It’s the Final Countdown

Helllooooo friends!

The last two days have been a blur of home based care training, prepping and delivering workshops, and finding time for food and a trivia game in between it all. This post will encompass Tuesday and Wednesday, so buckle up!

Tuesday was interesting as it was my first day training two of the new interns with one of our former trainees paired with me (Katherine). We went to Maramba community for home based care, and on our way we assumed we would be with Benny, our driver, since he’s often the caregiver we go out with. Unfortunately, he let us know that he wasn’t scheduled to go around with us, but if the caregiver we were supposed to meet up with didn’t show, then we’d be with Benny. 

Needless to say, we all had our fingers crossed that somehow there would’ve been a miscommunication and we’d end up with Benny. As luck would have it, our wishes came true and the caregiver didn’t show, so we went out with Benny! Most of the patients I had seen before, and the ones I hadn’t Katherine had, and Maramba isn’t plagued with wounds like Linda or Sakubita, so it was a good starting place for our newbies. We met with two people I hadn’t met before, and both were interesting. One was an older man who had 16 kids with ONE WIFE! That poor woman!!! The other was a middle aged man with a brain tumor. 

The brain tumor man has a tragic story that we weren’t made aware of until the end of our visit. While we were there, he told us that the hospital promised to call him when they could bring him in for an operation to remove the tumor. Apparently there’s a waiting list that the doctors said they placed him on, but the longer he waits without word back from the hospital nor a response from the doctors when he calls has been discouraging for him. His suffering and struggles to feel like the head of the house when he is so debilitated (he had a stroke a few years ago too) were things that I can only empathize with. However, as we spoke with him (mainly Benny and myself) we tried to help him find coping strategies for his anxieties as well as assured him that if the hospital wasn’t calling, it was a sign that he needn’t worry because they weren’t worrying/rushing to get it done. We all walked out of the house feeling humbled but like a difference had been made. 

Then came the real blow. As we went outside, the man’s wife asked if she could speak with us by the van away from the house. There she told us that she had spoken with the doctors, but they told her that his tumor is malignant and in the last stage of (I’m guessing) development, and that they would not operate because of the high risk of death, severe disability, and recurrence somewhere else. Basically, he is terminal, but the doctors won’t tell him that so his poor wife has been carrying this burden by herself. She asked that the next time we come we counsel him about what if the doctors don’t call or they decide not to operate, that way it’s not so devastating for him if/when they finally decide to tell him. 

To say the mood shifted to somber in the blink of an eye is an understatement. I was sitting up front with Benny as we drove back, and it was clear he was disturbed by the news. The man was his friend after all, and knowing that he’s going to die seemed to bother Benny. Eventually, he asked me what I knew about the start and spread of tumors as well as how they affect the brain, and I explained what knowledge I had that would be useful to him. He seemed to understand when I explained, but regardless, it’s a hard pill to swallow so suddenly. 

After returning for lunch and resting for a bit, the medical interns prepped to visit Kingdom Impact Church to give our workshop presentations to a mostly young adult group. This group was fantastic to teach, and they really brightened my day with their smiles, laughs, and insights. 

Returning from our workshops meant a few rounds of ping pong had to be played (I was the winner for the day) as well as more work on our presentation for the new interns the next day. 

After dinner and some chit chat, we decided to hit the sack since we had another full day the next day. 

Wednesday was pretty standard stuff: Braydan and I were paired up again and went to Mwandi with Sophie and our trainee, Annie. The caregiver working with us was Florence, and she was a powerhouse! When Andrew dropped us off, he called to see where she was. The poor woman was all the way back at the school where we had just dropped off our teaching students. Instead of having us come back to the school though, she booked it over to the Airport Clinic where we were patiently waiting (some people were trying to break open rocks, which was amusing the nurses arriving to the clinic). 

From the clinic, we took off. We only had about 2 hours in which to visit patients, but we managed to get through nine patients in those 2 hours, which even ended 15 minutes early since our last patient ended up not being home. Florence was so good about allowing us to talk to the patient and treat them the best way we knew how, and once all was said and done, she didn’t waste anytime and we would take off again. 

While we waited at the Mwandi Primary School for the teaching students to get out, a group of kids on their break came over to say hi to us.  What started as three students quickly became ten, then fifteen, then twenty! We tried to teach them how to do the floss dance and we started the Macarena when the bus pulled us. The kids were laughing and having a blast! Right before we hopped in the bus, Braydan and I bent down to get a picture with them and they really swarmed at that point (see Braydan’s post about Wednesday to get a good idea of what happened). It was hilarious, but not nearly as funny as when we hopped in and the kids surrounded the bus. Apparently they do a game with Andrew when he’s driving where he honks twice and they scream “Zoom bus!” He did it five or six times as the kids started to scatter, but it was adorable. 

Leaving Mwandi is where things started to get interesting for the day though. Andrew picked us four up along with the six teaching students. From there, we picked up another home based care group of four people. So if you’re counting, that’s 14 people crammed in a standard tourist van. And this bus didn’t have windows that could open…but then, Andrew broke the news that we needed to fit another three people in bus. When all was said and done, there were seventeen people in the bus not including Andrew. Luckily, Braydan and I had been smart and sat up front with Andrew so we weren’t squished, but it was an adventure nonetheless. 

After lunch, we prepped for our final workshop presentation to the young adult group at the Kingdom Impact Church. I didn’t realize until 5 minutes before we had to leave that someone on the teaching team had erased my Basic Wound Care board, so I was scrambling last minute to make a new one. Fortunately, I got it done right as we were leaving, so I felt #blessed. 

The workshops went a lot better than I was expecting. Maybe it was because they had genuine questions or because they were actually engaged and laughed when I had them do the stretch and spin activity that I do with our 3 and 4 year old primary kids in the U.S. but it felt more impactful than when we presented to the eighth graders. 

By the time we got back, we had approximately 20 minutes to finalize our presentations for the new medical interns. Luckily, there was a group of the new interns that got back from their afternoon projects late because I had to run outside a couple of times with my laptop to try and make last minute changes to the slides. The presentation is part of our internship and is designed basically to prep the new interns for somethings that we were surprised by for found to be helpful during our stay here. Topics were things like having a growth mindset and love for the people, tracking patient progress, keeping yourself physically and mentally health, and communicating with patients both verbally and non-verbally. 

I wasn’t sure how it went since Kath (one of our lead coordinators) was sitting in on the presentation and didn’t exactly have the most pleased expression on her face most of the time. However, we got the thumbs up of approval from her and Sjeel afterwards, and they asked us to make it available for them to use with interns later on. So I guess you could say it was a success!

Before dinner, we made a run to the tourist market to commission one of the painters there that works regularly with African Impact to make a painting for us. We’ll post pics once it’s done! Following dinner, we sat around and chatted with some of the new interns and their faculty advisor that is traveling with them. Surprisingly, the faculty supervisor owns a papillon and so we got to talking about that and our pets back home. 

Then came the real competition! For game night, Sjeel and Sitali ran a trivia night. Unfortunately, Braydan and I were assigned to different teams, but we had fun with our groups. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a fan of playing games against Braydan since we both end up being really competitive, and I’m definitely not a fan of trivia. I find it to be too stressful and it nevera brings out the best in people. But I digress. Sjeel didn’t have time to calculate the final scores or announce the winner, so hopefully that will be done at dinner tonight! After the game, we made our way upstairs to shower and go to bed. It was a full and exhausting day, but we’re making the most out of the limited number of days we have left. Until tomorrow, ¡adios!

-Gabrielle Bezzant

Author: Gabrielle Bezzant

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