Friday, November 30, 2012

Dental Clinic - Guinea

Mama Grace
    Dental Clinic round two! No, I didn't get to pull any teeth this time, it was sad.  I was actually working in the sterilization room.  The team was short their sterilizer as she was sick so I stepped in to help.  Mama Grace was a dayworker that was a very patient and good teacher.  First step in the process is to collect all of the dirty instruments from the procedure room.  There were 4 dentists and 8 chairs so the dirty things would pile up rather quickly.  Then, back in the sterilizing room, the instruments would be scrubbed to remove any blood or tissue and then placed into a small machine.  I have no idea what the machines did, I think it was an ultrasonic deal, but the instruments were in there for 15 minutes.  Then they were dumped onto the table, dried, sorted, and packed into the sterile pouches.  Once we had 4 trays full of packaged instruments, we placed them in one of the 3 big steam sterilizers.  Once the 40 minute cycle was finished, they were set onto a table to finish drying and then finally to the instrument room to be used again.

    About 11 or 11:30 the power went out.  This Is Africa after all.  The generator kicked in to run the necessary machines but fans are less of a priority.  The power did not come back for the rest of the day.  So we began sweating.  It was worse in the sterilizing room because it was back in a corner and didn't get much of a breeze.  

    I was unable to really be in the procedure room, other than walking through to collect dirty instruments.  So I did not get to pull any more teeth. Sad day.  But since I was able to have so much fun and so many stories at the Dental Clinic in Togo, it seemed fair that they put me to work.  By the end of the day I was getting the whole sterilization process down.  Except for sorting the sterilized instruments into their homes.  They look a lot alike, color coordination was helpful, but it was confusing!  All in all it was a fantastic day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eye Screening

     Working security at an eye screening sounded like an adventure.  Getting up at 3 AM?  OK.  So by 3:30 AM I've rolled out of bed, filled my water bottle, and made PB&J sandwiches.  Fox News is giving minute by minute updates of the Election results on the TVs in Reception.  Ken and the 2 nurses show up by a quarter to 4 and we clomp down the Gangway down to the Land Rover.  Bangura jumps into the Land Rover with us and we're off.  Driving in the dark is completely different than day time.  At night there are no people, chickens, dogs, goats, babies, or carts to run over.  However, the headlights fail to pick out the potholes so the road can look deceptively smooth.  On the hour plus ride to the screening site I'd be jolted out of sleep by my head slamming into the roof or window or my arm.  When we turn down the alley to the screening building, the line is already 50 people in either direction.  There were 2 lines: the women's and the men's line.

      Running security at a screening is far from what it sounds like.  The security is not necessarily to protect the nurses and other medical staff, it is more to keep an orderly line, prevent line-cutters, prevent bribes, having to shatter the hopes of people who are beyond our help, and to make sure that no one gets past the pre-screening who was given a "no".  We arrived about an hour a half before the Eye Team so we started out by walking up and down the line in either direction making sure that everything was quiet.  When it started getting light, Bangura, a Guinean, would walk up and down talking through the megaphone saying that this was only an eye screening.  Only those with double cataracts could be helped.  Club feet, tumors, and other medical issues would have to listen to the radio or the TV to see when those kinds of screening would be held.  Either Ken or I would have to walk with Bangura because the people waiting wouldn't believe what he was saying unless a white person was seen to be saying the same thing.  I couldn't speak the local language but my confirmation of what Bangura was saying was enough.  Telling the mother with the 2 year old with club feet, the woman with a neck tumor, the crippled man, and the boy with a lazy eye that we were unable to help them right now was heart breaking.  Hope and Healing yes, but not for all.  The patients who did receive the yellow follow-up appointment cards were so joyful.

      The stark contrast between the despair and joy within meters of each other is such a part and parcel of Africa.  Walking along the streets and seeing children running around, laughing, playing football (or soccer for the Americans), and yelling "Fote! Fote!" at the white people makes you smile.  Yet when you think about the ship that you will return to, the AC, the safe food and water, and the medical care available 2 decks away, the ache returns to your heart.  Yet for the lives we can and do change, their joy is contagious.  The patient who had the cantaloupe-sized tumor removed from his cheek is starting to speak again.  His life has been altered dramatically.  Who can frown or be sad when faced with a smile so joyful?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Galley Update

     The past month has flown by.  So much has happened and is still changing.  So, starting in the Galley... I now co-lead a Galley team.  The previous team lead decided to switch departments and so another girl and I are leading our team.  Its a strange feeling.  I am in charge of Cold Side (again), the dish room, and making sure that overall the Galley runs smoothly and the food gets done on time.  Cold Side will prep the fresh fruits and vegetables, tuna/chicken/pasta/potato salads, desserts, specialty breads, dressings, and salad bar toppings.  Hot Side is being run by Martine.  She just graduated cooking school and is fantastic to work with.  There were some bumps throughout the whole process but now everything seems to be smoothed out.  The latest nicknames for Martine and I are: The Dynamic Duo, Trouble Twins, and Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.  That last one is from an African who works with us and thinks its hilarious.

Making banana pudding in the Galley

     I've been able to see more of the medical side of things recently.  Next week I will be helping run security at a screening.  I love being out and about in Conakry and experiencing Africa.  I realize that I don't have as many pictures of Africa itself or of patients and such.  However, I would really rather not have my camera stolen in the market and we as crew members are restricted from taking pictures with patients.  I will do my best to take pictures!