A night shift in the hospital

Friday 29 March 2013

So, for the first time, a night shift in the hospital. Unfortunately we don’t have enough staff yet, so sometimes you have to jump in. The shifts here take 12 hours so there is enough time to update the administration, social contacts and website. At the moment there are three patients on the malnutrition ward. Last month we organised a big meeting with local clinics and hospitals in the neighbourhood to promote the project and now the patients are slowly dripping in and we have really started. Exciting, frustrating, touching and time consuming but definitely worth it. At the moment there are three carers lying there roaring and every few hours I wake them up to feed them. We sleep with the lights on, fortunately there is power at night otherwise the earth is really dark. Apparently they don’t dare, even with the light, to walk those few meters to the toilet outside and they just pee in a tub in front of my nose. So let’s not talk about hygiene here…!
Grace will get a little bit of porridge in ten minutes. She has been in the hospital for 6 weeks now and although I know it is not good to stitch you up, she has a special place. Emaciated and completely dehydrated this little one year old came to the hospital with her dear grandmother. Mothers had dropped her off at grandma’s that day and she was peppered. Such a weak child is difficult to treat, less than 4 kilos but apparently a very strong will. For 6 weeks now we have been keeping her wet and every time the weather improves, it’s only for a moment. She doesn’t have any reserves and now that it has turned out that she is also HIV-positive, it is going to be a tough job for this little girl to accept the heavy medication and become a lively and happy child again.
Even though we are still in the early stages of this project, I think it has a good chance of succeeding, although I sometimes wonder if I would fail tomorrow, if the project would still be running the next day, because who would be waiting for such a Mzungu who wants you to be on time at work, communicates when you need to communicate and cannot be enthusiastic if you report three days before departure that you have another job but then secretly keep working part time? Sometimes I get sooooo tired of it, but yes… nothing goes without a fight, so stay positive and know that it will work out someday.
Don’t forget to adapt to the culture and don’t be in a hurry, don’t expect too much, be happy to have achieved one of the 4 things on your “to do” list for today, turn around in bed again when you hear the rain clattering on the corrugated sheets and actually know that it’s time for the kids (and yourself) to get up but also know that no teacher dares to get up in the rain (because then they melt) and therefore can stay another hour longer without feeling guilty without the school or you worrying about it, yes the rainy season certainly has its advantages: )
Are you suddenly hungry for a brown cheese sandwich, where does this thought come from? I probably dream about it regularly but because I have to stay awake now I literally feel the urge for a nice pistol of old cheese. Two more months of waiting and then I can plunder the Albert Heijn and work all the delicacies to my heart’s content during pleasant appointments with everyone. The girls are not coming this year, too expensive and they miss school too much. They would like to see Sinterklaas next year and experience Christmas in the Netherlands. Who knows, maybe we will come and visit them in the cold.
The boys Pinto and Frank are in group 8 and that’s an important year… Citotest and all that rataplan. Performance is very important here and that puts a lot of pressure on the children. Again, I don’t want them to throw in the towel, but the programme is very heavy. Get out of bed at 5 o’clock and learn until 8 o’clock in the evening. Of course they do have a break and some time to relax, but not enough. The school system in Uganda contains a lot of teaching material, material that I only received in the 3-Havo. It is mainly stomping, stomping, stomping and hoping that something sticks. Frank prefers to play football rather than sit in the classroom and it is difficult to stimulate him and make him realise that it is important for his future. Pinto is making good progress, is serious and has the potential to go to a good high school, so keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best. The gentlemen are in their puberty and have other interests than learning. We know from Saige that he will never achieve high marks, but socially he is doing very well and the teacher is satisfied, so are we. Nowadays he even has some friends and that is special for Saige because sharing and playing with someone else wasn’t an option for a long time. It looks like he is now well in his skin and therefore a bit more social. We will see, at Easter they all come home for a while, full house, cosy.
Try to leave my bag with laptop on the hat shelf in the taxi. I was still so happy with the taxi driver who maintained a normal speed and didn’t fill up the car with another 10 passengers (there were only five of us, luxury here). Unfortunately I was too premature, after 10 minutes we stopped (of course) to fill up the car and drove full speed towards Masaka. Finally I got rid of my “acute thrombosis” attitude and on the way to my destination I realized that I had left my bag in the taxi. At full speed on the moped in the direction of the taxi park to find the taxi with hopefully my bag still in the same spot. Unfortunately, no taxi, no bag. Now there are a lot of taxi ranks and men who keep an eye on all those taxis and receipts so don’t worry about the man. According to one of those men, the conscious taxi was going to be found. I got a beautiful spot on a bench in the shade, was the subject of conversation and many taxi drivers were in a hurry to look for the taxi. And yes, after an hour or an hour and a half the taxi arrived … with my bag on the hat shelf. What a service! The NS (Dutch Railways) customer service can learn something from that… although I now have to live with the reputation of ‘the Mzungu who forgot her bag’ and I am regularly reminded of that when I get back in a taxi (we know each other).
We work very hard in the fields, the corn has been planted and now 450 coffee trees and 40 kg of peanuts are still in the ground. It’s great to be physically busy 3 days a week and today we brought our first harvest to the corn mill. A few bags of flour for the children and caretakers in the hospital to eat from and the rest for sale to buy new seeds or to organise workshops. Unbelievable how hard the women work and how strong they are physically, yes… I can’t say often enough how much respect I have for the ladies. I’m applying to the Dutch embassy for a peanutbutter project… yes… who hasn’t grown big with it? I hope we are going to make it, among all the other applications, but it would be great if the local woman learns to make a local nutritious peanutbutter so that malnutrition can be prevented or so that we can give malnourished children a boost so that the situation doesn’t deteriorate…. so keep your fingers crossed!
Yes, for the rest not so much to report… there has been a family expansion with 6 puppies and 7 piglets. Life is still a great adventure here and I try to enjoy it every day….

Love Kim