He immediately began complaining to her about the bad job we’d done with his dressings and how much we were trying to overcharge him. Christiane inspected the bandages, and was satisfied with my job. She informed him that he would pay what we asked, and then asked him, “If you are so good at changing bandages, why do you still come to the hospital? Why don’t you just do it yourself?”
By the time all of our patients had left, I was frustrated, and close to tears. I felt like I had failed. When the patients came, Christiane and Cherilyn snapped into action- giving advice, taking temperatures, and doing assessments. While I, on the other hand, could hardly fudge my way through a bandage change, even with the help of the patient and another nurse giving suggestions. When I got back to my apartment, I had a good long talk with God. After pouring my heart out, I felt tired and fragile, but better.

Monday, September 28
Lea, one of the other nurses invited me over to see where she lived. She led me though a muddied car repair lot, up steep muddy roads, down slippery driveways, and across several courtyards before we arrived on her doorstep. It was a beautiful home, snuggled next to several other matching homes. While there, she showed me pictures from her ascent of Mount Cameroon. When I was getting ready to go she asked if I could find my way back to the clinic. The trip up there had seemed pretty easy, so I told her I would be fine. I slipped and slid out to the road and headed down the hill. At the first road that branched off, I realized that I hadn’t seen anything we walked by, instead I had been watching my feet so I wouldn’t slip and fall. I picked the road that seemed most likely to go to the main road, but after about 200 feet I decided that it was the wrong choice. I found the right road and headed down with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

Tuesday, September 29
            I went out and bought honey as a special treat for us. It tastes more like molasses than like the honey we have in the states. But even if you don’t like molasses the label makes up for the taste.
The best choice, best quality
Highly Medicinal extra pure
Yadikwa Honey Helps For The Following
1.       Stomach Ulcers
2.       Weakness or General Fatigue
3.       Poison
4.       Fire or Boil water
5.       Weak Sexual Power
6.       Gastric
7.       Cough
8.       Malaria
Yadikwa Honey is the best!
Basically, anything that ails you, Yadikwa Honey will cure!
The highlight of our day was when Bill brought our fist packages from Union. Thank you everyone!

Friday, October 1
A little girl came in Thursday night with malaria. About midnight, Lea and I got up to start her second
Quinine drip. At about 2:30 A.M., Lea called me to come and help with baby Tressy again. Her fever was terribly high, so we gave her some PCM, to try to bring it down. About 3 A.M. Tressy’s mother laid down on the other bed and began shivering, she had malaria too. I went and got her a sheet to cover up with, and some coartem to battle the malaria. We stayed with them, checking temperatures, and giving meds until about 4:30. When we all got up at 6:30, Tressy’s mother was feeling much better, but Tressy was still feeling quite nasty.

Sabbath, October 2
        Thankfully, I was able to go to Church this Sabbath. I started out on my mile long trek shortly after nine, so market was in full swing when I passed through it. Maneuvering through all the taxis, ditches, people, and food is much easier on Tuesdays when I am not wearing heels and a long skirt.
                The singing at church is amazing! During song service everyone sings at the top of their lungs, and it is a beautiful sound. They are so loud that I know, no matter how loud I sing, no one will ever hear me, so I sing my heart out. After church we go around and shake everyone’s hand and then visit a bit before heading back down the hill. Two girls introduced themselves to me, and the pastor volunteered them to cook some real Cameroonian food for Cherilyn and me. I hope they do!
                After lunch we got a new patient. Her veins were extremely difficult to find, so after a few unsuccessful tries, Cherilyn asked me to come and try. I told her I’d try, but no promises. To myself I was thinking, “This poor patient, we’re going to poke her to death and still not have an IV in. If Cherilyn can’t get it, I’m probably not going to be able to either.” Trixy found a needle with a catheter for me to use. When she handed it to me, I had to play with it for a minute to even remember how to use it. I got a huge flashback on my first stick. YAY!

Sunday, October 3
            After restarting our patient’s IV twice, I went outside and visited with her sister, Seraphine. She tried to teach me some French, but after a few minutes of my horrible pronunciation, she gave up. She loves to eat boiled peanuts, so every time someone walked by selling them, she would buy them. She told Cherilyn and me that we are too skinny! She is going to fatten us up while we’re here, so our parents won’t even recognize us when we get home. So all day she fed me boiled peanuts. At first, they didn’t taste too bad, but the more I ate the worse they got. I was so relieved when we had finished our bag! A few hours later she waved down a little boy who was selling them. When I saw what she was buying I made myself scarce. I thought for sure I’d been gone long enough for them to have polished off the bag, but when I returned they handed me half a bag, telling me they’d saved them for me. Thank God for big scrub pockets, so I was able to sneak them away to Cherilyn, who loves them!

 Monday, October 4
            It was a little chilly when I was sitting out on the breezeway at the hospital. Tressy’s mom came out to talk with me for a few minutes. She shivered and asked how I was able to stay out in the cold so long. I told her that while it was a bit chilly here, it can get really cold where I live. She then asked, “You come from China, because you look very Chinese?”

Thursday, October 7
            I admitted a patient to the hospital with malaria. When she first came in there wasn’t a bed ready so I asked her to sit in the waiting area while I made one up. When I got back to her she was sprawled, face down on the floor. I tapped her on the shoulder and told her that her bed was ready and she could go lie down. I went to the nurse’s room to gather my supplies for her IV, and when I returned she was still in the same place, on the floor. I helped her up and to her room. Seeing her lying there reminded me of years ago, when one of my friends had a hypochondria attack out in the hall, and had to be carried back to her room.
                I was so excited when I got her IV started and all of her meds running. It was my first completely solo IV!

Tuesday, October 12
            Monday evening while we were eating our dinner, Trixy poked her head in the window to let me know that Cyril was planning to write me a love song. Cherilyn and I had a good laugh about it, but didn’t really give it anymore thought.
Since this was my week off I slept in too late to go to worship. When Cherilyn came back to our apartment she was laughing almost uncontrollably. “I have something for you!” She said. This is what she gave me:
From Cyril

Moriah I love you. Moriah the first time that I saw you, my heart was filled with joy and that small, lovely, gentle voice from our Father in Heaven said that this should be my life’s partner. This should be the person I can put my trust in. We can live together as a family, acquire wealth, have children and live happily. Moriah will you marry me? Will we live together and see our children’s children? Please accept. Let me fulfill God’s in our life. Moriah when will we get married? Moriah you are the most beautiful lady in the world. Moriah I am in love with you. Are you also in love with me?  
                If you were wondering, my name is underlined on purpose. He wrote the song, but didn’t know how to spell my name, so left blanks where it should go. Today when he came to deliver the note, he asked Cherilyn how to spell it, and then inserted it into the blanks.
After I knew Cyril was gone, I went to the market for our weekly shopping spree.  It’s getting to be more enjoyable now that I know the vendors that I buy from. One woman, when I walked by her shop, called me by name, came out and visited for a few minutes then gave me a hug before going back to work.

Wednesday, October 13
                I was just finishing my breakfast when Cherilyn came in and handed me my second love song from Cyril. I thought she was joking, but no, it was real. He was actually planning on singing this one to me, so I’m very glad that I didn’t make it to worship.
Cherilyn asked me to come up to the hospital and help her look for veins on our newest patient. It took us about 15 minutes, and two tries to find a vein that we could get an IV in, but Cherilyn got it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bloggable Moments

Monday, September 20
            After a week of nights in the hospital, switching to days in the clinic was a nice change. Since not every patient needs to see a nurse, I spent most of my day at the front desk. We are their first stop when they arrive at the clinic. They give us their hospital book, and in it we record their blood pressure, temperature, pulse, weight, what they need to talk to the doctor about, their address, age, and occupation. Then, we also have a giant black book that we write their name, address, age, and occupation. We then charge them for the consultation, send them to the waiting room, put their book on the doctor’s desk, and start all over with the next patient. After the patient has seen the doctor, we record in the black book what the diagnosis is, and what the treatment will be. I know everyone in the waiting room had a few good laughs at my expense while I was talking to the patients. When Helen would ask questions I could hardly hear her, but obviously, it was loud enough because the patient heard her. When I would ask questions, I felt like I was shouting at them but they still didn’t get what I was saying. When they finally understood and replied, I had no clue what they had said. Several times I could hear the others in the room snickering at our communication problems.

Tuesday, September 21
            We had a little patient with malaria that came up to the hospital for a quinine drip. The poor little chap had such fragile veins that we ended up having to put his IV in three different times. The first two one of the other nurses started, but when the third one came around she told me that it was my turn. Thankfully, he had cried himself to sleep after the first IV, so I wouldn’t have to worry about him screaming and moving around while I was trying to stick a needle in his arm. I tied the tourniquet around his arm, cleaned the area with spirit, and picked up my needle. I placed it above the only thing that looked remotely like a vein, and looked at Lea for confirmation. She nudged it back a few centimeters to where I couldn’t see anything that even kind of looked like a vein, “here,” she told me. “Here?” I thought, “Shouldn’t I go where there is a vein?” I sent up a quick prayer for guidance, and gently pushed through the delicate skin. Almost immediately I got the flashback, I couldn’t believe it! Lea helped me tape it down, and we opened up the line to let the rest of his fluids infuse.
                Later, I gave another IV injection. It started out a little rough, but when I finished the man told me that was the most painless injection he’s ever had, and that I am a great nurse. I’m not sure if he was telling the truth, or if he was just being nice, but either way, he made my day!

Wednesday, September 22
            I spent most of the day at the hospital making sure our second inpatient was doing ok. Two weeks earlier he had tested positive for HIV. His is a very sad and probably fairly common story. He has to have several blood tests before he can get the free HIV medications, but he can’t afford the tests. His mother doesn’t even know what is wrong with him, and he doesn’t want to get the rest of his family tested. I’m sure it’s a very tough place to be in.    

            When the little boy with malaria had finished his second infusion of quinine, I removed the IV and taped a piece of cotton over the small dot of blood that had appeared.  Almost as soon as I’d finished, he reached down and removed the tape and cotton, wadded them up in his tiny fist, and then handed it back to me. He didn’t want any reminders of his stint in the hospital.

                Our last outpatient of the day was a young girl whose eye was bothering her. When I told Lea that we had someone there, she nudged me forward and said, “You consult her.” I had no idea what to do. I hadn’t even eavesdropped on a consultation before. What little I did know to do, quickly escaped my mind. Lea began telling me things to do, until she finally just took over the consultation. I was thankful and I’m sure our patient was too.  I tried to pay close attention to everything Lea asked or did so next time, I will know better what I need to do.        

                After work, Bill and Trixy invited the Peace Corps Volunteers, along with Cherilyn and me, over for games and food. We didn’t actually get much playing done, but we got to eat some fantastic peanut butter cookies, and had some good conversation. All in all it was a good night.