Saturday, December 8, 2012

Shout Out to Modesta or Can I Go To Med School Now?


Early in November I got to return to Tanga to visit my homestay family and teach the new class all about my favorite topic- mamas and babies! It has been a year since I last saw this family that I lived with for my first two months in Tanzania- when I couldn't speak Swahili, wasn't used to the culture, wasn't used to the heat, and was really terrified of spiders. Despite these barriers, I really loved my mama; she would kill spiders and cockroaches for me, she tried to teach me how to cook (I still gave myself parasites/giardia/I don't know what, but she tried), she saved me from overly forward young men, and when I screamed because a frog jumped on me while taking a shower, she rushed in to rescue me from what she probably expected to be a snake. We laughed uproariously one night when she made a joke about a cow peeing (ngombe ana choo! Actually, she might have been using choo as a verb so my broken Swahili could understand) and my baby dada kept the joke going for several days after that. We both cried when I left at the end of homestay. She put up with my incompetence and ineptitude with love and patience for two months, and, going back, I would finally be able to express my gratitude to her for that, and to actually talk to her! I wasn't incompetent anymore! I could help cook- help more than hinder- now, and I could understand all the gossip about the new PCTs living in the village. My favorite was when my dada came over and her and my mama talked about how one of the PCTs was mwenyeji (a local) because even when he was late, he would still mosey on slowly, greeting everyone, while another PCT dashed to get places- she had poured her chai (tea) into a plastic bottle to take with her to “drink I don't know where!” because she was late. My dada was so frustrated and perturbed at how this girl could take her chai to go just because she was late! Ok, maybe you had to be there, but I still topple over laughing about this. She was so bothered!

So, I am much more capable than I was in Training. That does not mean, though, that I can handle everything. Yesterday after regular clinic, a woman came in with contractions. She was only 6 and a half months along, but this baby was coming out! The kicker was- I WAS THE ONLY ONE THERE! Both the clinical officer and the nurse were gone! So, I delivered a very tiny, 1.5 kilo, premature baby. THAT IS BABY NUMBER 3- BY MYSELF! I clean up the room, all the blood and fecal matter that comes out with the baby, and check on Tiny. Her lungs either aren't fully formed or she has mucus in there, so she was having a really hard time breathing. You could see the effort in her face; when she finally opened her eyes, they would roll back in her head sometimes when she had a particularly hard time breathing. Then another woman comes in with contractions. And another. We only have two beds, so I find an extra mattress and get everyone to fit. Women always come to deliver their babies with an entouarage of other women, so now the clinic was crowded with about 25 women. I told an entourage member of the first women that Tiny needed to be taken to the hospital- we don't have a doctor, and even if they were here, e don't have the supplies to help her. Tanzanians have a habit of asking stupid questions sometimes because of the culture of always asking the white person for help, so in response to my telling her to go to the hospital, she says “But the baby doesn't have a father, the mama doesn't have a husband, what should we do?” With two other women in labour, no actual training on how to deliver babies, and no one there to help me, I looked at that woman with what was probably a very stupid, open mouthed expression, and while I wanted to say “HOW THE FUCK SHOULD I KNOW I SAID THE BABY NEEDS TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH HER HAVING A HUSBAND” I said “sijui” (I don't know).

I could not handle the responsibility anymore, so I called my dada- who also doesn't know how to deliver babies- to come for moral support. I asked her “what do people do when Mama Mosha and Msuya (the nurse and clinical officer) aren't here?!” “They help each other” she responded, “We don't know how to deliver babies, its not our job.” I hugged her, I was so relieved. Modesta, my dada, is 5' tall, 21 years old, but that girl will tell anyone off. One mama was angry about how many people were at the clinic, and Modesta told this woman ho its not our fault! Its the government's fault for not building and staffing more clinics, so people come from outside our catchment area because there are no closer clinics. This mama responded that Modesta and I are no help, we can't help, we are just pretty. Modesta, who works at the clinic for free because we are understaffed, fumed about it the rest of the day.

Moral of the story is 1. I am not always competent to handle situations I get myself into here. 2. My dada Modesta is amazing and this is a shout out to her because she can always handle everything when I go to her for help. 3. Can I go to med school now so I can know what I'm doing?

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