27 January 2011

ahhhh yes. I'm back...

  • back in America : after my last post and the delight I had in interacting with "the little dude" at the hospital, and the freedom I found in being able to communicate with such ease, 2 shifts later I was brought back to the reality that kids have parents..."Are you f*&%'n serious? That f*&%'n nurse better get in here right f*&%'n now with that f*&%'n medicine!!!!"...this mom's daughter had woken up with a fever at midnight and somehow it was my responsibility to have predicted that would happen and that I should have been standing just outside their door at all times as to provide the most speedy care possible to them, since they are, of course, my only patient...the flip side of the coin that includes delight in children is the reality of the not so delightful existence of their parents. And then there's this picture of a couple American cultural expectations that this statement personifies...the expectation that all discomfort can/should be prevented/solved and the expectation that one not need wait for anything. Both are fascinating, and exemplified in my life most likely everyday, but when I'm faced with them in other people, they are horrifying.
  • back out of hibernation: a few weeks ago it was 11 degrees in St. Louis...eleven! Painfully cold. When looking back to this time last year, I realized that Bundibugyo this time of year, in dry season, is easily 100 degrees hotter than that...one hundred! No wonder I'm such a wuss! But this week, there have been days with sunshine, days when I've brought out my sunglasses, and days over 30 degrees...balmy I tell you! There's nothing that says this will last, but I'm enjoying it.
  • back to school: I'm sitting outside the room that just held the first class of my grad school career...crazy. It's been a long time since I was last a student. I don't even really remember how it all works, especially since technology has changed so much. I bought notebooks this week...as in paper, written on with pen...almost everybody else in the class had their laptops out...I thought that might be the case, but I think my brain needs pen/paper to be engaged...we'll see how this goes.

15 January 2011

"you! you! you!"

My back was towards him, but you know how you can tell by the texture/quality of sound if someone's voice is directed towards you, even if your back is turned? I could tell he was yelling at me. I was standing at the computer in the hall, charting one of any number of details that are all digitally documented in this day and age. Location: 8East, my old floor at St. Louis Children's Hospital...now my "new" floor. A lot has changed in the 3 years I've been gone, and as with the rest of life, most of it is in the realm of technology. When?: Yesterday. It was my first shift back on the floor. I was trying to keep on top of the details, a battle I'll likely be struggling to win but not likely ever succeeding in the months to come.

The little dude yelling at me was probably 4 or so...his cute little self jumping up and down on his bed; trying to eat a snack and jump and point and yell at me all at the same time. Little dudes really are remarkable multi-taskers...and he was managing to do pretty well at all of those things, and be super cute at the same time. I couldn't help but be distracted from my charting to yell and point right back at him. "you! you! you!" He giggled and we went back and forth with the yelling and pointing until his mom returned from grabbing something to drink. She was very apologetic as she approached the room, "I'm so sorry" she said. "No, no, please, don't be. I love it" I answered. I went on to ask the little yelling dude what he was eating and whether he was feeling better and so forth. He just smiled and kept yelling "you! you! you!" and I leaned my head back and laughed, turning back to the computer to try to remember what it was I was doing before I was so cutely interrupted.

Of all the crazy computer documentation, the insane access to inordinate volumes of supplies, meds, food, information, resources (the list is un-ending), the wonderful nurse/patient ratios, the number of doctors of all kinds wandering around with packs of medical students and interns and residents in tow...it was the cute little yelling dude that stuck out in my mind as a light bulb moment in my first day back in the thick of western medicine. You know why? Because I could understand what he was yelling at me! AND he could understand me when I yelled back! Most of the kids I've interacted with in the last 3 years, I haven't been able to understand. And even when I have been able to understand, I rarely knew how to reply in a language they could understand. While it's true, if a kid in Bundibugyo was yelling "you! you! you!" ("weh! weh! weh!) I actually could understand that, and could reply in a similar fashion, it never amounted to much substance. I did manage to banter with the kids on the ward and at my door, even if we couldn't understand each other and laughed a lot doing it. But there was always a nagging desire for more; a desire to hear more, to say more.

So my cute little yelling dude made me so happy. He probably wasn't making his mom so happy...I guessed he must have been an asthmatic or something, hyped up on albuterol and almost literally bouncing off the walls and driving his mother batty...but that's the beauty of it all - I'm not his mom, (or his nurse actually), just the "lady at the compooter" (which he called out to me when I went back to my charting :). So, in that moment, he made my day.

03 January 2011

2011, a NEW year

Today was the first monday of 2011. It was a big day for me.

For the last 3 months of my life, I've been "in between."
"In between" usually that means that you are in a space after something and before something else; or next to one thing on one side and another thing on the other.
I was going to say that I've spent the 3 months trying to figure out what that "something" is that I was in the space before...but I think it's been bigger than that. I've been trying to figure out what it is I am in a space "after" AND what it is I am in a space "before"; or in other words, trying to figure out what it was/is that was/is on either side of me.
What was it that happened in the last 2 1/2 years of my life, and what is it that will happen in the coming weeks, months, years...
And just now, sitting here in my bed with my computer on my lap, I've realized that that "in between" space has gotten bigger and bigger as the 3 months of time has ticked by. As time has gone on, I have felt further away from either of the events/places/people at either bookend.
It could be that for some of us returning to the US from the field, there is a 3 month low point (which is often described/predicted in one's adjustment period when arriving in the field from the US)...past the "honeymoon" stage of how wonderful it is to see everyone you've missed and eat familiar food, and take long hot showers...and into the realization that this isn't just a visit...that this may be life for a while...maybe that's the explanation...I don't know...
December has been hard. Real hard. Full of doubt, questions, uncertainty, waiting, lack of clarity, lack of motivation, anxiety of anticipation, and biggest of all - lack of connection...
I have not felt connected to Africa, I have not felt connected to the US.
I have been "in between."

But today, was the beginning of movement.
Today I moved towards something and boy did that feel good!
Today I started orientation to my "new" job (which is actually really a re-orientation to my old job) - a staff nurse on my old floor at St. Louis Children's Hospital. I'm not going to say too much about how all of this came about, but let me just say that God has been crazy good to me.
And, can I just say, that if one is going to move towards something in the workplace, how's the mission statement of a hospital that says "We do what's right for kids." I think I can get behind that!
It feels good to be a part of something again, or at least to be moving towards being a part of something again.
In another couple of weeks I'll move towards something else I haven't moved towards in a long time....school! I don't even have a bookbag, or a class schedule, or a notebook...
And after a year or so of school, I hope to circle back around to that thing that was the last 2 1/2 years of my life...life in Africa...

So today was really just the first actually step of movement. One step which I hope will be followed by many more. But my new motto is "one foot in front of the other" so the movement might be slow.

As I close my today, my friends in Sudan are starting their tomorrow, but it's a closing of sorts for them too...they leave their homes in Mundri, Southern Sudan and are unsure of when/if they will be able to return. I'm not sure if you can imagine packing your bags and leaving your home with no certainty of your return, but it's loaded. Totally loaded. Pray with us that justice and peace might be wed in the referendum in Southern Sudan next week.