I can’t believe the first week of February has already come and gone. The whole concept of “time” here in Mwandi is such an odd thing. On one hand, it seems like time moves slowly here and so much is accomplished in one day, but on the other hand, there never seems to be enough hours in a day to do all the tasks and somehow the week is over before I know it.
The first update is something like a little victory! The ART data project is finished! All 3500 files have been updated in the computer so that the numbers sent to the District are accurate. This means that Mwandi Mission Hospital and the ART clinic will receive the proper amounts of HIV medications to distribute to the patients. As a result of this project being completed, I am back to working in the hospital wards everyday instead of behind a make-shift desk. Though it feels good to have a project done, it still makes me happier that I am back to hands-on nursing.
Being back in the ward has definitely had it’s challenges because I am reminded again how lucky I was (am) to be born in a country with almost unlimited access to the most basic of health care. Inside my first-aid kit, I have a bigger variety of dressings and supplies than I could scrounge up here in Mwandi. Making an appointment with a Doctor, getting a needed prescription, and having money in my bank account to pay for that prescription puts me far above the average Zambian. With the lack of access to medical resources, it really isn’t a wonder that herbal medicine is so huge here. The combination of traditions passed from generation to generation, along with the lack of finances to travel to the hospital leaves the locals to provide care with what they have grown naturally around them. The problem comes when the locals are providing herbal medicinal remedies that actually have no affect on their health. It is very hard to explain that their family tradition doesn’t actually heal that hurt, and that they need Western medicine to actually be healed. Trust is a fine line.
For the last week and a half there has been a team of surgeons from the United States here. The team is filled with anesthesiologists, general surgeons, an ENT surgeon, a gynaecologist, students who are in their last year of residency, a PT, and an OR nurse. The lead doctor on this team has been coming to Mwandi for 2 weeks in February every year for the last 17 years. Word travels quickly when Dr. Peggy is coming and patients show up from all over Zambia for specialized surgeries that they are unable to get from local doctors. One of the furthest patients came from over 8 hours away! Being so experienced, she has her trip planned to the very last detail and it is amazing to watch this team work. One day last week we did 13 surgeries. Most of the surgeries are hernia repairs, hysterectomies, I&Ds, thyroidectomies, D&Cs, and ovarian cyst removals. They have graciously let me observe and learn and work with them during their stay here and to say I have learned a lot would be an understatement.
Another part of this update is that Brittany has made it home safe and sound. It is pretty strange not having her around for the last three weeks, but somehow I have managed doing life here in Mwandi on my own. Before she left, during the last chapel at the hospital, she taught the song “My Friends May You Grow”. For those who don’t already know, this song was extremely influential in Brittany and I’s Dordt days. Teaching it to our Zambian friends was a sweet moment that gave both of us goosebumps, and turned out to be the perfect way to send Brittany home. Our fellow mission partners are slowly trickling back to Mwandi after their Christmas furloughs and it is always good to see them back - there never seems to be a dull moment with them, and the laughs are always appreciated :)
The rains here in Mwandi are still minimal, the crops are still struggling, the malnutrition is still overwhelming. Due to confidentiality I am finding it hard to share specific stories from nursing on a daily basis, and part of it might be that I am still processing and assessing the various situations. The hospital, outreach days, OVC, and Kandiana are the places where God shows me glimpses of himself during my days of work. It is hard to explain, but even in the tragedy, there is good to be found in every day.