Monday, August 25, 2008

A new volunteer!

Yesterday, I was delighted to meet a new volunteer who will work at the Good Shepherd until Christmas. Her name is Christina and she is a nurse practitioner from Cinncinatti. Her accent is typical mid-west and she is such a riot! This is her third stint at the Good Shepherd and she certainly knows her way around. She is helping me see patients in Outpatients and I feel that she is like an angel sent from Heaven!
My ward round went for 5 hours today- so many new patients and all of them with devastating disease. I am afraid that my death rate is increasing by the day. Another doctor here told me that I am not alone. He has been working here for 2 years and he says that things are much worse than when he started. AIDS is completley obliterating this country. What surprises me is how quickly they die. They seem to go from being alive and relatively stable to dead within minutes. Today, a family brought a young girl in. Patients often arrive to outpatients in the back of a ute or even in wheel-barrows (yes, you read that right, they are wheeled by their relatives, often for kilometres, in wheelbarrows). This girl had pneumonia diagnosed two weeks ago. Today she became worse, went unconscious and was dead on arrival. Most of my patients die when I am not on the ward, so I have not yet paid witness to how families react to death. Basically they all collapse on the ground, wailing and hysteria breaks loose. It was complete mayhem and I have to admit, I excused myself to come to the computer. I could not pay witness to the pain any longer.
Today, I made another friend. Elsie is a young Swazi woman who is a mother of 5. I have employed her to do my washing each week. I am thrilled that someone is able to do my washing. There are no washing machines here and I was very concerned about the prospect of handwashing all my clothes. Things are difficult enough as it is! Anyway Elsie arrived at my door at 6.30am. I ended up inviting her in for tea and toast. She looked like she could do with a good meal. I think this will become a ritual for us. She seemed to really enjoy the meal and our conversation- in very broken english- was pleasant. She works to give her children an education and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction that what I pay her is going to pay for a child's education. I went to inspect the clothes line at lunchtime and she has done an amazing job- far better than what I could have done.
Tonight, I am having dinner with Julia and Christina. It should be a lot of fun. They are my lifeline here in Swazi. I think these nurses will be my friends for years to come. We are hoping to go away for the weekend soon and I will look forward to that event with much anticipation. Dr Pons, a South African opthalmologist here, wants to send me to a conference in Cape Town. I don't like my chances as I will still be the only doctor in internal medicine, but he says he will have a word with the boss and see what he can do. Keep your fingers crossed!!


OzThoughts said...

G'day Melanie!

It is great to read of your work and life in Swaziland where you are making a difference to many lives.

I know from personal experience you are a great encourager and I am sure you will be a help to your nurse friends and other staff.

I will continue to pray for your work there.

Love and peace


catngirls said...

So glad to hear you made it safely and of your experiences. We are sending you happy thoughts. I think Anna & I have decided to send you a case of gloves! I am sharing your stories with my students in history and child dev, what a great teaching tool you have bestowed on me. You are giving light to the social issues and life in other parts of the world that we only see in the movies. Take care of yourself and I am so incredible proud of your courage and strength to do such a wonderful thing for the "Swazi's". They are lucky to have you! The girls send XOXO and I am hooked on your blog daily now that I know your posting.

Love and courage to you,