Day 6: Continued…

After Dr. Hampton spoke to the women in the tent, she suggested that I hand out the baby clothes I brought. Little did I know realize what pandemonium would ensue. There were probably 2 or 3 infants in the 0 to 3 month size range in the crowd of women; this was the only size clothing I brought. I had enough for 9 babies, so I figured I would have plenty. Something happened the moment I handed out the first item; a call must have gone out to every woman in the hospital with a infant that a white woman was handing out clothes. I was mobbed within minutes.

This was at once gratifying and uncomfortable. I had to choose what to give and to whom, knowing that some of the infants were too big for the clothes. I also tried to avoid giving more than one item to the same person. All I could see around me was women with outstretched hands, holding their babies. When I ran out of clothes I retreated to an exam room with Dr Hampton, who had been taking photos of me.

I went back to the operating room area and talked to one of the anesthesia staff about what had happened. She told me that she had stopped bringing handouts with her because she did not like being the white woman with gifts for the poor Africans. She explained that her gift was her knowledge and participation in the trip. I both agreed and disagreed with her; I had given these clothes with good intentions, but am not sure if it was the right thing. After a few days of thinking, I still don’t know. As a white woman from the first world, I have no experience to guide me. I wonder what you think?

During afternoon rounds, we saw a woman who had been suffering with a spinal headache for 2 days since her surgery. This type of headache happens when there is leakage of cerebrospinal fluid during the procedure, and the headache is completely debilitating. The headache is most intense when sitting up, which was preventing her from getting up, walking around, and could potentially lead to other complications, besides making her miserable. We had spoken to her several times about the option of a blood patch, which involves taking some blood from a vein in her arm and injecting it into the epidural space. This plugs the leak and almost immediately relieves the headache.

She had declined the blood patch earlier in the day because she misunderstood what we were offering. We explained again and she agreed to the blood patch, though I could only guess that she was scared. She had been stuck multiple times trying to establish her spinal block before her surgery. As we were positioning her this time, I sat on one side and tried to comfort her. A few moments after the injection, the Rwandan nurse asked her how she was feeling. She replied “God bless you” to the doctor who had done the patch. I can’t explain how relieved I felt for her–I had chills. I posted a picture a few days ago of the patient leaning forehead to forehead with the anesthesia nurse. More joy.