Two-for-One Special

So today is going to encompass today and yesterday’s activities. I don’t know what happened, but somehow Thursday night and Friday morning were just so busy that I didn’t get a chance to write. But that just means that our days were extra exciting, right?

Thursday morning, we added another newbie to our team that had flown in earlier this week from BYU. We were supposed to induct the two new members into the wound side of home based care in Sakubita, but fortunately and unfortunately there were a team of volunteer doctors that were setting up shop in the Sakubita primary school to do check ups and hand out medications that weren’t available in the Linda Clinic. When we showed up, the lead caregiver Benson met up with us and told us that none of the other caregivers or patients were going to be available to be seen because they were all going up to the primary school to visit the legit doctors there. So Benny, our African Impact driver, decided to take us over to Maramba since that’s where he’s from and he could take us around to the patients that need to be seen there.

Maramba, if you remember me discussing it from last week, is much better off than the more rural areas of Zambia that we’ve been to like Linda, Sakubita, or Natebe. While it was still a good experience for the interns we were essentially training, you can only take blood pressures and tell people to drink more water so many times. However, upon returning, Sjeel rearranged our schedule so that we’d be visiting Sakubita on Friday. We were excited about this because we hadn’t been there (Braydan and I) for a week, so we wanted to check on some of the patients we’d seen previously with wounds that would be great to show the newbies. That sounds really bad, doesn’t it? “The wounds there will be great to show you!” It sounds slightly sociopathic doesn’t it?

Regardless, that’s the situation here. After lunch, we headed out to a community center in Linda and spoke with members of the Linda Community Organization that works on a multitude of projects to better the community. Projects include eradicating the stigma of HIV, ending the practice of child marriages, increasing knowledge about hygiene and how to avoid tropical viruses like cholera and typhoid fever. After an introduction to the organization by the founder, we broke off into groups to interview some of the specialists that work in the organization. Braydan and I interviewed two counsellors, one is an HIV counsellor and the other is a child marriage counsellor.

Interviewing them allowed us to gain more cultural knowledge about the complexities of the issues facing the people of Zambia currently. With this knowledge we’ll be better able to create workshops and lesson plans about whatever health topic we each end up choosing that is both informative and culturally sensitive. For instance, it was very helpful to hear about how to go about sharing information. While you would think that trying to spread disseminate information to as many people as possible in the simplest form would be the ideal (such as in a classroom or church), this is actually more likely to be a turn off to people and they will be less receptive to the information being shared. It is better, according to the counsellors, to speak one on one with an individual or a family, and even then, there are very specific things you can talk about with the whole family and very specific things that you would need to separate the elders and the children to talk about. Interesting, no?

Dinner was cottage pie, and it was like having a little piece of home with us. I’ve always loved my mom’s cottage pie, and this made me think of home. After dinner, as per usual we ended up crashing upstairs. The days go by so quickly here, and since they’re always full, we’re consistently exhausted by the end of the day. It’s a satisfying feeling to be sure, knowing that we’re tired because we’ve been working hard.

This brings us to Friday—induction day! Well, induction for our trainees at least. We headed out to Sakubita bright and early, and while I wasn’t feel well, I didn’t want to miss visiting the patients nor leave Braydan to train all by himself. He’s capable for sure, but we’re a team, so I didn’t want to leave him hanging. Upon arriving to Sakubita, we met with a caregiver we hadn’t been with before named Gilbert, but he was friendly and excited to work with us.

We started our day off with a little boy who had cut his knee on a glass bottle. The wound looked good because his dad was a volunteer for St. Francis Hospital nearby and knew how to properly take care of it. Afterwards, we headed off to help some other patients; however, on the way, Martin, the little boy’s dad, met up with us again asking for help with one of his patients. First he showed us a prescription that has been given for antibiotics and pain meds, neither of which we had. When we weren’t able to help with that, he asked us to come help dress the wound. Guys, we were not prepared for this. The poor woman we were helping had apparently fallen on some piping (they’re in the process of building a house) and the pipe had left a deep gouge in her upper thigh by her buttocks. The wound was DEEP and there was a thick flab of flesh—not skin, flesh— that was separated from the main leg by the pipe. The hospital had treated her a bit by putting some internal stitches in the wound, but because of the fear of infection, the hospital didn’t do more stitches to close the entire thing. So Martin had us come and clean and redress the wound. The poor woman was practically in tears, but to her credit and my amazement, she never made a peep.

While it wasn’t the induction we were expecting, it was certainly one way to introduce the newbies to how bad the wounds here can be. We left the woman with instructions for Martin to go get the antibiotics because no, they’re not the same as an antiseptic, and yes, she definitely needs them to prevent infection. We visited another couple of patients who had high Bp and needed to see the clinic to pick up their medications (one hadn’t been taking them since 2017, and she wondered why she was having a hard time doing things. Really people, take your dang meds!) and then something that had never happened before happened. Our caregiver, Gilbert, received a call from the clinic where he works and they needed him urgently, so he took us to our next patient, showed us where the next one was and then explained how to get to our meeting point to be picked up from there.

So we were sans caregiver for another four patients, which ended up requiring a team effort in order to figure out how best to help the patients we were seeing. The language barrier was real, but luckily we were able to piece everything together with what little Nyanja we spoke, the Nyanja health questions in our book, and good old-fashioned “sign language.” One of the patients was the woman who had been attacked by a crocodile, and the next had a burn wound that had been open for over a year. For the first, Braydan and I mainly dressed the wounds so the new interns could observe how to do it, and the last one Braydan assisted one of the interns with. Overall, it was a successful trip. When we got back to the bridge, poor Andrew was freaking out since he had seen our caregiver walking to the clinic, but we assured him we were okay and no harm no foul.

When we got back, we prepared for our cultural activity! The cooks prepared traditional Zambian foods of chicken, caterpillars, dried anchovies, a spinach sauce, okra, and of course, nshima. The food was great, although I wasn’t overly fond of the caterpillars or anchovies. They weren’t terrible, but just not the flavors I normally enjoy. After lunch, we met up at the day beds to have a cultural lesson from Audrey, Sharon, Andrew, Benny, and one of Audrey’s friends who is a nurse. Audrey showed us what a traditional wedding in Zambia looks like, and we really felt like we got to know more about the culture here. Once the lesson was over, we had a brief dance lesson by some of the local boys and Audrey. It was so fun! Watching a ton of white people with no bums trying to shake it like the little boys was hilarious, and the boys did there own dance that had everyone rolling with laughter. This was definitely a 10/10 experience!

Dinner was American style burgers with amazing fries (they cut up the potatoes and fry them right there in the kitchen which is the only way fries should be made IMO). However, the evening wasn’t long for Braydan nor I (as per usual), and after a couple rounds of ping pong in which Braydan beat me but only by a hair each time, we shuffled off to bed to get ready for our early morning excursion, which I’ll talk about later! Until tomorrow, ¡adios!

-Gabrielle Bezzant

Author: Gabrielle Bezzant

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