Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hospital Mission

You try so very hard to be careful, but when everything seems to be stacked against you (rain, incoming tide, slippery volcanic rocks…veloceraptors), things happen. As part two of this joint blog post (the first being on The Horne Family Mission blog), I have the distinct pleasure of telling you about our second day in Limbe.

Having survived the haunted research facility, we piled our bags and all the children into the car for the adventure of finding a new hotel. Sounds like fun, right? It gets better.

Limbe is known for its black sand beaches, and as a California girl, the prospect of the beach and some really good seafood was just too good to pass up. We left the asylum not really knowing where we were going. We had a guidebook, but guidebooks in Cameroon are interesting… they don’t always reflect the current anything. So our search begins. We ended up sitting in the car in the parking area of a hotel while Eric went in search of a cyber cafĂ© to print off a list of recommendations from Joy Newburn. By the time he returned with the list, it’s lunch time and everyone is feeling the ‘Ugh’ of our search, so we venture down toward the fish market for lunch. A series of rundown wooden buildings line the back of Down beach, the women out front barbequing fresh fish and shrimp. We find a place, park the car and head in. The seating area out back has a lovely view of the boat builders, fishermen and trash pile…?

I was really excited about the fresh fish cooking on the coals out front. The children each took a ride up and down the beach on Malik the pony. Logan was kind enough to cut the head off the fish so I didn’t have to look it in the eye. There is something unsettling about food looking back at you… After lunch, we begin our drive. We drive and drive and drive and drive. We found the hotel maybe twenty minutes outside of downtown Limbe with a sign pointing up the hill for the hotel and down the hill for the beach. Perfect. We get in, drop our things, throw on swimsuits and we’re off. The beaches are rocky. Tide is coming in, so the sand is now hidden from us, but we were determined to at least touch the water and see how far down we could walk. I wouldn’t call the water warm, per say, but it’s warmer than the Pacific I’m used to. Sparing you the details of the rock hunting and “wave riding”, I’ll skip to the exciting stuff.

On our way back to the stairs, the tide is higher, the rain is starting to fall, and we have to cross slippery, volcanic rocks. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Well, unless you’re me, and your handhold gives out and the rock under you shifts. I don’t really remember the falling, but I remember telling myself to roll. The last thing I needed was to fall flat on my face. There were shouts as I sat there doing a mental check. Head? Good. Neck? Good. Breathing and things like that? Good. Arms? Good. Back? Good. Legs? Well, huh. Negative, but hey, I can wiggle my toes and despite the blood gushing from my calf, I’m not in any pain! Eric and a man from the hotel jump to help me. Every step I took brought another pump of blood. It had more than filled my shoe and stained the black rocks, but my only focus was to get off the rocks. Sitting on the rocks bleeding profusely didn’t sound all that fun. Eric pulls off his shirt and ties it around my leg. Then comes the baby blanket to reinforce the shirt, and slowly, we make our way to the stairs and up to the hotel. Sitting on the tile porch of my hotel room, I carefully peeled the blood soaked (and I am not exaggerating) fabric from my leg and used my water bottle to clean off the blood and debris. 

The poor guy from the hotel looked freaked out, and I think we made it even worse with our joking. He did, however, fetch me the first aid kit. Having gotten the area clean, I know I need stitches so I ask the guy “Is there a good doctor close?” He nods almost hard enough to shake his head off. I have visions of the sign we saw driving through the village that was no more than an old partial piece of wood with “hospital—Doctors available 24/7” hand painted in white. “Is there a really good doctor?” He assures me there is, and runs off to get the manager, so he can drive me. Logan runs off to change, so she can go with me, and I thought about changing, but why? I hobble my way to the car, Logan comes out and we leave, visions of that sign still running through my mind. During the ride, I’m running through all the things I have to do. I have to email Janice. I should probably email Martha. I need to call my mom. Of course, that thought has me giggling. Growing up we had three parameters in which we could call her: not breathing, bleeding profusely, or already dead. I think I qualified.

We pull up to the Ministry of Public Health in the village of Batoke. There are people milling around, and I pull myself out of the back seat. Blood is once again making its way down my leg, but other than that, I feel fine! I walk up the ramp, careful of the moss. The LAST thing I need at the moment is to fall again. There are people waiting, and every single one of them is staring at the white woman bleeding in front of them. It was something out of a movie, I swear, but the doctor chooses that moment to walk past. He looks down at my leg, stops and points through the building. Triage? Bloody leg jumps to the front. He ushers us into the maternity ward of all places and leaves. Logan and I had to laugh. It was just too funny. She promises I won’t come out with a baby, and we wait for the nurse to make the bed, and pull tools out of the autoclave. She made the wrong bed though, so we waited for the doctor to get the sheet where he wanted it on the taller of the two beds.

As he pokes and prods, Logan and I are talking about taking pictures, but my iPhone was back at the hotel…too bad. Then I watch as he sticks his tool into the maybe centimeter long cut, and the metal just keeps going. What did I impale myself on? I can’t remember even seeing anything. Logan is just as confused. It was strange. He’s asking questions I don’t know the answer to because I didn’t know I had been impaled! I thought I was just cut up. Let me just say, Lidocaine burns, but the bizarre feeling of not being able to feel the surface of your skin is a fair trade, and I was fine until he started pressing on my leg. He had strong hands and was hitting the bone and nerves just right to make my leg quiver and my toes curl, so I finally just lay down. I had a room full of random people that I didn’t really want to look at anyway (he had invited them in to see the depth of my wound). Logan watched for both of us from the foot of the bed. A few tugs and some stinging as they cleaned the rest of my abrasions later, and everyone dissipates, the doctor setting an ice pack on my leg. Then Logan and I are left alone. I couldn’t feel the ice, but whatever. She and I talk about friendships and crossing friendship barriers. Considering that was the first time I spent any real time with them, I think we crossed some major friendship lines.

After twenty or thirty minutes, the nursing student comes back in to take me to the consult room to fill in the book and take my vital signs. When she couldn’t get my BP the first three times… Anyway, she says “It’s a little high.” I resisted the urge to come back with some snarky response dripping with sarcasm, but instead I just nod. It’s not like impaled my leg, bled into my shoe, and lost a bunch of blood or anything. Then she’s filling in the big book with all of my info. When she comes to next of kin, Logan and I both ask her if she wants the name of someone in country. My French is rusty, so I didn’t even try. She was already confused, so I just gave her my mom’s name thinking she could just copy my last name (that’s she’s already written). Yeah, no, I spelled it out for her. I met with the doctor, promising to come back so he could check the sutures and headed down to the pharmacy to get my drugs.

One of the nice things I have noticed is that people are genuinely with you when they speak to you. Everyone asked me what happened and everyone offered a heartfelt “Ashia” to me, and it felt wonderful. The hotel proprietor covered the cost of the clinic visit and my prescriptions, which had me thanking him profusely for two days. I left the clinic with my two boxes of antibiotics and two boxes of anti-inflammatories. It had to happen the first day at the beach… 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Had A Dream About You...

If there is one grouping of words you don’t know how to react to it’s “I had a dream about you.” I guess it’s story time…

Yesterday, Martha (Mission Doctors Association) and I made the trek up the hill to the Archbishop’s house to meet with Fr. Michael and check on the package my mom sent me. In regards to us, his job includes getting our residency paperwork in order. As we approach September, we have to start collecting copies, CVs, stamps, and signatures so we can get our passports sent into YaoundĂ©. One of the things we had to do is journey to public security to legalize our passport copies. Here, those legalized copies can be used at checkpoints and such.

Back to the story… Not even a quarter of the way down Big Mankon (it’s the hill I live on), the heavens open up and buckets start to fall. We’re already outside. We have our raincoats and umbrellas, and at the bottom of the hill, we can hopefully hail a taxi…if they can see us through the wall of water.  The rain lessened just long enough for us to find a taxi, climb in and go. I was sitting in the “death seat”—I mean seat of honor—so periodically, I had to wipe the condensation off the inside of the windshield so our driver could see the road. When we got out of the taxi, I was thankful I had worn my willies. The water on the side of the road was past my ankles and it was still falling.

Public security looks exactly like you’d think. There is a massive wall surrounding the building with a gate…just one. The woman sitting just inside directing people to the right door pointed us toward a doorway full of people. Looking inside and at the faces staring back, we didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting in. Standing in the rain never hurt, right? Nah…well, until it started raining inside Martha’s umbrella…and then mine. Umbrellas are great! They’re wonderful, but when a proverbial hose is running full bore right onto the umbrella’s thin nylon, it leaks through! Martha and I finally decide to make for a doorway that looks large enough to wait out the rain in. Come to find out, it’s…the main lobby? If you could call it that…There were benches, police motorbikes, a few doors, a walk up window and at least seventy people waiting for the rain to end. Martha managed to squeeze her way through the throng of people to the window. Catching my attention, she points down a hall. People were nice enough to clear somewhat of a path so I could follow. We stop at the entrance to “Room 4”. Two men are sitting behind desks looking bored, but they were really nice, taking our copies and beginning the process of stamping, signing and dating.

We’re getting ready to leave. We’re pulling francs out to pay for the legalization and watching the glue dry when a third man walks in. He looks at Martha, a huge smile spreading across his face, and says, “I had a dream about you and now you’re here!” Oooooookay… In some ways, it doesn’t sound as creepy in French, but still. Creep of the Week Award goes to… The man that signed our copies looks up from his desk, a serious expression on his face, but an ounce of humor behind his dark eyes and says, “Get out of my office! We don’t arrange marriages here!” Laughter. All five of us were laughing. We made friends at public security! She and I leave, walking back down the hall toward the hoard of people still waiting for the rain to end. The looks on people’s faces were a mixture of uncertainty and awe. It was as though the concept of laughter in the police station was taboo or something. How do you respond? What do you say? Anything? I just politely said excuse me, weaving through the faces and back out into the rain.

Side note: my package arrived yesterday. Five weeks almost exactly from the day it was sent. Fr. Michael emailed me to tell me it was in the mailroom. His email came not even twenty minutes after Martha and I left the Archbishop’s house yesterday… Seriously?! It looks like I’m making the trek up the hill again tomorrow!

So what do you do when you want to play Settlers but the light in your living room needs some serious TLC from an electrician…
Candle light! Duh!