Friday, July 17, 2009

Life and Death

I thought the most amazing things I could see on this trip were Kili, Lake Victoria, and the African sky. And these have truly amazed me. But nothing prepared me for how awestruck tuesday morning would leave me.

We brought the 35 year old expectant mother into the operating theater and gave her an epidural. Then the ceasarian section began. I saw a real live human being surgically removed from a real live human being. That is the most simplistic description I can give. But honestly, I can't describe it. The procedure itself was one of the messiest and bloodiest I have seen. But the end result is amazing. I can't claim to know how it feels to be a brand new father, but I can empathize a little bit more now.

So after an intense 5 minutes of blood and water and placenta the nurse was holding a perfect 3.5 kg baby boy upside down as he cried. It was beautiful. I looked at the baby and said "welcome to Africa kiddo. May your generation see this continent transformed and renewed." (Okay, I didn't really say that...I made goofy faces through the surgical mask and kept repeating in a squeaky, baby voice "Mambo Poa!, Mambo Vipi". But if I could go back I would say....No, I would do the exact same thing again - I know this because we did another C section the next day and my reaction didn't change).

This was awesome, but my exctasy didn't last long. As I was leaving the OR, Christina informed me that our burn patient (a lady in her mid 20's who had 2nd degree burns over 50% of her body from a cooking accident) had recently passed away. I helped treat her on Saturday and though that she was improving. This frustrated me a lot because it would never have happened with the right facilities. And later on that day another patient died. I have been at this small hospital for almost a month with no deaths and we have 2 in one day. So this left me in a bittersweet mood feeling selfishly grateful for my own life and health. (I would wake up at 3 am for the next two nights thinking about the burn lady and lots of other stuff - but I slept like a rock last night).

The fact is death is never far away in Africa. This is evidenced by all of the coffin factories. I described Moshi as the "Garden Spot" of Tanzania and it is relatively prosperous. But I could show you at least 2 roads in town that are lined with one coffin company after another. It is a sobering sight...

...Welcome to Africa beautiful babies. I pray that your generation sees this continent transformed and renewed.

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