Day 1: We begin

In case you are new to my blog, this is my third year working with IOWD on a medical mission to Rwanda to treat women with a childbirth related injury called fistula. I won’t recap all the same details as in prior years, so if you feel lost, go back to day 1 in 2016 or 2017. And please feel free to post questions!

Having traveled here before, I know that day 1 is always unpredictable. Actually, what am I saying? Every day is a little unpredictable. We always start a little later on the first day to let the team sleep after the long trip and time change. And then there was a road race going on in Kigali today, so we sat on the bus waiting for it to finish, which put us behind at the hospital. It was interesting, however, to see the runners. One woman in particular caught my eye–she was running in flats (meant for church?) with no bra up a very steep hill in the 80 degree sunshine. I was very impressed. I wondered if she had run before, and what got her interested in running? She was clearly devoted.

So we arrived at the hospital and were greeted by our patients. These are women who have traveled hours from their home to stay in large tents on the grounds of the hospital, hoping that maybe we can fix them. They anxiously wait for us, having left behind their family and friends. They wanted to dance for us after we greeted them, which was so heartwarming. I shared one of the photos I took (in the column on the right side). It was a great reminder of why I come. Pure joy and gratitude.

So while some of us examined patients, some of the team set up the two operating rooms, unpacked all of our supplies, and tried to get us organized. This is a very well-oiled machine that works because it has been perfected over the course of many missions. While there are always new people, there are enough experienced people that we can pass along the tips and tricks as we go. Between two exam rooms we saw 37 patients–no bad for a late start and a road race delay, right?

One of the patients we saw was a 4 year old boy named Oscar. We were all a little confused because he had on a beautiful pink flowered dress, and his paperwork said that he had been leaking urine since birth. Apparently it’s not uncommon for boys to wear girls clothes–it was probably the nicest outfit his mother owned. And it meant nothing about him or his problem (I thought–did he have male genitalia? Was his mother unsure about his gender? No, it was just a nice outfit). Anyway, he has a very common problem called hypospadias that can be fixed by a surgeon who will arrive here on Tuesday. He was terrified and screamed and cried through the entire visit, and we did not really do anything except look from a distance. We imagined that he had probably been held down and forced to undergo exams many times prior as he had already had one attempt at surgery. Poor child.

Stay tuned…back tomorrow.