With the help of a ward nurse, I guided the stretcher with Mabinty toward orange ward. She was our second patient today in theatre and I opted to take care of her in recovery while the other nurses ate lunch. On Mondays, the kitchen prepares cassava leaves for the patients and staff; and on Mondays, I find something else to eat. I still have not mustered up the courage to try the greenish brown slimy substance. It is a local favorite, but once you get a whiff or a look of it- your hunger pains cease.
So Mabinty and I missed out on lunch today, but she got the better deal because she had her fistula surgery. I went to the ward this morning to check on her paperwork and walk with her to theatre. She was a little nervous and even more so when her blood pressure skyrocketed while the spinal was going in. One moment, I stepped away to tie the scrub nurse’s gown and she grabbed my arm. I held her hand until the spinal was over and she was positioned for surgery. Mabinty is only 16-years old and her life changed forever just three months ago when she tried to deliver her first baby. Sadly, it’s the same story for these ladies with losing the baby and leaking urine for a long time. However Mabinty heard on the radio about our fistula hotline and called AWC to speak with a nurse. She came just after the fistula formed and received surgery three months to the date. Mabinty was all smiles in recovery and I tried the krio and Temne I knew, but no response- just a smile. I looked over her chart and under language was “Limba”- that was a new one for me. With both of our broken krio- I learned how to ask, “How are you?” – Sounds like “wall-e, walle” and the response of “fine” is the same!
After surgeries wrapped up for the day, I found myself at my desk working on an assortment of projects. Today, like most days, is catching up on data entry. Once a lady is discharged home, their chart is inputted into the computer. It’s tedious, however I remember each of these ladies as I look over their charts and am thankful they are going home. Once the five o’clock whistle blows (in my head) and my eyes are going cross staring at the computer, I leave the charts for the next day and walk out to greet the ladies. They are patiently waiting for their dinner and tonight, its leftovers, cassava leaves. I notice there is only one kitchen lady dishing up dinner, so I head over to help. I hold my breath as I pour the slimy mixture on to bowls of rice. I manage through the twenty-five servings and I start to head toward the exit, but one of the ladies Fatmata calls me over. I sit down on the bench between Fatmata and Hawa. All the ladies giggle, as I practice different greetings. Fatmata drills me every time we cross paths on my Temne. I then try Mende, Lucia taught me in recovery when I took care of her. I thought she was motioning with her hands that she was going to be sick, but instead “Ka ya Gorama” really means, “Thanks to God.” Lamrana, I notice sitting across from me and I greet her “Jarama”- this is Fullah spoken in Guinea. Last week, I wheeled Lamrana back to the ward after surgery, while passing the other ladies at the craft tables they sung songs of celebration for their fellow sister.
I was brought back to the present moment when I was handed a bowl of cassava leaves and rice. I thought about it- I never really tried the concoction, so with all eyes on me, I made the plunge. First impression: oily (hence the slimy appearance), peppery, and then the burn came soon after. I enjoyed a few more spicy bites and then Isatu noticed I probably wouldn’t finish my portion. She asked for it and I happily shared since she is the one that needs to put on more weight before she has surgery. As I sat with the ladies, this evening, I couldn’t help but smile, I was happy just to sit there and watch them eat their cassava leaves.