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Morning Rounds


The hospital is crowded today...even more so than usual.  All beds are full and there are now 2 mattresses on the floor.  One is beside the desk we use to write our notes.  In the bed lies a baby- no more than several months old.  She is hooked up to an IV and is struggling ever so hard to breathe.  The anaesthetist has placed her on oxygen, but it requires electricity which soon after goes out.  Her mother sits on the mattress beside her, silently distraught.


I wander through the wards to check on my patients.  The fellow in the corner broke his leg in several places, and as I have somehow become the traction lady, I make sure it is in a good position.  His next door neighbour has a broken arm with a dislocated shoulder.  I give him some exercises with the help of other patients since he doesn’t speak Swahili.

In the next building my patient with the 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his legs lies under his mosquito net.  He is the last of several men who were badly burned when a gas tank exploded.  The others have healed well enough to go home.  Ngamo hated me at first…I had to make him move when the pain was excruciating….the only medication he had was Tylenol.  I would have hated me too.  Now he is healing nicely, with no contractures (decreased movement in the joints).  He is able to walk well with the wooden crutches I had made for him.

Our paediatric ward has 6 beds filled with cute, but sick kiddies.  The fact that I use balloons for my therapy sessions (a great and simple distraction for the wee ones afraid of my white face) has become well known.  Bata (balloon)!  Bata! is a common cry on my arrival.  Marie in the corner is now moving her burnt arm from playing catch with me, and for the others they provide a bit of fun in a not so fun place.  One 6 year old boy knows me well.  He’s been on traction for 3 weeks for a broken leg.  Today he gave me a gift to thank me for the balloons.  He proudly presented me with a small fruit known here as a damu damu (a tree tomato elsewhere).  Best gift I can think of being given.


There are days when it seems overwhelming…the sickness, the crowds of people, the horrible odour of infection.  Africa is in your face.  It is not a sterile clean white room with order.  It is bright, loud, colourful and sometimes smelly.  Like everything else in this place, death is also in your face.  Some of our children have died since I arrived, one literally before my eyes.  Others died slowly, their intestines perforated because of typhoid fever.  They came to the hospital too late.  The wails of the mothers pierce my heart.


There are other days when I see great blessings.  Hawks and butterflies in flight on my way home, newborn babies snuggled up to happy moms, women gracefully dancing with joy.   Matata, one of the little ones with typhoid, is going to make it.  It was touch and go for a while.  I gave him a small car (which was generously donated by my nephew Mathew).  Most days he is clutching that car like it’s his only possession, which it very well could be.  We used a balloon at the beginning to encourage his breathing, now I use it for fun to get him moving.  He smiles easier now and is slowly gaining weight and strength.


The goods and the bads can be extreme here.  I understand how King David can be crying out “Why o Lord, do you stand far off?” (Psalm 10:1) in one breath and seeing God’s justice with the next “You hear, o Lord…defending the fatherless and the oppressed” (Psalm 10:17-18).  I often do the same myself.


  I am still grateful, however, at the end of the day, to be here.  On days when the tears flow, when frustration mounts, when laughter seems far away, on days when all seems right with the world, and peace seems plausible, on days when the world seems bright and on days when it is fallen and grey.  I am comforted knowing this…that there is “Someone, whose hands infinitely calm, holding up all this falling” (Rilke).


Blessings and Happy Spring!


Bunia March 09