Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Last days with the docs

Here are Tuni, Fatima, and Zeinaba. Zeinaba and Tuni came with me all the way from Foloa to see if the doctors could do some work for Zeinaba. The woman in the middle is a friend of theirs who lives in Niamey and came to visit them in the courtyard.

In the last two days of the mission I translated for Ramatou, Hamsa, Rachida, Halima, and Miyeba. Ramatou is a forty year old Beriberi woman, from a village way out east. I didn't have Hwanta to translate the Beriberi into Hausa for me, so this was another very mime-y surgery. She had a fistula repaired, and was looking good in recovery this morning! Hamsa is a Zarma woman in her twenties, and again, this was a multi-lingual event! Zarma, Hausa, English, Doctortalk.
Rachida, one of my 8 year old charges, was put under anesthesia as well yesterday, but only for an exam. I dressed both her and her mother up in scrubs, so they could be together before the drugs were administered. Long story short, the doctors determined they can't operate on her here; she may be another candidate for an over-seas operation. Maybe one day. We can dream.
Halima is a twelve year old girl from Zinder (a 13-16 hour bus ride east), who came here all by herself. She is a bright and intelligent child; you can see it in her eyes. She listens. Her history is violent, and when combined with her complicated anatomical issues the doctors decided surgery was too risky this time around. Halima has a Peace Corps Volunteer in her village out east who'll keep an eye out for her.
Last but not least, Miyeba! Miyeba is the only woman who speaks her language in the entire hospital. She's Gourmance, an ethnic group from the Nigerien border with Burkina Faso. The Gourmance are known for their distinct language, filing their teeth into points, having short unbraided hair, and for not conforming to Islam. Miyeba is dark-skinned and observant, and she must be awfully brave and independent to have made it here without any common language. She'd had her urethra cut by a traditional doctor who was trying to increase the size of her vagina; we've had a few cases like this. (It is not the same as genital mutilation, in which the clitoris is cut.) This being my fourth or fifth time translating for a patient whose language I don't speak, I was a lot better at communicating stuff to her. Her surgery was quick- about 2 hours- and hopefully successful.
And that's the end of that. The doctors leave tonight at midnight, two days ahead of schedule. I really enjoyed working with most of them, and am proud that they're Americans! They did a lot of incredible work here, and changed the lives of many a girl and woman. I'll continue to go to the hospital to check on the post-operative women for a few days, but the translating is all over. Thanks for checking in.

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