Day 3: Facts of life

Some fast facts:

  • I have yet to see a cigarette here.
  • Women in labor here are alone. Their family waits outside until it’s over. The labor area is a large room divided by curtains. There are no sheets or pillows on the bed and the bed is too short to stretch out. 
  • Nursing and medical students have a LOT more freedom and responsibilities in patient care. Nursing students can set up blood transfusions, insert catheters, check fetal heart rates, measure fundal height, and monitor contractions. Medical students can write prescriptions and counsel patients.
  • Traffic in Kigali is terrible.

What. A. Day. I did a little of everything, from working to organize the supply room (which is barely organized chaos), making up medication bags for patients to self-treat pain while recovering in the hospital, watching a woman in labor, and helping to counsel women who are not candidates for surgery.

If you read my blog last time, you may remember that there are some women whose problem is so severe that a surgery is unlikely to help. In America, we have the ability to do these surgeries, or to do a procedure to divert the urine so that she does not leak. But here, it’s just not possible. I will tell you one story.

She got pregnant at 14 but told no one. She was at boarding school, and when she went into labor, she told no one. After 3 days of labor, she asked for help but her baby had died and she required a c-section to remove the baby. As a result of the baby being stuck for so long, she developed a terrible problem in which the bladder separates from the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body). This means that she leaks urine constantly, day and night.

She also developed foot drop, which meant she could not walk. This problem can improve with physical therapy and support. But her entire family abandoned her. She has been in the hospital since October 2016. And now her legs are so weak that she still cannot walk and she doesn’t want to try. She has given up. And we cannot fix her urine leakage. She has been crying for days.

I know this is a terrible story and you may wonder why I would share it. Who needs more bad news?

But tomorrow is another day, and I will go to talk with her, along with one of the doctors. I am going to do my best to motivate this girl, who is now 17, to hope that there is life after disaster. While I cannot pretend to know the depth of her pain, I am an excellent cheerleader and motivator.

This trip is so important for me, especially at this time in the life of the US. If you don’t have something in your life that helps you remember what is important and why you get up every day, I implore you to find it.