Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What It's Like...Having a Baby Via C-Section in a Third World Country

It’s been a while, but give me some slack.  I had a baby!  

To continue with the series “What’s It Like…”, today I bring you the latest episode entitled “What It’s Like to Have a Baby Via C-Section in a Third World Country”.  (The short version.)

For a myriad of reasons, my husband and I decided to follow our favorite doctor to his new hospital in Soroti (a 8-10 hour drive on the other side of the country) instead of having the baby in Midigo (the quality and cleanliness and privacy of the facility being the top reasons).  

So after being in Soroti for 3 weeks, and still not seeing anything that looked like labor, we got a phone call from Midigo with some ridiculous but hilarious rumors about us.  All of Midigo thought my family from America had come and they were all surrounding me, petting me, catering to me, and spoiling me during this time.  Bosco and I looked at each other since we were very much alone (no one from America had come for the birth) and we both started laughing hilariously.  Which is when I started leaking fluid.  That was on a Saturday night.  After a false diagnosis that I was in labor (inexperienced nurse), it continued to leak until finally on Tuesday I was induced.  The situation was getting dangerous and the baby had to come out.  Tuesday afternoon labor began and I labored through the night, but around 4am, the contractions began to reduce and I went to bed and slept. 

When morning came, another examination was done, and we discovered that natural birth was going to be impossible and an emergency c-section was the only option left.  The problem was, the operating theatre at the new hospital was still under construction, so I had to be taken to the government hospital in the middle of Soroti Town.  

Let me describe the scene:  The maternity ward is one long skinny building with rows of beds the entire length down both inside walls.  Half of the building was for women who had already labored and half was for women who were waiting or were actively in labor.  There were about 80 beds total, with only about 2 feet of space between each bed.  There were no bed sheets or mosquito nets.  If you don’t bring your own, you go without. There are no screens on the windows or the gaping doorway.  Dozens of women were sitting outside in the dirt, listless in the heat.  6 or 7 stray dogs wandered between the women, sharing the dirt and doing their business wherever they wished.  An open water ditch ran along the way a few yards away – the muddy water being the perfect place for mosquito breeding.  

I was taken to the receptionists table which was sitting in the middle of the long room, and it was only through pulling some strings that I was attended to as quickly as I was.  (One of the doctors from the new hospital used to work at the old hospital and had accompanied us over there for exactly that purpose.)  I sat there, still having contractions until their gynecologist could confirm that a C-section was needed.  

We then walked to the operating room where I was given an IV in both hands to get fluids into me.  I lay on a tiny table waiting, when a woman was rolled out on a stainless steel table, half on her side with her neck in an awkward position.  She had only a sheet that didn’t cover her properly.  They wheeled her right next to me and we stared at each other for a while until she was taken away.  

Now it was my turn.  While the operating room was cleaned, I was led into the room, stripped, and told to get up onto an impossibly narrow table for the operation.  Huge as I was and still having contractions, I had to have help.  Not long after that the anesthesiologist gave me an injection to the spine and the lower half of my body went completely numb.  I watched as the doctors scrubbed up and put their backwards facing green gowns on, then a sheet was strung between my two IV poles so I could not see the lower half of my body.  The sheet was threadbare with holes in several places.  For the next 20 minutes I alternated which side of the room I wanted to look at as I turned my head from side to side.  Soon I heard a cry and little baby Jazzlyn was born. They gave me quick peep at her and then the doctors began sewing me up.  

I soon found myself on the same kind of stainless steel table the woman before me had been on and in the same awkward position.  I could only really look down at the white plastic rain boots of the surgical team that were splattered with my blood.  Nice view.  I was then wheeled outside through the hospital to my private room.  

I’m calling it a private room because that’s what the hospital calls it, but storage room is the better description. It was one of 6 rooms in a long building that had a shared bathroom.  The toiled didn’t work, the porcelain sink was cracked off in half and there was no running water.  My room was piled with old mattresses, weighing scales, IV poles, and various other paraphernalia.  I was put onto a bed that was set up with a mattress and thus began my 2 days and 2 nights stay.  When night came we discovered that the room was swarming with mosquitos, so Bosco and dear Dr. Elizabeth (another of our favorite doctors who works at the new hospital) strung up a mosquito net for me using various things from around the room.  

A hospital nurse brought a box of my medications to the room and plopped the box in the corner.  She then disappeared and never returned again until her shift was over and she was leaving.  The new nurse said hello and then disappeared the same way, never to be seen again until her shift ended.  There are no nurse call buttons on the beds or any way to get their attention other than yelling and hoping they respond.  Dr. Elizabeth was the one who did everything for me.  She gave me my pain medications, checked my drip IV, bathed me, emptied my colostomy bag, and made me as comfortable as she could.   If she hadn’t been there, I would not have received any medical care except for what Bosco could do or he could convince the nurse to do through monetary bribes.  

After two days there I was able to get up and walk very slowly and we fought until we got the doctor to release me.  I then spent two more days at the new hospital until I could return with Bosco to where we were staying.  

Even though Soroti Hospital is not a nice place, I’m thankful it was there and that my baby was born healthy and safely and that I have recovered and am doing well also.  Our sweet girl is now 7 months old and the joy of our lives. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

What It's Like...Visiting the Dentist

What It’s Like…Visiting the Dentist

Sometimes these things just happen.  They are annoying, unexpected, and generally have to be taken care of as soon as possible, meaning life is disrupted and the frustration level can be pretty high.  Having a tooth filling pop out is exactly one of those things.

I was using some dental floss between some molars (See?  I was trying to be good!), and when I pulled the floss out, a tiny, tiny pebble of something came with it.  I didn’t know what it was until I ran my tongue over my tooth and found a hole where a hole hadn’t been before.  The filling had been put into a “C” shaped place in the tooth, meaning I now had a thin, sliver of tooth that could easily break off if I ate anything too hard, so as soon as I was able (2 weeks later) Bosco took me to the dentist in Arua. 

This particular dentist has an office at a hospital (literally just one room), but it’s a missionary established hospital affiliated with the Anglican church, so what I’m going to describe is possibly a bit nicer (or a bit more primitive) that what you might find elsewhere in Uganda, but since it’s not a government facility, I’m going to assume it was a bit nicer. 

I checked into the “hospital” at the front counter (where every single patient has to check in), told them what I needed, and paid the equivalent of 50 cents.  They gave us a card and directions to the dentist office, where Bosco and I sat outside the door on slabs of concrete under a iron sheet overhang.  A young woman soon came out of the office, looked at me, did a double take, and then said, “I think I know you.  You are from Midigo”.  I had to confirm, and as we had a short chat, I marveled that I can be in Arua 2.5 hours away from Midigo and be recognized.  But then, I really shouldn’t marvel too much because I don’t blend in here very well at all.  

It was only about 5 minutes later when we were taken into the office and I turned the corner to find 10 people in the room – the dentist and 9 dental school students.  I was quite surprised, but it just made the whole experience more interesting since every move I or the dentist made was followed by 20 eyes (Bosco’s as well). It was exactly like in the movies when someone wakes up from a faint or surgery and has a ring of faces staring down at them.  The dentist used the opportunity to point out some fancy dental work already in my mouth the students hadn’t had the opportunity of seeing before (he was wrong on some of his lecture, “identifying” some things I have never had done, so I had to correct him) and then the real fun started.  

Bring on the dental tools.  Instead of ripping open a packet of sterilized tools and laying them on a nice, clean tray, the dentist told one of the students to get the tools out for him.  Getting the tools out meant digging into a large metal canister with a pair of tongs until the tools needed were found. How exactly they do their sterilization, I don’t know, but I’m assuming they are boiled in water. After fishing around for the ones wanted, the dentist kicked on a huge tank generator that was taking up a good portion of the floor space so he could run his power drill to file down the rough edge of the tooth.  Talk about noise!  The drill and the generator both going at the same time in a confined space was deafening, but thankfully it didn’t take too long and he was able to switch the generator off.  

To me, one of the most annoying things about the dentist is the spit factor.  The more a dentist pokes, prods, digs, and scrapes, the more the spit starts to puddle up.  Next time you visit your dentist, please appreciate that little suction tube that keeps your mouth nice and dry.  I didn’t have that convenience, so the dentist took rolled up TOILET PAPER and shoved it under my tongue.  We all know what happens to rolled of toilet paper.  It turns to mush, so between having to sit up and lean over the dentist chair (a very old but real dentist chair) to spit into a metal bowl and try to spit soggy toilet paper out of my mouth, it was a fantastically wet experience (and I didn’t have a bib on a chain around my neck either).  

Thankfully, the nerve endings in that tooth hadn’t been exposed, so most of the procedure was painless, and the actually filling, quickly done.  I was quite surprised that he put in a white filling (not sure the substance) because I remember getting a white filling before in the USA and it costing a whole lotta money.  I was expecting something outdated, but the dentist whipped out his little ultraviolet (?) super fast filling-drying light beam ray gun (just like the ones I’ve seen in the States) and my filling was done in no time.  

We paid him the equivalent of $15, and were on our way.  I wasn’t able to chew on that side of my mouth for several months because any pressure on the filling was painful, but I didn’t know what to do about it.  I could go back to the same dentist and complain, but if he couldn’t do it right the first time, could he fix his own work?  Living in the rural setting we live in makes everything harder to take care of, so I’ve just dealt with the inconvenience and I can finally chew normally most of the time now.  

All in all, it wasn’t a bad experience, but I’ll still be saving my planned dental visits for when I’m States-side.  I just love that little suction tube too much. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

What It's Like...

I want to start a little mini series called “What It’s Like…”  I live in a place completely different from most of you who might read this, and if you have a curious, inquisitive mind like I do, you might find these posts amusing or surprising, or at the least, informative.  Here’s the first. 

 What It’s Like…In my Kitchen

First of all, my kitchen is not the typical village kitchen in Uganda.  The convenience, comfort, and pretty much everything about it is very non-traditional, except that some of the foods that come out of it are the traditional, local foods (thanks to cooking lessons from my husband and the occasional ingredient supplied by my mother-in-law. Homemade peanut butter!)

The first thing you might notice is that I have only one appliance.  My counters are bare of microwaves, toasters, blenders, crock pots, bread makers, mixers, and whatever else Billy Mays  might have sold on his infomercials.  I really miss having access to some of these things sometimes, but I would never trade all of these things combined for the one I do have: my gas burning stove/oven.  Never did anyone invent a better kitchen appliance than this beauty.  One click of my lighter, one twist of a knob and it’s practically like dinner is halfway made!  

I say that because without this gas stove, I would be outside either gathering firewood or struggling with some homemade charcoal to  get a fire started (without the benefit of lighter fluid for all your die-hard charcoal only bbq people), which can be very frustrating.  Especially if it’s too windy. Or raining.  Or rained and your wood is wet.  Or the stupid, cheap matches sold here don’t cooperate.   

I would also have to be outside to cook, meaning I would be fair game for all the blood-sucking insects that love me so much, would feel nervous cooking at night in the dark when Bosco isn’t home, and couldn’t just roll out of bed to get water boiling for coffee in the morning without getting dressed and going outside.  

So having a gas stove means I get to avoid all of this, plus I have an oven, which means homemade breads, and cookies and anything else I want to make that has to be baked.  Plus I get to avoid breathing all the smoke.  I do have a charcoal stove and I do use it, but not on a daily basis because I don’t have to.  And for that, I am so deeply thankful. 

Now I must confess I have sort of, kind of lied to you.  I do have one other appliance.  I have a refrigerator, but until exactly one week ago, we could never get it working, so I’ve lived and cooked without any type of refrigeration for almost a year, and that is challenging for a girl who grew up with not only a fridge/freezer combo in the kitchen, but a full sized freezer and commercial sized refrigerator in the garage.  You simply can’t cook the same way without a fridge as you can when you have one.  

Since I can’t refrigerate anything, I can’t have any ingredients at have to be kept refrigerated, dairy products being the first that come to mind (not that I can even buy a lot of them here).  If I cook something and there are left overs, I can’t pop it into a Tupperware container and then into the fridge.  I actually hide it in the oven for “safekeeping” and then we make sure we eat it within the next 12 hours or so.  (Food almost always passes the “smell test” and we’ve never gotten sick yet.)  

No refrigerator also means any recipe that requires “chilling” the food is out.  No puddings, jellos, stubborn desserts, or overnight marinating.  No cold sodas or water, refreshingly chilled juice, or ice cubes.  But room temperature drinks, yeah, I’ve got those! Iced tea on a hot day?  No can do.  Blended coffee drink?  No, sorry.  No blender and no ice.  No ice cream either.  But if you want hot tea, we are in business!  I’ve got a stove!!!

As for what ingredients I have available, a list would bore you, so let my subconscious explain for me.  I’ve had two separate dreams about sour cream (I could clearly see the brand name and size of the container) and I’ve dreamed about getting to shop in an American supermarket.  Literally dreamed about walking up and down every isle and touching every bottle and box and I could almost cry when I woke up.  I’m pretty sure it was a Stater Bros.  

The upside is that my culinary repertoire has grown quite a bit.  How many ways can I make beans?  I’m constantly trying to find the DIY homemade version for everything (teriyaki sauce, anyone?) since I can’t buy it.  Food creativity is at an all time high so now I know how to make things I never would have tried to make since I could just buy it.  (Side note: wonton wrappers are easy but extremely time consuming, so if you ever get it in your head to try these, just go buy them. Trust me.)  Pita bread and gnocchi are next on my list of things to try along with a recipe for Wheat Thins I found. 

As soon as I can get my hands on some fresh from the cow milk, I’m making sour cream.  I can almost taste it. 

I'm Not Dead

I am not dead.  You may have read my last post about having malaria and then noticed the sudden and long silence and thought, oh my!  But no, I am still very much here, not only enjoying life, but living in Midigo, now as a wife and very soon a mother.  

Yeah.  A LOT has happened since I last wrote and that is the very reason I’ve been silent – trying to explain and analyze and process everything in writing with my English teacher need to have perfect spelling, grammar, punctuation, and stellar sentence structure as well as voice, humor, and clarity made me run the other way!  My apologies.  I’m determined to do better and seize the monkey by the tail (literally a possibility).  Let me bring you up to date bullet point style. 

Since malaria in May of 2013, I’ve…

  • survived, recovered, and battle malaria two more times since (neither time any ways near as severely)
  • continued with all my normal ministry activities 
  • bought a car with my almost husband
  • had my parents and younger brother fly out for my wedding (November) and spent a wonderful week with them enjoying all things Uganda through their eyes
  • married the bestest, most wonderfulest village man, my King Bosco
  • moved into the castle on the hill my husband built, complete with solar power, flushing toilets, and a gas burning stove (in village land this is royal living!)
  • began my wifely duties of keep said castle clean and king of the castle fed
  • helped my husband slowly add to the development and comfort of our “compound” as we were able to scrape together the money
  • learned the art of chasing monkeys, baboons, neighbor's cows and goats away from the house
  • killed 3 snakes within feet of my house
  • became auntie to five little girls (Bosco’s nieces) who are constantly at our house wanting to draw and make cookies, and play, and say things like, “Auntie, I want to drink water”
  • hosted many surprise visitors, some of whom come to visit though they don’t speak English and my Aringa (local language) is too limited for real conversation
  • found out baby number one is coming January of 2015
  • gone crazy on the internet trying to find new recipes I can make here with the lack of variety in food stuffs available

Those are the big things.  The things that have changed the landscape of my life.  Days have their ups and downs and ministry has it’s challenges, but all in all, we are moving right along!

Monday, May 20, 2013


 The infamous.  The ugly.  The deadly. 

Malaria is the number one killer of children under 5 in Africa.  This parasite lives and reproduces in human blood and is transferred from person to person by mosquitos.  When a mosquito bites an infected person, it carries that person’s infected blood with it, which then gets transferred to the next person it bites.  The parasites then begin to reproduce within the new person’s blood, making that person sick.

Malaria’s symptoms are similar to that of the flu: headache, fever, chills, joint aches and pains, nausea and vomiting, and even sores in the mouth.   If not treated in time, malaria can kill and is especially hard on the very young and very old.

There is no way to prevent malaria 100%, though there are measures one can take like using insect repellent, wearing clothing that keeps skin from being exposed to bites, sleeping under a mosquito net, and taking pills that help prevent parasites from multiplying in the blood. 

Just this past week I had my first battle with Malaria.  Three weeks ago, I had an infected insect bite (not from a mosquito) that was red and swelling and I had to take antibiotics to clear it up since a lot of infections here are either strep or staph infections.  While I was taking the antibiotics I had to stop taking my malaria prevention meds since they would have a reaction with the antibiotics.   During this time I was in Kampala finishing up my VISA documents, and I got several mosquito bites even though I was inside at night.  Towards the end of my stay there, I got what I thought was a canker sore in the back of my mouth.  Since I had been eating pineapple, I thought it was from the fruit’s acid.  Within a day or so, however, I had 15 to 20 sores all along the edge of my tongue that were very painful and more canker sores multiplying on the inside of my lower lip.  I thought it was strange that they were multiplying so quickly, especially since I don’t get canker sores very often, but I started to rinse my mouth out with warm water and salt and they started to clear up.   I didn’t know it, but those sores were the first symptoms of Malaria. 

I came back to Midigo and jumped back into a busy schedule, ministering during a Promise Child day, singing with the worship team, planting a potato garden, and traveling to Arua to buy some furniture.  I was exhausted, but way more than I should have been.  Saturday morning I woke up with a headache.  I drank my coffee and took some Advil and the headache faded.  I went to the Youth Prayer Breakfast then spent some time in the garden.  Around noon I started feeling so tired, I came home and decided I would sleep until worship team practice at 3. I slept a bit, but woke up burning with fever with every joint from my hips down aching.  Then the chills started.  I knew worship practice was impossible so I fell back asleep, only to be awakened again by the forcefulness of the shivering.  I began to suspect something more serious than just having the flu was going on, so I very slowly made my way outside and found the compound cook, who was able to tell me the symptoms I was experiencing sounded like Malaria.  He told me he would walk with me to the health center, but that I should try to eat something first.  I tried to eat some plain white rice, and while I was eating Pastor Bosco came, found out I was sick and rushed off to find one of the other pastor’s wives, who is a nurse.  He found her on her way to the compound, since she had already felt like she needed to come and check on everyone. 

She came to me in my tukel, inquired about my symptoms and sent someone to get the Malaria testing supplies.  She pricked my finger and the test showed that I had Malaria +2.  (Malaria is rated with either +1, +2, or +3, based upon how thick the parasites are in the blood, with + 3 being the highest concentration.)  The nurse, Levenia, immediately gave me my first dose of anti-malarial meds, four yellow pills called Quartum that tasted slightly like Sweet Tarts candy (always count your blessings).  She took my temperature and found my fever was at 102 degrees, so she started bathing me with cool cloths, trying to bring my fever down.  It came down a bit that night before bed, but the rest of that night was miserable for me, alternating between my fever, which climbed back up to 102 degrees, and chills that had my body shaking from head to toe.  Levenia, who was staying with me, woke me up at 4 am to give me the next dose of Quartum, but I had to drink a glass of warm milk before I could take the pills.  

I felt slightly better the next morning, but that only lasted about an hour before it was back to a high fever and chills.  I took my next dose of Quartum, and they continued to watch me, but I wasn’t making any progress, so Levenia called the doctor, and they switched medications and started giving me a drug called Atesonet.  I had to have a port put in the back of my left hand where she then used a syringe to push the meds directly into my veins every 12 hours.  Since the drugs go straight into the veins, I could feel it in my heart and within minutes taste the medicine in my mouth.  One of the side effects of that drug is nausea and vomiting and even the slightest smell of food bothered me.  I even had to turn down cheese.

To make a long story short, After 4 days of not having enough strength to do anything but lie in bed, I was able to get up and move around a bit, taking request rest breaks.  I’m finally back to 90% normal and back on my malaria prevention meds (which are only about 80% effective). 

Thank you to everyone who was praying for me.  I appreciate it. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Eating Flying White Ants

 Saturday night was the night the white ants came.  We were sitting in the dining hall around 8pm, eating our beans and rice when a cloud of flying white ants came swarming into the room and flying frantically around the single light bulb.  A cheer of “White Ants!” went up and Joann, the woman who helps prepare meals and works on the compound, went running to get a bed sheet while the guard came running to help catch the ants.  The chase was on!  White ants are a delicacy here, and there was no way we were letting this opportunity pass us by.

shaking the sheet
We stood under the swarm of ants and shook the bed sheet gently and the white ants began to land on it.  After a good number had gathered there, we then scooped them up by hand and threw them forcefully into a cup.  If you toss them in the cup, for some reason they will stay and not fly away (maybe they get dizzy).  

picking them by the handful off the sheet and throwing them into the cup (and laughing because they tickle if they land on you)
Throw them in the cup!
We kept doing this until we had collected all that would come to the sheet.  We then used the sheet to knock down the rest and picked them up off the floor and off the wall.  The ants stayed in the cup overnight, and then the next day we fried them.   Here’s the process:
  1. Put the ants in a big bowl and swirl them around with your hands.  This makes their wings (they call them feathers) fall off.  
  2. Then you pick of handfuls of the white ants and blow on them while they are falling back to the pan. This blows the feathers away.  
  3. After most of the feathers have been removed, put the ants in a frying pan with a little salt.  Don’t add any oil since the ants have their own natural oils (mmm, juicy)!  
  4. Fry them for about 15 minutes, and enjoy! 
white ants in a bowl ready to eat
crunch, crunch!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Back in Midigo

Work Permit

In order for me to stay in Uganda long term, I have to get a work permit.  Since I am working with Calvary Chapel Midigo, which has NGO status, I had to first get a letter of approval from Uganda’s NGO board.  It took a week and a half to get that letter, then I had to move my file to the Immigration office, where they told me it would be two weeks before I could come back and check on the status of my application. Since the NGO board approved me, there shouldn’t be any problem with me being able to get a work permit.  Now it’s just a waiting game. 

Back to Midigo

In the mean time, I have come back to Midigo, and getting here was quite the adventure.  Pastor Bosco came to Kampala to get me and bring me back.  We bought tickets to ride a bus from Kampala to Arua, which took about 7 hours.  Then, upon arriving in Arua early morning, we had to hire a taxi car to take us to Koboko.  The taxi car was just a guy who owned a vehicle who waits at the bus stop hoping to find customers who need to get to Koboko.  It was a small passenger car, with 2 seats in the front and 3 in the back, but we rode with 3 in the front and 4 in the back.  We couldn’t even get the back door shut without a struggle because we did not all fit!  The brakes squealed and everything rattled and shook and shuddered, but we zoomed down the dirt roads over bumps and ditches, bottomed out, scraped and generally had a roller coaster of a ride.  That drive took about an hour. 

After arriving in Koboko, we caught another bus called the Nile Coach that took us from Koboko to Yumbe.  That was an uneventful ride, and they dropped us off right by Pastor Bosco’s Aunt Lucy’s house.  She served us tea and chapatti and took me on a tour of the honey factory that is right across the road from her house.  From there, Pastor Bosco tied my bag onto the back of his motor cycle and took me back to Midigo. 

When I opened the door to my tukel, I found the floor covered with dirt and dead spiders and lizard droppings (lizards live in my grass roof).  I took a nap and then got to cleaning. 

It is so good to be back home and be with friends here.  I was welcomed back with joy and excitement all around and I’m back to my normal schedule. 

April 28 or so I will head back to Kampala to finalize the paperwork for my work permit.  Please keep praying the final steps of this process go smoothly.