September-December 2010

Published on 02/01/11

22 September,2010 They just came over the intercom and said that we are still sitting on the runway [in New York] because President Obama is either coming in or going out of here right now so things are slowed down because of security checks or something. After a fitful night of attempted sleep, solitaire, reading, and watching movies we arrived in Accra. The red earth smiled up at us and I caught a glimpse of mountains before the windows fogged over. When we came down the stairs I was greeted by the smell… it is neither a dirty smell, nor a hot smell, nor a cozy smell… how can I describe it? You just smell it and smile and say, yes, it smells like Africa.

28 September, 2010 (in Accra) New attached image …I walked to the ocean and it was lovely. The tide had come up a bit and I sat on the sand filled tires and concrete blocks that make the steps down [to the beach]. There was such a wonderful breeze and the sun made the sea spray a golden haze around the palace. The roar of the waters covered everything… it seems easier to be near to God in a place like that – like there’s nothing else…

30 September, 2010 (Baayarii) New attached image We arrived in Wa precisely 12 hours after leaving Accra…. It was interesting to see the changing scenery as we went North. New attached image From coast to busy city, to jungle and hills, to flat Savannah. Each village seemed to have it’s own thing – One may sell bread, another cassava, another palm nuts, another carpentry, etc. New attached image We stopped a couple places where you could pay 20 pesewas to use the commode (and it came with complimentary sections of toilet paper!).

30 September, 2010 (in Baa’yiri) … Tonight I felt as if I was having some sort of flashback – the solar light was on (but to our backs) and we sat at the table around a battery lantern filling [government] forms about morbidity and mortality [and the number of cases of malaria, etc] New attached image while the bugs swarmed around getting into my hair, my shirt, and the paperwork. I felt like I should be wearing khaki, a pith helmet, and sitting in a tent. This was interrupted by…[the watchmen] calling me outside because he had found a scorpion on our veranda. It was [two or three inches long] and dark in color. After I had seen it he put a swift end to it with the heel of his boot….

5 October, 2010 …It is an interesting thing out here – it seems that people are so much more aware of God, and I wonder if it is because there is so little to separate us from Him. New attached image In the U.S. our technology buffers us… all of the noise, the quick answers, being able to reach someone just like that. If it’s raining we think little of it and go on our merry way. Here you give thought to the rain, the road, the coming nightfall… knowing that if something happens there you are – you, God, and a wide piece of His creation. People seem to realize that their crops and livelihood are in such a tenuous balance and that someone must be in control of this. New attached image

11 October, 2010 Today we saw a case that was the most distressing I have seen here so far. When I walked into the admitting room… I immediately noticed that the vessels were quite pronounced on the [baby’s] head. They said the child was five months. He was so gaunt… so wasted away. You could literally see every bone… his skin looked just painted on to his tiny sternum and ribs. His arms were like little twigs and the skin just hung there. And his face… his face was so thin with those big eyes and ears… it was very unnatural looking. The woeful and strange little cry from his small mouth revealed suspiciously yeasty patches. He weighed 2 kilos. Just under 4 ½ lbs….. even newborns weigh more than that. …. Cathy said sometimes they get these ideas like the child isn’t really a person, or that it is the reincarnation of someone, etc. so they shouldn’t or don’t take care of it…..

One day I think I did 20 or 30 malaria tests and a hemoglobin checks, in addition to following Abraham with the admitting and lab. New attached image Sometime before 5 o’clock [it was an abnormally long day] it started down pouring. As I was doing the last malaria test the wind was blowing so much the papers and pipette started to be carried away and, even though I was not near the window, I could feel drops of water blowing in. New attached image

28 October, 2010 What a day! It was Baa’yiri daa (market day)New attached image and we were certainly busy enough. New attached image In fact, I never really left admitting because people kept coming and papers had to be filled and tests run. It was one of those days where things just all start to run together into one crazy mess. There was all of the “usual” plus a child who was having such labored breathing, nasal flaring, and retractions… he was really having such a hard time and he got referred on to the hospital (had malaria too), a boy who ate some poisonous plant and was vomiting, somebody had a hemoglobin of 5 [normal is 12-16], a lady came in with twins who both had malaria and she herself was also sick. New attached image We also took a lady in to the hospital who was miscarrying, had been hemorrhaging for days, and had a BP of 120/20 (as far as I know she ended up being ok). New attached image On the way home Pastor [David] showed me a snake that he had seen [dead] by the side of the road. It was a black cobra – of said color, about as big around as a juice glass and probably a yard long. The head had been cut off and I was glad to meet it dead. New attached image He said that they bite with poison venom but they can also spit some distance and make you blind. Well if I needed any encouragement not to go out at night… there it is. Oy vey.

9 November, 2010 Market day…. Walking there I could hear it long before it came into view – the general hustle and bustle of people…. That is the thing – it’s not just about buying your tomatoes or peppers – it’s a huge social activity…. During the time I walked around there one old man started telling me about his ailments, another asked me how my husband was (I said he was fine), a young man spoke to me in English and was saying how he was going to come visit me at clinic (he never did – just for the record), two people offered to bring me home on their motors. Oh the adventures of being a young woman! How to describe it? Sitting there on an upturned head pan under Vida’s thatched stall, the dust being kicked up into the setting sun creating a golden haze in the distance, the thatch a sharp silhouette against the mellowing sky. And people, people, people! Buying, selling, chatting, the school children buying biscuits (cookies), toffee (candy) and cose. I could have stayed a lot longer taking it all in, but I knew I had to beat the sun home. As I rounded the corner onto the road… it was so beautiful! My favorite poof y purple and cream grass all aglow with the light of the setting sun. New attached image So lovely. A picture can simply not capture all of this.

November 16, 2010 Last night I had my hand on the sheet – literally about to get in bed when a knock came at the door. It was Abraham reporting a patient. So over we went… only to find a little boy with malaria. We were unable to discern why exactly they felt the compulsion to come to clinic right at that very moment.

21 November, 2010 (Sunday) 8am called to clinic for a snake bite victim ([it happened at] 6pm the night before and was just now reporting). New attached image Ended up being there until 11:30 or 12 because after starting an IV and giving the anti-venom, etc. he started having chills, spiked a temp and started vomiting (blood – he had already been spitting blood). During the time his son trucked back to the village to get the right insurance card, etc. so they could go to the hospital, he began to turn around. At 1:30 we went back over to check on him and Sankogo was there with his son who had malaria and was vomiting]. The snake bite victim went home with instructions to go in [to the hospital] if things get worse…

The moon is beautiful tonight – full and golden.

Such an odd day today, especially with not going to church. I hardly know what day it is. This week we’ll have clinic clear through Saturday because of market and then next Tuesday we’ll head into Wa and then south. And just like that the time is gone….

22 November, 2010 … Today there was a man who was in awful pain because he put his foot into his Wellingtons (kind of like galoshes) only to discover there was a scorpion inside – it stung him multiple times before he could get his foot out. Ouch. Let that be a lesson to you to always shake your shoes!

25 November, 2010 Thursday was Thanksgiving. We had clinic as usual and I think it was a fairly busy day… it seems like something happened during the day time at clinic but all the days are blurring together right now. I think Cathy may have forgotten it was Thanksgiving except that I said I was going to make my Stovetop (I said I didn’t care what else we had, I just wanted to have my stuffing ☺). We ended up having baked chicken, left over mashed potatoes, stuffing, and a salad…. Dinner was later than usual due to the chicken not thawing as fast as I anticipated. We sat around talking for a while and Simon came – Patient at clinic. It was 7:30-8 o’clock… a woman with malaria symptoms, negative test, with a pulse of 100 and respiration of 38.She admitted to taking Para, plus another pain killer together and we suspected she may have taken something else she wasn’t telling us about. We ended up sending her on [to the hospital], though whether or not she went is questionable. Having come home, finished the dishes, etc. Myself reading and Cathy just in the tub…. Simon came – Snake bite patient. 9:30 pm. I resigned myself to not going to bed early and took my book along.New attached image (After giving anti-venom patients must be detained temporarily for observation)

3 December, 2010 Tuesday I woke up to a dark house. Seeing as Cathy has never overslept me I was confused. She soon arrived and the following story unfolded – Sully’s wife presented to the clinic claiming snake bite. She had been at a funeral in Jolinyiri for a few days and started having pain in her left arm radiating to her neck. Everyone at the funeral ground decided this must have been from a snake and that she should go for antivenin. So at 4:30 am she showed up. She said that before she had come to clinic two weeks prior (with malaria and hypertension) she had been working in the field and saw a snake, which jumped away from her. She didn’t tell us about it when she came for malaria, but had now decided that it had bitten her and she needed anti-venom. Cathy explained the situation to her (that it sounded like she was having a heart problem and that we also don’t give anti-venom to people more than 48 hours after a bite) but she… was very angry. The day continued to be crazy from there. So many people… people for lab, children who simply kept vomiting – even vomiting repeated doses of promethazine. New attached imageFinally we had seen everyone and I wondered if we would make it into Wa for petrol before dusk. I said goodbye but it was strange leaving. I felt like we were just going in for the weekend and we’d be back again on Monday morning. New attached image Going in [to town] the sun was so beautiful. That golden haze that you see in movies and what not… it’s dirt. It’s the dirt and all of the particles that are just floating in the air and billowing up behind motors and lorry’s. It is beautiful. Beautiful and dirty.

That evening the power in town must have gone off and on at least five times.

We were up in the dark, even before the Muslims. As we got ready I heard the call going out… come to prayer, there is no god but Allah and Mohamed is his prophet, prayer is better than sleep… the crescent moon shone brightly in the night sky, the stars crystal shards strewn across the darkness. Slowly the sun came up – first just a lightening of the sky that shows everything in shades of gray – then the fiery orange ball that hurts your eyes for the glory of it.New attached image

We stopped on the road and I wandered into the bush. The place I found had this beautiful pink flower like a snapdragon.New attached image Who else’s bathroom is arrayed in such a way? ☺ We drove and drove and drove. As we started to get down country I noticed with awe how green and lush everything was. At Kumasi there was some traffic, but not outrageous.New attached image I think it was harder knowing that after all of that time in the car, the worst of the road was still ahead of us. Coming into Achimota area was a rough ride. And it was rush hour traffic. We were literally creeping into Accra. Sunset came and went. At 6:30 we arrived at the mission and were all SO glad to get out of the car….after 14 hours!