Our surgical team today consisted of Dr. Sig, Dr. Abe, Iyad, Kathy and Rosie. We had a great day in the OR. Our first case of the day was a 5 month pregnant lady who had a mastectomy a couple of months ago. She developed a mass which the physician was afraid was a return of her cancer. We discovered that the mass was not cancerous but another suspicious node was found on exam. So we all hope that things end up ok for this young patient.
Our second case was an open cholecystectomy and the third was a fatty tumor on the foot. Abe was thrilled to be able to participate in the cholecystectomy case.
Before each case we take a “time out” with all of the surgical team in the room, assuring the name of the patient, procedure being done, pre-op meds given are all in order. Before the incision is made for each case we take a short time to say a prayer for the patient and the staff caring for her. This is a traditional procedure here and has become a part of our routine.
Yesterday evening we lost electricity. We were told that there was a broken power pole so the lines were broken. So we ate and played cards by candle light. At the hospital one of the matrons delivered three babies—a set of twins and a single birth—by candle light. She was excited to tell us about it this morning. Apparently all went well. So we started the day today with no electricity so we were unsure if we would operate or how the day would go. After breakfast we went to the hospital and were told we would proceed with cases but were waiting for kerosene to be delivered for the generator. Once the generator was running we were able to proceed with the cases and electricity was restored today.
We have plans to repair some of the surgical gowns while we are here. Several of them are missing ties so hopefully we can accomplish that task this weekend.
Flag raising. Every morning before school starts, all 1400+ students line up in rows according to their grade. Their lines have to be straight with an arms-length between them. Once they have their line straight, they sing the national anthem together as the Ethiopian flag is slowly raised. Today was English day which means the “ferengs” or foreigners give the welcome and opening prayer which I had the honor to do. Then our team came up to the front and presented them with matching Gundersen Lutheran soccer shirts for the volleyball, football—soccer and running teams when they compete with other teams. It is quite a sight to see a wave of students burst out of line and head for their classroom.
Hi everyone. This is Lori writing now.
We are beginning to learn some words in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. It is hard. So far, my favorite word is “ishi” which means “OK”. The most important words we’ve learned are “ahmasay ganalow” meaning “thank you”, and “salaam” meaning “peace”. Other words in my vocabulary are “good” and “no problem”, so I am practically fluent.
In the Recovery Room, where Deb and I work, we need to use some medical language with the patients who are just waking up from anesthesia. Our words include high level phrases like “open your eyes” and “stick out your tongue.”There are still a few gaps in communication, though, as you can imagine.
One of the patients today was a woman, obese by Ethiopian standards. She came for thyroid surgery. After surgery, because of the location of the incision, her short, thick neck, and the medications, she required oxygen to breathe sufficiently. We wanted her to take good deep breaths to expand her lungs, so Jacky asked our Ethiopian anesthetist (named Weyenshet), how to say “Big breaths”. She misunderstood, looking at the patient with the large chest, thinking he was asking how to say “Big breasts”. Jacky repeatedly made a motion with his hands, trying to imitate expanding lungs, but looking like he was indicating a large chest.
They went back and forth, “Big breasts.”
“No” Jacky said, “How do you say ‘big breaths’?”
“Big breasts”, Weyenshet said, trying to be agreeable.
“No, big BREATHS”, Jacky said.
After at least eight rounds like this, Jacky became quite red in the face, but we finally did get the phrase “Take big breaths” to add to our repertoire.
The patient took a good nap and recovered nicely. She will be much healthier, happier and prettier without the large goiter on her neck.
And now it is very easy to make Jacky blush. Just say “Big breaths”.
The Project Mercy compound, and Yetebon in general, are very safe places. So, early this morning I decided to head out for a walk outside the compound on my own. The trail around the compound is scenic and slightly isolated. About half way home, with my ear phones in, I was rounding the corner and literally ran straight into an elderly man. Not a big deal, except this man happened to be carrying a large knife. I jumped. He jumped. I jumped again and he laughed. Thank goodness smiles break all language barriers. This man was just walking to work. When we parted and walked our separate ways we were both laughing.
To explain what’s happening here at Project Mercy and why this place is so special, you have to meet the children who live here. There are 42 “house kids” living on campus. Most are orphans, the others were given up by their parents who could not provide for them. Today Mark and I had the privilege to interview two of them. Tigist is 18 years old. Her parents died when she was young. She lived with her aunt until her aunt remarried and her step-uncle did not want her to live with them. Marta and Deme invited her to live here. That was eight years ago. Today Tigist is one of the top students in her class. She prays to God that someday she will be a pharmacist so she can help her people, just like her mommy and daddy, Marta and Deme. Bechernet came to Projecy Mercy with his four younger siblings. They were living on the streets of Addis, barely surviving. Today Bechernet is one of the top students in the 7th grade. His English is incredible, and his compassion for others is outstanding. He still does his best to look after his four younger siblings as well as any other one of the kids here who may need help either in school or for some other reason. Berchenet, just like Tigist, hopes to one day serve his people. He wants to go to Harvard and study to be a surgeon. Tigist and Bechernet have overcome so much and are working so hard; I hope their prayers are answered. They deserve all of their dreams to come true.
Besides Jeff and Sally, I didn’t have the chance to meet any of the team members before we arrived in Ethiopia. I was a little nervous they would see me as not only a stranger, but a stranger with a very big camera! I’m happy “to report” we’ve grown very comfortable with each. Mark and I really feel like a part of the team; especially after tonight. Wednesday is laundry day. Each of us dropped off our dirty clothes in our pillow cases. When it came back, all of our clothes were mixed together. You know you’re part of great team when you’re folding each other’s underwear.